Pastor says 'never' to Houston mayor's demand for sermon & notes
HOUSTON, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- As news made it around the nation Oct. 15 that the City of Houston subpoenaed pastor sermon notes, a pastor had one word for Houston's Mayor Annise Parker: "Never."
Parker is Houston's first openly lesbian mayor and the subpoena directs the pastors to turn over sermons and notes related to her, homosexuality, or gender identity.
Vowing to preach a sermon on "freedom of the pulpit" Sunday, Oct. 19, First Baptist Church of Katy, Texas, Pastor Randy White shared his views in a strongly worded blog post to earlier news that Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nationally-known firm specializing in religious liberty cases, filed a motion in Harris County on behalf of five Houston pastors ordered to surrender their sermons.
"We are recipients of a long heritage of boys whose blood was shed for the freedoms we have today. They have not died in vain. If the pulpit is not free, then freedom has been lost," White wrote.
White said there is no room for negotiation on this issue and pledged to spread the word, sure he would not be alone.
"There is no middle ground on this one, no benefit of the doubt, no possible misunderstanding. I will not be silent. Send me to jail, confiscate my goods, or take my life, but I will not be silent. And, I am sure, I will not be alone."
ADF attorneys called the action by Houston's City Council "unprecedented" and called this action a "witch hunt" after citizens responded to a "bathroom bill" created social commentary they said in a statement "is not a crime" but protected by the First Amendment.
In June, Houston's city council approved a controversial new non-discrimination ordinance—and the Houston Chronicle reported opponents were set to get the measure on the ballot with more than 50,000 signatures before the city tossed the petition in August over what they cited as irregularities.
Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel's chairman, challenged Christians to add their voices to this assault on Christianity and to expose the homosexual agenda.
"Shocking as it is to most people, this abuse by government to intimate and censor pastors reveals the intolerance of the homosexual agenda," Staver said. "We are witnessing an unprecedented clash of worldviews. No one will be able to escape the assault of this agenda.
"Pastors and Christians must speak up and be the church called by the King of Kings," Staver told Christian Examiner. "God can turn adversity into victory if His people pray and stand for Him."
Another prominent religious rights attorney based in Texas, David Gibbs, president and general counsel of the National Center for Life and Liberty, called on the Houston mayor to instruct her lawyers to "do the right thing" and immediately withdraw the subpoena—calling the order "over-broad, inappropriate, and unconstitutional."
"It is shocking and tragic that Texas pastors that are not part of the litigation would be served with subpoenas to produce copies of their sermons and email communications by government officials," Gibbs told Christian Examiner. "That is a harassing and bullying abuse of legal process that will have a chilling effect on the constitutional rights of free speech and religion for all pastors.
"The Houston mayor's office should do the right thing and instruct her lawyers to immediately withdraw these over-broad, inappropriate, and unconstitutional subpoenas," Gibbs said.
Todd Starnes, a Fox News commentator, and author of God Less America, wrote in an Oct. 14 column,"that he had predicted, "under the guise of 'tolerance and diversity' elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty."
Starnes said, "Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected."
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Mayor Annise D. Parker
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562 Houston, TX 77251
Communications Director Janice Evans, 832.393.0800, firstname.lastname@example.org
Press Secretary Darian Ward, 832.393.0804, email@example.com