From the Houston Chronicle:
“Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists who have sued the city.
Opponents of the equal rights ordinance are hoping to force a repeal referendum when they get their day in court in January, claiming City Attorney David Feldman wrongly determined they had not gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
City attorneys issued subpoenas last month as part of the case’s discovery phase, seeking, among other communications, "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."
The subpoenas were issued to pastors and religious leaders who have been vocal in opposing the ordinance: Dave Welch, Hernan Castano, Magda Hermida, Khanh Huynh and Steve Riggle.”
Texas is known as a very conservative state. It is a state full of Republican Representatives and Senators. The Governor has been, and may be again, a presidential candidate who runs on solidly conservative political opinions. Texas is currently fighting to allow its abortion law to be enforced. I could go on, but no one can doubt the Texas conservative pedigree.
Neither can one doubt the Texas commitment to the Bill of Rights. Or at least, I never doubted it before. And, yet, now a subpoena is filed to try to force churches to turn over information about sermons preached. I will be interested to see whether Governor Rick Perry, or Texas legislators, or other Texas mayors will speak out.
It is a messy situation in Houston. A valid petition drive was suddenly overthrown by the City Attorney of Houston on what appear to be less than legal grounds. Subpoenas have been issued to try to silence the pastors. The pastors are refusing to follow the legal rulings and the judge issued subpoenas.
In the supreme irony, it means that conservative pastors are behaving exactly the same as black pastors behaved under the supposedly liberal Rev. Martin Luther King. Just like the Rev. King, the pastors are saying that we must obey God first. Just like the blacks of the 1950s, they are engaging in civil disobedience. Just like the Rev. King, they have suddenly found that if you do not stand up for the civil rights of all, then sooner or later “they” will come after you. I find that quite humorously ironic.
Having said that, I fully stand with them. What the City Attorney of Houston is doing is unconstitutional, every bit as unconstitutional as the subpoenas filed against the civil rights marchers of the 1950s. May the higher courts overturn the City Attorney.