City of Houston to Pastors: Turn Over Your Sermons
Houston, TX – The City of Houston has demanded pastors in Houston turn over their “sermons”, “speeches” and other “communications” regarding “homosexuality, or gender identity.” Texas Values allies Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys have filed a motion in a Texas court to stop an attempt by the city of Houston to subpoena sermons and other communications belonging to several area pastors in a lawsuit in which the pastors are not even involved. Texas Values has been engaged in defending the voice of Houstonians on this issue since it began in May of this year.
Jonathan Saenz, attorney and president of Texas Values released this statement:
“Government demanding that pastors turn over their sermons or possibly face jail time is outrageous. It shocks the conscience at a level we’ve likely never seen in Texas or in our country. Everyone knows that Mayor Annise Parker doesn’t respect our state laws on marriage, and now we know she doesn’t respect the First Amendment. This out of control executive official must be stopped. It’s now very clear – part of the homosexual agenda is to destroy religious freedom.”
Senator Ted Cruz has released a statement condemning the subpoena:
“The City of Houston’s subpoenas demanding that pastors provide the government with copies of their sermons is both shocking and shameful. For far too long, the federal government has led an assault against religious liberty, and now, sadly, my hometown of Houston is joining the fight.”
Attorney General Greg has released a letter to the Houston City Attorney asking for the subpoena to be immediately withdrawn:
“Your office has demanded that four Houston pastors hand over to the city government many of their private papers, including their sermons. Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment. The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government.”
The City of Houston is specifically asking pastors for the following information:
“All communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.”
“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.”
City officials are upset over a voter lawsuit filed after the city attempted to invalidate most of the 50,000 petition signatures by Houston residents to repeal the new anti-religious LGBT bathroom ordinance (HERO) that allows members of the opposite sex into each other’s restrooms and violates religious freedom of churches and business. Mayor Parker and the Houston City Attorney ruled that some of the pages, not the actual signatures themselves, failed to meet some legal form requirements. This was done in spite of City Secretary Anna Russell’s own report indicating that 17,846 validated signatures were found, after only looking through the first 19,177 petition signatures, which would meet the requirement to place the ordinance on the ballot for a vote of the people.
Texas Values and Texas Values Action have been leading organizations providing legal analysis and on the ground support for Houston residents, business owners and church leaders who have been ignored by city leaders, including Mayor Parker.
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*This post has been updated with statements from Sen. Ted Cruz and Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Image Source: Jennifer Moo