16 October 2014 A.D. Houston’s “Bathroom Bill:” Witchhunt for Pastors Begins & Intimidation Campaign
Malcomb, Andrew. “Witchhunt in Houston as City Demands Pastors Hand Over Sermons.” Investors Business Daily. 15 Oct 2014. http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/101514-721989-houston-mayor-bullies-pastors-demands-their-sermons.htm. Accessed 15 Oct 2014.
Tyranny: Reports say Houston's city hall is demanding that five local pastors turn over sermons in which they talked about homosexuality, gender identity or the city's first openly lesbian mayor. Call it the Texas Inquisition.
Houston has a new nondiscrimination ordinance on its books. Passed 11-6 last spring by the city council, the law is supposed to bar biased treatment based on "sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy."
The ordinance has been named the "bathroom bill" because it allows men to use ladies' restrooms and women to use men's rooms. Some call it the "Sexual Predator Protection Act."
More than 50,000 — far more than twice the number needed — have since signed a petition asking for the law to be placed on a voter referendum in November, but the city tossed the petition in August due to "irregularities." Opponents then filed a lawsuit.
Shortly thereafter, payback began when the city attorneys began issuing subpoenas to pastors who are part of the lawsuit and members of a coalition of roughly 400 local churches that oppose the law. City hall wants to force them to hand over not only their sermons but "all communications with members of" their congregations regarding the law and the petition.
Fox News reports that Mayor Annise Parker "will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons."
But it's clearly an attempt to shut up the pastors and step on their First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion. City hall is bullying the pastors and their congregations because they hold a different point of view. As one supporter noted, the mayor wants to publicly shame them.
This might sound like something out of a movie about some dystopian society in the future. But it's happening right now, in America. And it should suck the breath out of every one of us who "clings" to the old-fashioned notion that our Constitution protects us.
This is still America, and the pastors are not complete social outcasts. They do have an ally. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal action group that defends freedom of religion, is representing them and has filed a motion to halt the subpoenas.
In its motion, the ADF called the city attorneys' action "harassing and vexatious" — and that is exactly right. As ADF attorney Christina Holcomb said, "political and social commentary is not a crime."
If the city is allowed to continue its campaign of fear and forces the pastors to turn over their sermons, we will have moved into a new and dangerous era in this country — one in which no one's rights are safe.
Other badly led cities will follow Parker's lead. Dissent and differences of opinion on any topic — whether it's sexual orientation, taxes or regulation — will be answered with totalitarian tactics.
It doesn't matter that the sermons, having been delivered from pulpits in open settings, are public statements and already have been heard by many. What matters is that a government can so unreservedly make such a demand — and with it, imply that it will in the future either approve or disapprove of what will be said.
There should be widespread outrage at the Houston city attorneys' actions. The Obama administration should send in the Justice Department. Lawmakers at all levels should hold news conferences condemning the witch hunt.
The media truly have something they should wring their collective hands over. If the Houston city attorneys aren't stopped, Christian pastors won't be the last group the tyrants come after.