Houston mayor, Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor, is conducting a litigious witch-hunt against religious leaders, issuing subpoenas that demand the sermons of pastors who may have spoken on the topic of homosexuality, gender identity, or Parker herself. Pastors who do not comply may be held in contempt of court.
The actions taken by Parker and her administration are a clear affront to freedom of speech, an assault on the concept of separation of church and state, and constitute one of the more alarming attempts to stop opposing political or cultural viewpoints in their tracks.
Via Fox News:
“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”
ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”
“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”
The report also cites ADF attorney Erik Stanley who says “the city is rummaging for evidence to ‘out’ the pastors as anti-gay bigots.”
The controversy stems from an alleged “equal rights” ordinance passed by the city in May. The ordinance calls for a ban on discrimination amongst businesses. Two things however – one, religious institutions were exempted from the ordinance and two, speech does not amount to discrimination.
In addition, one tangential aspect of the ordinance allows transgendered individuals to file discrimination lawsuits if they are not granted access to a restroom. In other words, a man would have to be granted access to the women’s restroom if he claimed to be transgender.
Opponents of the ordinance filed petitions containing 50,000 signatures, well above the threshold of 17,269, which would call for a referendum being placed on the ballot. In true dictatorial fashion, Parker and the city announced that the petitions were not valid due to alleged irregularities. A convenient suppression of opposition.
In keeping with the dictatorial theme, Parker admitted that the entire debate on gender rights, and presumably the latest assault on First Amendment rights guaranteed to all Americans, is about her.
Via the Houston Chronicle:
In just five words, Mayor Annise Parker handed her increasingly vocal opponents exactly what they wanted in the battle against her proposed equal rights ordinance: “The debate is about me.”
That comment, part of a longer utterance at Houston City Council’s last meeting, at which the body delayed a decision on the ordinance to this Wednesday, was just what political and religious conservatives have accused Parker — the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city — of doing for weeks: Pushing the ordinance to further her “gay agenda,” or to reward gay advocates for their political support.
Sorry Ms. Parker, the First Amendment, constitutional and religious freedoms, and the foundation for which America was built has never been about one man or one woman. And it certainly isn’t changing for you and your ego.
Stanley told Fox News that “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge.”
Parker and the Houston City Council need to be stopped in their tracks, or the whole of America will suffer for it.