Main | Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HOUSTON: City Subpoenas Sermons Of Anti-Gay Pastors Over Campaign To Repeal Recently Passed LGBT Rights Ordinance

Teabagistan has been in an utter uproar for the last 24 hours after the city of Houston subpoenaed anti-gay pastors with a demand for copies of recent sermons in order to determine whether they were advocating for the repeal of the city's recently approved LGBT rights ordinances.
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 during 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 several high-profile pastors and religious leaders who have been vocal in opposing the ordinance. The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a motion on behalf of the pastors seeking to quash the subpoenas.
Under the 1954 Johnson Amendment, tax-exempt 501(C) organizations, which includes most churches, are banned from intervening in political campaigns. The subpoenas have inflamed every corner of the wingnut-o-sphere with the usual screams of homofascism. As it turns out, Houston Mayor Annise Parker was not advised that the subpoenas were being filed.
Mayor Parker agrees with those who are concerned about the city legal department’s subpoenas for pastor’s sermons. The subpoenas were issued by pro bono attorneys helping the city prepare for the trial regarding the petition to repeal the new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in January. Neither the mayor nor City Attorney David Feldman were aware the subpoenas had been issued until yesterday. Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing. Feldman says the focus should be only on communications related to the HERO petition process.
For the last several years, hundreds of Christian churches have participated in an annual event called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, during which pastors openly violate the Johnson Amendment. The event was expressly created in order to goad the federal government into finally charging somebody so that the law's repeal could be achieved. So far the feds have not taken the bait. Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a project of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is screaming the loudest about homofascism in Houston. Secretly, though, you know they are thrilled.

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