El Paso Mayor Fighting Pastor’s Right to Petition for Recall

Last July I wrote about a recall drive in El Paso, Texas.  Pastor Tom Brown had started a recall petition against Mayor John Cook and two city council members for their anti-family policies of providing benefits for domestic partners.  The mayor had received help from Americans United for Separation of Church and State who was trying to get the IRS to investigate Brown’s actions and revoke his churches tax exempt status.

Since my blog appeared, Mayor Cook filed a lawsuit against Pastor Brown, his ministry, Word of Life Church of El Paso, El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values and other local citizens in an attempt to block the recall effort being launched against him.  The mayor’s lawsuit was denied.

The mayor then appealed his case to a Texas appeals court citing a state law that forbids any religious institution from having an active role in recall efforts.

Joel Oster, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund just finished arguing the case on behalf of Pastor Brown.  Oster commented on the hearing,

“The appeals court in Texas heard our case about whether or not a church can speak out on local political matters. The case went really well.  The argument was well presented, and the court, I believe, understands that even a church has free-speech rights and has a right to petition their government for the redress of grievances.”

Oster says that the state law is blatantly unconstitutional and he expects the appeals court to make a swift ruling to that affect.  If it does, Oster says that he expects the mayor to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

Initially, Pastor Brown launched the recall petition as a private citizen and not as a church or ministry function.  Once word got out about his efforts, other Christians from other churches and organizations joined in the petition drive.  According to Mayor Cook, since Brown in the pastor of a church, he should not be allowed to be involved in politics.  But what is the difference between a private citizen who heads a car wash, one who heads a major corporation or one pastors a church in launching a recall drive against any politician?  Doesn’t the First Amendment give every American citizen the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”