First Amendment Dumped. Sign a Petition – Get Arrested

The mayor of El Paso, Texas, is so upset with people who signed a petition that he wants them arrested. How dare these people express their constitutional rights in the United States of America where they are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, warned that hundreds of Christians and other El Paso citizens “are facing jail time for exercising their constitutionally protected right to speak out against Mayor John Cook’s policies.” The following is from Bob Unruh writing for WND:

The issue arose when voters in November 2010 placed on the ballot and passed an ordinance prohibiting unmarried domestic partner benefits in their city. Several members of the city council refused to follow the will of the vote, and voted to rescind the ordinance approved by voters. The mayor joined in the effort.

A number of citizens were outraged, so they started a grassroots campaign seeking to remove the mayor and city Reps. Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega who disregarded the will of the people. They did it by securing names for a recall petition. You can read about the recall effort in an article in the El Paso Times.

The vindictive Mayor John Cook “sued Tom Brown Ministries, Word of Life Church of El Paso, El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values and other local citizens who circulated recall petitions. He cited a Texas election law, arguing that it prohibits churches from circulating a petition.”

If there’s such a law on the books in Texas, it is blatantly unconstitutional. Consider the following from the Texas Constitution:

Art 1, sec 3a: EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW.  Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin.  This amendment is self-operative.

If churches are prohibited from circulating a petition, then it is a violation of the above EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW provision since it refers to “creed” which is a reference to religion.

Section 6 deals with states in part: “No human authority ought, in any case whatever, to control or interfere with the rights of conscience in matters of religion. . .”

Consider what is stated in Section 8:

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS; LIBEL.  Every person shall be at liberty to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that privilege; and no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press.

Consider what is stated in Section 27. Note the word “petition”:

RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY; PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES. The citizens shall have the right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good; and apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.

Notice that there are no restrictions on churches or religious organizations.

The following was added on November 8, 2005 in Section 32:

MARRIAGE. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.

(b)  This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

When people who signed the petition spoke up at a public hearing, Mayor Cook said the following:

“Thank you, your time is over. If you can’t remove yourself from the podium, I’ll have you removed. Yeah. You can take your freedom of speech outside.”

So much for freedom of speech in El Paso, Texas.