I have followed the Houston petition story for months. I’ve had numerous conversations with a person directly involved in the petition drive. I’ve known him for more than 25 years. He’s one of the most connected persons in Texas when it comes to politics.
Long before this became a national story, he told me of the legal shenanigans going on in the mayor’s office and the politics behind it.
Question: Did Christians overreact to what the legal team of Mayor Annise Parker that requested sermons and communications from pastors who were subpoenaed in a lawsuit about the petition drive to overturn the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO)?
I don’t believe they did. I believe that the request goes far beyond this particular case. Churches and pastors in Houston are being set up for a national push to outlaw opposition to same-sex sexuality. I’ll explain below.
The issue in the HERO case is whether or not there were enough names necessary for an initiative to overturn the City Council’s new law regarding same-sex bathrooms. “The city secretary, who has sole responsibility for certifying such petitions, signed off” on the validity of the petition drive. City attorney David Feldman, who had no authorization to do so, decertified the petitions.
This was a stalling maneuver to keep the initiative to overturn the City Council’s HERO edict over same-sex bathrooms from getting on the November ballot when more people would most likely turn out since 2014 is a big election year and the Democrats are in political trouble. By pushing for a special election a year from now, valuable momentum would be lost.
More than 55,000 names had been secured while only 17,269 were needed to get the initiative on the ballot in November. While many names were judged to be invalid, something that’s typical for all petition drives, there were enough valid names to call for certification.
Now to the request for sermons, communications, and opinions about Mayor Parker from a number of pastors.
Even Mayor Parker has admitted that the request was “overly broad.” One would think that she and Mr. Feldman would have known this in drawing up the subpoenas, especially Mr. Feldman because he’s the city’s attorney of record, until you learn this:
“[City attorney David] Feldman is monitoring the case, he said, but had not seen the subpoena written by outside counsel working pro-bono for the city until this week. Parker said she also did not know about the request until this week.”
Who’s in charge in Houston? Once again we find Democrats passing the buck by blame shifting when they most likely knew all the time what was being asked for. “We didn’t do it; ‘they’ did it.” What and who constituted ‘outside counsel’ that worked ‘pro-bono’ on the case? Do you want to bet that it was some homosexual legal group that wanted to intimidate pastors?
On a previous occasion Feldman remarked, “If someone is speaking from the pulpit and it’s political speech, then it’s not going to be protected.” since when can’t pastors address politics from the pulpit? There is no such prohibition, and if Feldman doesn’t know this, then he has no business practicing law for the city of Houston.
Hopefully the legal team being sent by Alliance Defending Freedom will find out through its discovery process the identity of the “outside counsel” behind the request.
Consider what was being requested: “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO [Houston Equal Rights Ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
Consider how a request like this might go over if black pastors addressed political issues from the pulpit in a petition drive.
“The city’s lawyers will face a high bar for proving the information in the sermons is essential to their case, said Charles Rhodes, a South Texas College of Law professor. The pastors are not named parties in the suit, and the ‘Church Autonomy Doctrine’ offers fairly broad protections for internal church deliberations, he said.
“Calling it an ‘unusual but not unprecedented’ subpoena request, Rhodes said the city would stand a better chance of getting the sermons if it were a criminal case in which the message or directive in the sermons prompted a specific criminal action.”
This is more than about discovery about names on a petition. Why was information about what might have been said about Mayor Parker mentioned in the request “because any information that is likely to turn up would be irrelevant to the pertinent legal matter”?
The same is true about what was preached about homosexuality or gender identity. Parker could have been described by pastors as the devil himself and it would not nullify a valid name on a petition.
There is more to what is going on in Houston than a “discovery” request. It was an attempt to scare pastors who are already intimidated by the political process. There is an additional hidden agenda: a set up for hate-crime lawsuits.
The following legal opinion by a United States District Court judge took place in 2013 and got very little attention:
“A federal judge ruled that a biblically based denunciation of homosexuality was a ‘crime against humanity.’
“In his decision in the case of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) v. Lively, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Ponsor held that Scott Lively, an evangelical pastor, was ‘aiding and abetting a crime against humanity’ when Lively spoke in Uganda and in America against homosexual behavior.
“Ponsor wrote in his 79-page opinion that Lively’s message was ‘analogous to a terrorist designing and manufacturing a bomb in this country, which he then mails to Uganda with the intent that it explode there.’”
Homosexual activists are always ten steps ahead of Christians. Don’t ever think that just because Mayor Parker has backed off the subpoena requests that those affiliated with the “outside counsel” will stop. They won’t.