From Theresa Latini
In case you haven’t heard, 2,500 congregations across the United States participated in “I Stand Sunday” last weekend, an event intended to support “the pastors and churches in Houston, Texas who have been unduly intimidated by the city’s mayor in demanding they hand over private church communication.” For readers who haven’t followed this news story, it all began last May when Houston passed an ordinance aimed at protecting the civil liberties of LGBT people. It’s an anti-gay discrimination policy that actually exempted religious institutions. (In other words, it did not apply to churches, non-profit ministries, and so forth.) Those who opposed this ordinance, including a group of Houston pastors, attempted to repeal it by gaining enough signatures to place it on a ballot. Though they obtained approximately 50,000 signatures, most of them were nullified on technical legal grounds. A group of Christians then sued the city of Houston. In response, Houston’s lawyers sent subpoenas to five local pastors who participated in the repeal effort. The subpoenas asked for “all speeches, presentations, or sermon related to HERO [the ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
Not surprisingly, this created a national uproar, with accusations of the violation of the first amendment and a fair amount of vitriol directed at Houston’s mayor. This is the point at which I first heard about the ordinance, the petition, the subpoenas. Facebook friends posted links that sounded the alarm about the eradication of religious freedom. Thankfully I’ve learned to read multiple sources before jumping on the bandwagon of fear and rage. So I did. More rational analyses indicated that the city’s lawyers had overreached their bounds with such a broad subpoena. At the same time, they also suggested that sermons could be legally subpoenaed in certain cases.