Mayor Parker’s Assault on Houston Area Pastors

October 16, 2014 5:53 am 0 comments

Mayor Parker recently subpoenaed the sermons and other communications belonging to several area pastors in a lawsuit in which the pastors are not even involved. It appears Mayor Parker is very concerned about the lawsuit we filed after the city council rejected valid petitions to repeal a law that allows members of the opposite sex into each other’s restrooms. Mayor Parker is demanding that the pastors, who are not party to the lawsuit, turn over their constitutionally protected sermons and correspondence so she can see if the pastors have ever opposed or criticized her and/or her agenda for the City of Houston.

Mayor Parker is an employee of the people, not a dictator who will not tolerate dissent. She has decided to use the power of the state to suppress the First Amendment freedoms enjoyed by Pastors and all Americans.

The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is an attempt by the Parker administration to chill the First Amendment freedoms enjoyed by pastors across the country. Mayor Parker and her attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to suppress any opposition to her actions. Preaching your faith from the pulpit is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment.

In June, the Houston City Council passed its “bathroom bill,” which sparked a citizen initiative to have the council either repeal the bill or place it on the ballot for voters to decide. Our coalition submitted approximately 55,000 signatures, three times the legally required number of valid signatures, which the city secretary, who is entrusted by law to examine and certify petitions, certified as sufficient. The Mayor ignored the law and rejected the certification.

Our coalition then filed a lawsuit, Woodfill v. Parker. The Mayor and her attorneys subpoenaed a number of area pastors who were not parties to the suit, demanding to see what they preach from the pulpit and to examine their communications with their church members and others. The subpoena included, among other things, a demand that the pastors turn over “ll speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO (the Mayor’s ordinance), the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker’s homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you (the Pastors) or in your possession.”

The Pastor’s Council, The Alliance Defense Fund, filed a brief accompanying the motion filed in the District Court of Harris County to quash the subpoena “discovery requests,” explains that they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious,” irrelevant to the lawsuit, and will have a profoundly negative effect on free speech and the electoral process should they be allowed to move forward.

The Pastor’s Council said it best, “The message is clear: oppose the decisions of city government, and drown in unwarranted, burdensome discovery requests.” They further stated, “These requests, if allowed, will have a chilling effect on future citizens who might consider circulating referendum petitions because they are dissatisfied with ordinances passed by the City Council. Not only will the non party Pastors be harmed if these discovery requests are allowed, but the People will suffer as well. The referendum process will become toxic and the People will be deprived of an important check on city government provided them by the Charter.”

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