Earlier this year, the city of Houston, Texas passed an equal rights ordinance which bans, among other things, discrimination based on gender identity. The ordinance’s greatest champion was Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker. The ordinance was opposed by many, including many local Christian leaders, who think that granting “gender identity” legally protection on par with sex or race is a bad idea.
Now, some of the outspoken religious leaders who opposed the ordinance are having their sermons subpoenaed by the city. The Houston Chronicle reports:
Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists that have sued the city.
Opponents of the equal rights ordinance are hoping to force a repeal referendum when they get their day in court in January, claiming City Attorney David Feldman wrongly determined they had not gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. City attorneys issued subpoenas last month during the case’s discovery phase, seeking, among other communications, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
To say this reeks of retaliation and intimidation against political opponents is an understatement. That it is being done in the name of equal rights is absurd. Merits or demerits of the ordinance aside, this kind of thuggish abuse of the law is incompatible with the rule of law and poses a threat to every basic civil right—including those Mayor Parker wants to defend.
These sorts of abuses aren’t new. As Pope Francis said earlier this year, “Corruption is precisely the sin that the person with authority – whether political, economic or ecclesiastical – over others has most readily to hand.” If using the law as a cudgel to settle ideological scores is an old game, head-scratchingly blatant instances like this seem to be on the rise. (Remember the IRS demanding to know the content of an Iowa pro-life group’s prayers as a condition for granting tax-exempt status?) Let’s hope and pray—and work very hard—to make sure this doesn’t become the new normal.
It seems Mayor Parker is doubling down. (H/T NRO.)
If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?-A
— Annise Parker (@AnniseParker) October 15, 2014