Houston subpoenas dropped
By Tré Goins-Phillips
Texas Mayor Annise Parker ditches court order for city pastors’ sermons
Houston Mayor Annise Parker recently rose to national attention when she subpoenaed five Houston-area pastors for the content of their sermons, later changing the wording to refer to them as “speeches.”
After many letters, calls, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and editorials, Parker ordered her office to rescind the subpoenas Wednesday, Oct. 29. The decision came the day after the mayor met with the five pastors and other ministry leaders from across the country, according to Christianity Today.
As a member of the journalism industry, and someone who contributed to the editorials calling out Parker for her attack on religious liberty, I am thrilled with the reversal. Not only is this a victory for religious freedom, but also a victory for journalism, affirming our ability to affect change through engaging our culture.
“After much contemplation and discussion, I am directing the city legal department to withdraw the subpoenas issued to the five Houston pastors,” Parker stated at a press conference Oct. 29.
This entire debacle began with Parker’s Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). When the mayor presented HERO, these five pastors delivered petitions with 50,000 signatures calling for a citywide vote on the passage of the 31-page ordinance, according to Fox News.
One of the most controversial policies under HERO offers individuals — both male and female — the freedom to use any restroom they want without question, according to several reports on the legislation. Naturally, the pastors saw the ignorance of such a policy, as well as the dangers it could bring, and acted.
Parker did not approve. Thus, the subpoenas.
Out of the subpoenas was born a defense of religious liberty that sparked national attention and developed into a nationwide movement. If it had not been for dedicated journalists, standing by their convictions and using their platforms to rally calls for change, the subpoenas might still be alive and well.
But while the subpoenas may be dead, Parker is still kicking and screaming. Our job is not over.
“We are going to continue to vigorously defend our ordinance against repeal efforts,” Parker said.
Erik Stanley, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom and the pastors’ lawyer, told Fox News columnist Todd Starnes that the mayor really did not have a choice but to recall the subpoenas because she was criticized from every side — liberal and conservative — from all around the country.
With HERO still on the table, it is critical that we remain vigilant in defending the freedoms on which this nation was founded.
“This is what bullies do when people stand up to them,” Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president, told Starnes. “They back down.”
We must continue to stand up. We must continue to defend freedom in whatever form it is attacked, working to ensure that the United States remains the bastion of liberty it was created to be.
In this case, the only way to ensure maximum freedom for the people of Houston is to take this ordinance directly to the city’s citizens, thereby allowing them to vote on the policy. However, even with overturned subpoenas, Parker has blocked the pastors’ petition, denying Houstonians the right to vote on HERO, according to the Religion News Service. But, with hard work and determination, that could change.
The fight is not over. It is time once again, journalists, to use the power of our pens to relay our insistence on the protection of the rights of all peoples.
As I wrote in my first editorial on the Houston subpoenas, the sacred has always ruffled the secular world’s feathers. The tension is not new, but, if our freedoms do not remain intact, it could bring about irreversible damages.
Goins-phillips is the opinion editor.