It’s being described as a modern-day “inquisition” and a “witch hunt” led by a big-city mayor intent on promoting gay and lesbian rights.
In a chilling case that pits government against the church — that challenges the free speech rights of religious leaders — the city of Houston is demanding that certain pastors report the contents of their sermons and other communications with their congregations.
Todd Starnes of Fox News shares details of the stunning order issued by city officials:
The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.
An attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm representing a handful of Houston pastors who are resisting the demand order, likens the city’s heavy-handed move to the inquisition.
“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”
At the heart of the Houston faith-and-freedom fight is the ongoing controversy over the city’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, which some have labelled the “bathroom bill,” would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June to accommodate “gender-confused” residents of the Texas city.
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A petition drive was launched to put the controversial law to a city-wide vote. Despite having many thousands of signatures above the number needed to qualify the question for the ballot, the city threw out the petition over alleged irregularities.
That’s when opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit, and the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.
As the Starnes report on foxnews.com explains:
The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.
A post on wnd.com quotes counsel for the law firm representing the targeted pastors as saying that the city of Houston has embarked on a “witch hunt” that is violating the constitutionally protected rights of the clergy:
ADF attorneys say the city is “illegitimately demanding that the pastors, who are not party to the lawsuit, turn over their constitutionally protected sermons and other communications simply so the city can see if the pastors have ever opposed or criticized the city.”
“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”
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