Hous­ton mayor with­draws ser­mon sub­poe­nas Still de­fend­ing gen­der-neu­tral bath­room bill

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Hous­ton Mayor An­nise Parker an­nounced Wed­nes­day that she will with­draw sub­poe­nas aimed at five lo­cal pas­tors after a na­tional firestorm dur­ing which she was ac­cused of anti-re­li­gious in­tim­i­da­tion and abuse of power.

Ms. Parker said at a press con­fer­ence that re­mov­ing the sub­poe­nas lets the city avoid a squab­ble over free­dom of re­li­gion in the le­gal bat­tle over its re­cently en­acted gen­der-neu­tral bath­room bill.

“I didn’t do this to sat­isfy them,” Ms. Parker said of her crit­ics in the Hous­ton Chron­i­cle. “I did it be­cause it was not serv­ing Hous­ton.”

Al­liance De­fend­ing Free­dom se­nior le­gal coun­sel Erik Stan­ley, who chal­lenged the sub­poe­nas on be­half of the pas­tors, said in a state­ment that Ms. Parker “had no choice but to with­draw th­ese sub­poe­nas, which should never have been served in the first place.”

“The en­tire na­tion — voices from ev­ery point of the spec­trum left to right — rec­og­nize the city’s ac­tion as a gross abuse of power,” Mr. Stan­ley said. “We are grat­i­fied that the First Amend­ment rights of the pas­tors have tri­umphed over gov­ern­ment over­reach and in­tim­i­da­tion. The First Amend­ment pro­tects the right of pas­tors to be free from gov­ern­ment in­tim­i­da­tion and co­er­cion of this sort.”

City of­fi­cials orig­i­nally is­sued sub­poe­nas call­ing for pas­tors to turn over ser­mons re­lated to the gen­der-neu­tral bath­room law, known as the Hous­ton Equal Rights Or­di­nance, but re­moved ser­mons from the sub­poe­nas after a pub­lic out­cry.

Ms. Parker, who is openly gay, said she made the decision to pull the sub­poe­nas out­right after meet­ing Tues­day with mem­bers of the lo­cal and na­tional clergy.

“The goal of the sub­poe­nas is to de­fend against a law­suit, and not to pro­voke a pub­lic de­bate,” Ms. Parker said in the Chron­i­cle. “I don’t want to have a na­tional de­bate about free­dom of re­li­gion when my whole pur­pose is to de­fend a strong and won­der­ful and ap­pro­pri­ate city or­di­nance against lo­cal at­tack, and by tak­ing this step to­day we re­move that dis­cus­sion about free­dom of re­li­gion.”

City of­fi­cials were sued in Au­gust after rul­ing that a pe­ti­tion drive to place the or­di­nance on the bal­lot was in­suf­fi­cient, cit­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties with many of the sig­na­tures. The law­suit con­tends that the pe­ti­tions, which con­tained more than three times the num­ber re­quired to qual­ify for the bal­lot, were suf­fi­cient.

The city re­sponded by is­su­ing sub­poe­nas to five lo­cal pas­tors, none of whom was a party to the law­suit, call­ing for all com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lated to a host of top­ics, in­clud­ing the mayor, the or­di­nance, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and gen­der neu­tral­ity.

Mr. Stan­ley said the equal rights or­di­nance should be put be­fore vot­ers.

“The sub­poena threat has been with­drawn, but the mayor and the city should now do the right thing and al­low the peo­ple of the Hous­ton to de­cide whether to re­peal the or­di­nance,” Mr. Stan­ley said.

For­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee is help­ing to host an event Sun­day on be­half of the pas­tors called I Stand Sun­day at Grace Com­mu­nity Church in Hous­ton, which is also avail­able for simul­cast.

“While we are en­cour­aged by this ev­i­dence that the Mayor is re­spond­ing to pres­sure and with­draw­ing her un­con­sti­tu­tional sub­poe­nas, this is about far more than sub­poe­nas,” said a state­ment by Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Tony Perkins. “As we have stated since the be­gin­ning of this in­tru­sion into the pri­vate af­fairs of Hous­ton churches; this is not about sub­poe­nas, this is not about ser­mons, it is not even about bib­li­cal teach­ing on sex­ual im­moral­ity, it is about po­lit­i­cal in­tim­i­da­tion and the bul­ly­ing by Mayor Parker that con­tin­ues.”


Hous­ton Mayor An­nise Parker said that re­mov­ing sub­poe­nas in­volv­ing five lo­cal pas­tors lets the city avoid a le­gal squab­ble over free­dom of re­li­gion.

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