This is kind of rapid reaction blog, as this only came down last night. Here are the facts.
- This summer Houston, under the leadership of Mayor Annise Parker passed a new ordinance, labeled HERO, which extended protections to gay and transgendered individuals.
- The main sticking point in the ordinance was that any individual could choose which bathroom they can use in a public facility–men can use a women’s restroom if they self identify as female and women can use a men’s restroom if they self identify as male, regardless of their anatomy.
- As you might expect, many in the Christian community were opposed to the bathroom provision and were vocal.
- In late summer 50,000+ people signed a petition to put the issue on a referendum in the November 4 elections. The city attorney rejected the petitions, citing ‘irregularities’ in the signatures.
- UPDATED INFO: Some of the area pastors filed suit contesting the city’s decision regarding the signatures.
- Tuesday evening (October 14) the city council subpoenaed sermons from specific pastors who had been vocal in their opposition.
- Apparently, the reason for this subpoena was
to determine if the pastors had violated the laws about discriminationto discover the validity of the petition process.
That is where things stand, now, as I understand. (The updated information, in red above, does not change the conclusions I draw below. However, it is always important to get the facts straight, and as this story has gone on, I have learned more about the events.)
Now, here is the problem. As far as I am concerned, most of this is just politics. Elections do matter, and the mayor and city council won their elections and therefore were pushing their agenda, and those who opposed her were pushing theirs. That is the way a free society works.
The problems begin when the city council subpoenaed the sermons. It is a complete violation of the United States Constitution, and is wrong at so many levels. I can hear you objecting already, saying something like, “but what kind of pastor doesn’t want someone to hear their sermon?” That is generally true. The problem is the reason. Here is what the Washington Times says is being requested:
One of the subpoenas posted on the ADF website requires that the pastors produce “[a]ll 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.”
The subpoena also asks for, “All communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.”
Government agencies targeting topics and issues for review is chilling. It is horrific. This is the path to despotism. For the record, I would feel the same way if a government agency were requesting the speeches and topics discussed at GLAAD meetings, mosques, or any other place where speech takes place. This particular issue is more troublesome because it violates not only freedom of speech but also freedom of religion. Sermons are protected speech, like a newspaper editorial, and it is a protected religious practice free from government intrusion or meddling.
If the government can target any kind of speech, it is not a big leap at all to target any kind of speech.
Now, let’s get to the why of all of it. Is Parker going after these people because she is gay and they represent the Christian right? I don’t think so. She is going after them because they had the audacity to oppose her. She has a record of doing this. Texas Monthly had a great article recently (CLICK HERE TO READ IT) about her attack on the Houston Fire Department, particularly its pension plan. She went after them because the firefighters union backed her opponent in the election, and she is using the thuggery of the jackbooted tolerance police to do her dirty work.
That is the kind of politician, the kind of person, she is.
I hope the city of Houston finds out that a practitioner of Nixonian politics is leading their city.
image from bizjournal.com