News

Houston sermons no longer monitored

Houston Mayor Annise Parker has withdrawn all subpoenas following national right wing and conservative outcries against her city’s actions.

The subpoenas were filed after Houston area pastors initiated a suit against the city of Houston for throwing out a petition to bring the city’s new anti-discrimination ordinance to vote.

Protestors gathered 50,000 signatures, enough to include a repeal vote on the Nov. ballot, “but opponents questioned the validity of the signatures,” according to the Washington Post.

In response to the subpoenas, high profile conservatives and conservative groups complained against the city’s action, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and the Family Research Council.

Tony Perkins, president of the FRC, said in a blog post, “The jaw-dropping move, one in a long line of Houston’s ‘gotcha’ government is only fanning the flames of outrage over the city’s totalitarian tactics. Even for Houston’s radical leadership, this is an affront to the plain language of the First Amendment.”

Sen. Ted Cruz said in his statement against the subpoenas, “These subpoenas are a grotesque abuse of power, and the officials who approved them should be held accountable by the people. The Mayor should be ashamed.”

In contrast to the language high-profile conservatives were using across the nation, Mayor Parker said of the local pastors she met with, “Came without political agendas, without hate in their hearts and without any desire to debate the merits of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). They simply wanted to express their passionate and very sincere concerns about the subpoenas.”

Though Mayor Parker withdrew the subpoenas following that meeting, Houston has yet to return to normal.

On Nov. 2, thousands of protestors gathered to support the lawsuit against the City of Houston. Though subpoenas were in the spotlight, the real issue, to many, was how the city threw out the petition against HERO.

The Washington Times reports Steven Riggle, pastor of Grace Community Church in Houston said, “I’d like to see all of you and everyone you can bring to city hall to deliver the mayor a message, a really vocal message, and it’s real simple: Mayor, let the people vote.”

Professor of Political Science Frank Niles gave his take on why Houston’s subpoenas became so volatile.

“In the current environment right now, social conservatives really feel under attack, particularly on the issue of gay marriage. So, gay marriage is being framed in the context of an infringement on religious liberty,” Niles said.

When the City of Houston issued subpoenas, Mayor Parker became the face of this attack. Niles continued, “She played 100 percent into that narrative by subpoenaing them.”

He also said that the subpoenas, which required, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity,” were a huge mistake on the part of the city.

“That was a massive overreach of what government can do. Again, government overreaches all the time, but in this political environment, that’s something you can’t overreach,” Niles said.

“People who feel very strongly against gay marriage are going to be very sensitive to any infringement on their ability to express those views because they really feel like they are being suppressed,” he added.

Houston passed the HERO anti-discrimination ordinance in May, but has delayed any action until the city can settle legal disputes.