U-turn: Houston pastors won’t have to hand over sermons

Tue, 4 Nov 2014

The mayor of Houston, Texas, has backtracked over the city’s legal demand to examine churches’ sermons on homosexuality, in the face of widespread criticism.

Lawyers for Mayor Annise Parker, herself a lesbian, had originally required “all speeches, presentations, or sermons” on issues including homosexuality and transsexualism from five pastors.

However, Parker has now withdrawn the threat, in a move welcomed by religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Abuse of power

ADF supported the pastors who were affected and said many critics recognised “the city’s action as a gross abuse of power”.

ADF added that the freedom of religion rights for pastors “have triumphed over government overreach and intimidation”.

The legal order stemmed from a row over a local gay rights law.

Thrown out

Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which aims to ‘prohibit discrimination’, would allow transsexuals to make an official complaint if they are not allowed to use toilets of their choice.

Critics raised concerns about the law and organised a 50,000-strong petition against it. The petition was originally certified as valid, but was subsequently thrown out.

That rejection prompted a lawsuit from those opposed to HERO, which led to the city’s lawyers calling for sermons from five pastors in the area.

Deeply unpopular

ADF criticised the city over its handling of the petition, saying it “arbitrarily threw out the valid signatures of thousands of voters”.

“The city did this all because it is bent on pushing through its deeply unpopular ordinance at any cost.

“The subpoena threat has been withdrawn but the mayor and the city should now do the right thing and allow the people of the Houston to decide whether to repeal the ordinance.”

Parker said she did not make the u-turn to “satisfy” critics, but because it “was not serving Houston”.