Houston drops pastor subpoenas, larger problem remains

Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

Originally published in CBN News

Houston’s mayor has finally withdrawn her subpoenas demanding pastors surrender their private communications.

Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian, had targeted five pastors as part of a lawsuit over a pro-gay ordinance. The religious leaders said the subpoenas violated their First Amendment rights.

Parker said her demands were not meant to infringe on anyone’s religious freedoms.

“It was never our intention to interfere with any members of the clergy and their congregants in terms of sermons, in terms of preaching what they believe is the word of the God that they serve,” Parker said.

But the targeted pastors still don’t believe Parker has had a change of heart.

“If the mayor thought the subpoenas were wrong, she would have pulled them immediately, not waited until she was forced by national outrage to narrow them,” Steve Riggle, pastor of Grace Community Church, said.

Parker ignited a national firestorm after she first demanded the pastors turn over their sermons.

Under the mounting scrutiny, she revised the subpoenas to remove the word “sermons” but still demanded broad reporting of the pastors’ private communications and writings.

Christians around the country responded in protest by flooding her office with Bibles and sermons sent by mail.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, even traveled to Houston two weeks ago to blast Parker for her actions.

“The city of Houston has no power, no legal authority to silence the Church,” he said.

And a diverse group of pastors from around the country traveled to Houston this week to protest what they call bullying by Mayor Parker.

Now Parker has dropped the subpoenas altogether.

Still, opponents of Houston’s ordinance creating special rights for gays and trangenders say justice has not been done. That’s because Parker blocked a petition with 50,000 signatures that would have given voters a say about the pro-gay ordinance.

“Mayor, if you really believe in trying — not just to head fake, and not just put lipstick on a pig — but in actually finally doing the right thing, then pull down the defense, acknowledge the validity of our petition,” Andy Taylor, an attorney for the pastors, said.

Meanwhile, legal scholars say the actual subpoenas and petition are only one aspect of a much bigger problem in America. They point out that Parker’s agenda highlights a disturbing trend of violating constitutional rights.

“She represents a small but thriving portion of our society that thinks government may and should intrude on religious liberty to force upon citizens political dogma that infringes on constitutional rights,” Richard Kelsey, an assistant dean at George Mason University’s School of Law, said.

Legal experts argue this case highlights that liberals like Parker don’t actually believe it’s wrong to target the Church or other opponents of homosexual activism, but instead they’re just upset that it’s not socially acceptable yet.

“An unrepentant Mayor Parker surrendered today, though begrudgingly,” Kelsey said. “She did not admit the frailty of her legal positon, but instead recognized that attacks on constitutional rights by the government are still politically unpopular.”

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