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Houston’s Mayor Promises to Back Off from Demand for Pastors’ Sermons, But Will Annise Parker Follow Through?

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Mayor Annis Parkerby Novell Rose, Western Journalism

The firestorm that engulfed Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the city’s legal team was swift and intense. And it appears to have severely scorched their resolve.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz called the city’s action “shocking and shameful,” and an “assault against religious liberty.” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, wrote a letter to Houston’s City Attorney, condemning the move as “aggressive and invasive” and showing “no regard” for First Amendment protections.

Buffeted by the barrage of criticism, Houston’s chief executive — the Texas city’s first openly lesbian mayor — changed her tune. Where she had once defended the city’s demand that pastors turn over the contents of sermons and other communications with their congregations, Democrat Mayor Parker suddenly backtracked.

Instead of calling the sermons “fair game,” she declared the subpoenas overly broad and said the city’s legal maneuvering should and would be changed.

As Western Journalism reported on Wednesday, Houston sent subpoenas to a handful of area pastors saying they had to provide the government with anything they had said or written dealing with a contentious political issue close to the activist mayor’s heart.

The Houston faith-and-freedom fight centers on the controversy over the city’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, which some have labelled the “bathroom bill,” would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June to accommodate “gender-confused” residents of the Texas city.

As Ed Whelan notes in an analysis published on nationalreview.com:

“Had she been doing her job responsibly, [Mayor] Parker would have reviewed and objected to the subpoenas before they were sent out. Parker’s position also appears lawless. She has no business objecting to pastors using their ‘pulpits for politics’ and treating them as targets (‘fair game’) if they do. Apart from the fact that ‘politics’ is a nebulous term whose definition should not be left to hostile politicians, pastors have the same First Amendment rights that everyone else has, and they may use their pulpits for whatever lawful purposes they choose — yes, including politics​.”

Houston’s latest excuse for the issuance of the controversial subpoenas is that pro-bono attorneys not actually employed by the city drew them up and had them delivered as part of Houston’s preparation for a legal battle over the “bathroom bill.”

Nevertheless, Texas AG Abbott is not letting the City Attorney off the hook, as reported by breitbart.com:

“The Texas Attorney General told Houston City Attorney Feldman that he was responsible for the law firm’s actions and rebuked him for not safeguarding the trust of Houston-area religious institutions and their congregants. Abbott urged the City Attorney “to demonstrate the City’s commitment to religious liberty and to true diversity of belief by unilaterally withdrawing these subpoenas immediately.”

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© 2014 WesternJournalism.com

Previous story:  Separation of Church and State? Not when This City Subpoenas Pastors’ Sermons

UPDATE:  Houston Drops ‘Sermons’ From Subpoenas But Still After Pastors’ Emails and Texts

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