Forty four years in the ministry in what has always been considered the freest nation on earth and it comes down to one activist Mayor trying to press her social and cultural agenda on the city of Houston through intimidation of pastors.
Although this could be the beginning of the loss of Religious Freedom as we have known it in America, this pastor/writer along with those I have known over the years do not intimidate easily.
Still, this is a sad day for all Americans who value their cherished first amendment right.
Throughout American history, the church has always been at the forefront of social and cultural reform by attempting to change one heart at a time through personal decision; not forced legislation and ram rod tactics.
On the other hand, Mayor Annise Parker who happens to be Houston’s first openly gay mayor as well as an aggressively gay activist is seeking to press her personal social agenda on a predominantly conservative and deeply religious city.
The conflict with the community started back in June when Houston’s City Council began producing edict after edict against anything they determined discriminatory to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender persons.
Mayor Parker has made every attempt to impose her lifestyle and agenda on the people of Houston including an “in your face” demonstration of such by becoming legally married back in January under California law to her same sex partner which gained national media attention.
Now in her last term as Mayor of Houston, Ms Parker is seeking to leave a legacy to the community through her Houston Equal Rights Ordinance giving Lesbian.Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender persons above normal access without discrimination to bathrooms of either gender; commonly referred to as “The Bathroom Bill”.
For most normal reasoning persons the issue comes down to, “What about straight individuals”?
Nothing against the gay community; do what you like but what about the rest of us.
Most of Houston’s citizens agree that Mayor Parker’s sexual preference and personal life is indeed her own; to that, nobody is challenging. Her method however, in furthering her personal agenda for social and cultural reform is quite another.
Make no mistake the new ordinance which allows transgender persons to use either gender bathroom (changing on the whim of his or her emotional decision) is not really a Houston decision; this is Mayor Parker’s personal agenda and her personal decision.
The new ordinance might have the backing of the City Council but it most certainly would not have come about without Ms Parker’s leading and pushing. The ordinance is radical at the least and polarizing of a great city at best.
After the ordinance was passed by the City Council, pastors as well as other community leaders began a legal attempt to recall the ordinance through citizens’ groups which submitted three times the number of necessary signatures, of which the city secretary certified as sufficient. But city attorney David Feldman said the petitions included “too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook,”
It was only then after the Mayor apparently realized her new ordinance had a problem that she had the city attorney issue subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker. According to some legal pundits, ministers who failed to comply could have been held in contempt of court.
“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.” ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors.
Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Gregg Abbott demanded the city recall the subpoenas issued to the pastors as did Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Talk Show Host Glenn Beck who lives and broadcasts from Texas and Mike Huckabee who (like this writer) is also a Southern Baptist pastor have expressed outrage over the mayor’s intimidation of the Houston pastors.
Thankfully, Mayor Annise Parker has now begun to back down on the subpoena issue and back track from her original aggressive stand on the ordinance but make no mistake, this is only the first of many challenges to Religious freedom in the Lone Star State as well as the nation.
Most citizens of Houston would certainly agree that there are definitely more important issues seriously vital to the city’s well being and continued growth. The mayor could have addressed and better spent its money on more pressing matters such as infrastructure, the homeless and the city’s greatest problem, traffic.
As to how important Mayor’s Parker’s job is, Houston is the fourth largest city by population in the United States and the largest city in Texas. By area, the city of Houston is only slightly smaller than the entire state of Massachusetts and larger than the state of New Jersey. In essence Mayor Parker’s methods, decisions and leadership can have a national effect.
This is why her attempt to circumvent our First Amendment Constitutional rights is so important; she does not have any right to intimidate any religious speech; sermons or otherwise.
Anyone who has read my articles or knows me personally knows of my long stand in support of gay rights and my work with the gay community in the early days of the AIDS epidemic in South Florida.
Apart from my strong disapproval of the “term” Marriage being allowed for same sex unions (as the courts have now allowed), I have been in complete and total support including the same rights for same sex couples in legal unions as heterosexual marriages.
This statement is simply made to emphasize this article is not any attempt by this Christianity writer/pastor to challenge her sexual preference; only what she is attempting to do to American Religious Freedom.
The time has come to say enough is enough. This ordinance and others like it springing up around the country must be repealed or at the least challenged.
This is not an ordinance of protection as the good Mayor has suggested but rather an ordinance of extreme radicalism which diminishes the rights of others already firmly established in our Constitution and Bill of Rights including the First Amendment.
The church has always been (or at least supposed to have been) the moral and ethical compass for our country.
Pastors, Priest, Bishops, Rabbis and Clerics from every Religion should continue to be allowed to speak to their people as they interpret the leadership of God for their flocks and no government authority should have the right to deter them from such action.
With the exception to common sense criminal acts of terror, violence and abuse to children and taking financial advantage of the less fortunate, there should never be any reason for government intrusion into the sanctity of Religious Freedom; to do so is to destroy America.
© 2014 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III