Weeks after attorneys for the city of Houston subpoenaed five local pastors to find out if they had said anything to their congregations that might have violated the law, Mayor Annise Parker is rescinding that request.
Part of it is due to false outrage stemming from ignorant Christians who assumed this was some sort of coordinated attack on their religious rights. While subpoenas of this sort are par for the course in the early stages of a legal battle, Christian leaders were quick to play the victim card, saying the government (including the lesbian mayor) was trying to silence pastors from speaking out against homosexuality. Which is completely not true, but it’s not like the facts matter to people hell-bent on promoting an agenda.
As I said before, I felt the subpoenas, and what they were asking for, went a little too far, but I knew this wasn’t some attack on the church. Progressives support church/state separation, and that also means not getting in the way of church leaders promoting their religious beliefs, even if it means condemning homosexuality and spreading misinformation. The Mayor’s office took sermons off the list of things requested from the pastors, to ease the paranoia, but it was an irrelevant change by that point.
“It was never our intention to interfere with clergy and their congregants,” Parker said. “I don’t want to have a national debate on freedom of religion when my purpose is to defend … a city ordinance.”
According to Parker, the subpoenas — once modified to exclude sermons — are “legal, valid, and appropriate,” but unintentionally pushed the city into a broader religious debate that wasn’t good for the city or its efforts to defend its new ordinance.
“This is not about silencing my critics; this is about doing the right thing,” she said.
I suspect Religious Right groups will claim “victory,” even though what they wanted and what the Mayor wanted include plenty of overlap.
As one commenter at the Houston Chronicle notes,
I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for the mayor to deal with these religious morons. They are the ones who brought the lawsuit and now they are whining about the discovery process. By some ridiculous stretch, they’re trying to claim that discovery in a civil case is a violation of their constitutional rights.
It’s hardly surprising. They’re the same people who assume students who remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance don’t have respect for soldiers who fought to defend our rights.