Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, who has now apparently been fully informed about what a private law firm has been doing in the name of her city, has announced that the city has made a meaningless change in its fishing expedition. The subpoenas sent to five Houston pastors seeking a variety of communications with their parishioners no longer include the word “sermons,” according to the Houston Chronicle:
Mayor Annise Parker on Friday followed through on her pledge to narrow the scope of subpoenas sent to local pastors who led opposition to the city’s equal rights ordinance earlier this year.
Though the subpoena’s new wording removes any mention of “sermons” — a reference that created a firestorm among Christian conservative groups and politicians, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who accused Parker of trying “to silence the church” — the mayor acknowledged the new subpoenas do not explicitly preclude sermons from being produced.
That’s because all of that other stuff I mentioned in my last post is still in there, including “speeches,” which, as any idiot knows, includes sermons as a sub-category.
“We don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners,” Parker said. “We don’t want their sermons, we want the instructions on the petition process. That’s always what we wanted and, again, they knew that’s what we wanted because that’s the subject of the lawsuit.”
Of course, if that’s what they wanted, that’s what they should have asked for. Instead, they asked for any written material that might have contained, not just references to the petition process, but to the mayor, the city secretary, the city attorney, homosexuality, gender identity, civil rights, equal rights, etc. Most of that would have had nothing to do with the subject of the lawsuit, which is whether the city attorney has the authority on his own to overrule the election board and disqualify enough signatures to get the question off the ballot.The way the subpoena is worded, I would assume that any communication that contained a sentence such as “The mayor opposes the petition” would have had to be turned over, despite its otherwise complete irrelevance.
Whether the mayor “needed” to intrude on religious freedom, of course, is beside the point. She and her legal eagles did so, without any compelling state interest at stake.
Though the subpoenas still cover speeches or presentations related to HERO, Parker stressed the filing was “not about HERO, it’s about the petitions.”
“If during the course of the sermon — and I doubt this very much — a pastor took 15 or 20 minutes to go into detail about how the petition process goes, then that’s part of the discovery,” she said. “But that’s not about preaching a sermon on anybody’s religious beliefs, it’s not conveying a religious message, that’s part of the petition process, and all we’re interested in is the petition process.”
Sorry, mayor. Under the First Amendment, which I assume still applies in Houston, you don’t get to decide what constitutes a “religious message.” You want that power, move to China.