U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Sent Tough Letter to Houston Mayor Regarding Sermon Subpoena

By Billy Hallowell – TheBlaze.com –

The battle over subpoenas issued by the city of Houston for pastors’ speeches and other communications has taken yet another turn, with a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights penning a letter to Mayor Annise Parker, lambasting the information request.

Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, who opened his letter by noting that he was writing on his own accord and not on behalf of the entire commission, warned that the city’s pastoral requests “threaten to have a chilling effect on religious and political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.”

“Although non-parties to a lawsuit can be required to provide information that is reasonably likely to be relevant and admissible, these subpoenas are plainly overbroad,” Kirsanow wrote.

He continued, “A subpoena that requires a pastor to turn over an e-mail to his neighbor about the details of the Equal Rights Ordinance, or a draft book chapter on the Bible and homosexuality that discusses the Equal Rights Ordinance, is clearly overbroad. “

Kirsanow continued by claiming that no government institution should require private citizens to turn over personal communications that relate to important issues of the day, noting that pastors are private citizens with free-speech like anyone else.

The commissioner also noted that the subject matter — mainly homosexuality — is tricky, as the pastors’ views on the issue and the equal rights ordnance at the center of the debate are likely shaped by their religious perspective.

“Given that the recipients of these subpoenas are pastors, it is almost inevitable that their views on homosexuality and gender identity are informed by their faith, if not almost entirely rooted in their faith,” he continued. “Indeed, the views of many people on homosexuality and gender identity are rooted in their ultimate commitments.”

He also charged that the “discovery request impermissibly probes the religious beliefs of private citizens simply because they supported a political effort.”

Kirsanow concluded that the request is an “abuse of government power” and that it appears to punish pastors for sharing political views that are predicated upon their faith.

 
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City of Houston Demands Pastors Turn Over Sermons

By Todd Starnes – Tea Party Patriot News –

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be 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. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”….

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

….The pastors I(Starnes)spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”

Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.

Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution….
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