I’ve been busy trying to get caught up on some work before I head out of the country next week – won’t be writing much. But since this discussion broke out on another comment stream, I thought I should put up a forum for discussion of the issue here.
According to the Houston Chronicle, it seems the series of events is (at least loosely) as follows:
1) The Houston city council, led by the mayor, an open lesbian, passed a “non-discrimination” ordinance.
2) Christian groups opposed the ordinance based on some of its provisions and possible consequences. I’ve not read the ordinance and cannot judge whether their opposition was warranted. The key issue seems to be about unisex bathrooms, but again, I’ve only read news reports.
3) A group of Houston citizens gathered 50,000 signatures on a petition to seek a referendum on the ordinance. That is almost 3x the required amount (around 17,000).
4) The council denied the petition claiming irregularities in it. I’m not clear exactly what their beef was with the petition, but they denied it.
5) The community group that had formed to gather signatures and seek the referendum filed a lawsuit to get the denial of the petition reversed.
6) The council issued a subpoena demanding that 5 pastors of prominent churches, which had lent support to the community group that pushed the referendum, submit their sermons that spoke about homosexuality, transgender issues or contained any references to the mayor.
7) These 5 pastors are refusing to comply with that subpoena, from what I have read.
A couple of perspectives, then you guys can discuss this to your heart’s content.
1) Anyone, right-wing, conservative Christian to atheist, and anything in between, ought to be horrified when our government begins interfering in what is preached in a pulpit on Sunday.
2) For those who would say this is all much ado about nothing, ordinances in certain European countries and in Canada have already attempted to limit the right of preachers to confront homosexuality as sin. Both laws failed when the government was unwilling to imprison a preacher for speaking truth. But, suffice it to say that the intolerant left has already demonstrated a willingness to criminalize dissent from its fundamental “tolerance” dogma.
3) There seems to be a clear revenge aspect of this. When the city demands that references to the mayor in sermons be turned over, that says a lot about motives and ought to chill even those who support the ordinance.
4) This seems to be a clear case of governmental bullying of dissent. Again, both liberals and conservatives ought to be offended by this.
To paraphrase something Bart Barber said on Twitter, “I am old enough to remember when liberals supported the First Amendment.”
As is normal, Dr. Russell Moore has spoken well to this issue. I consider the day he was elected to head our ERLC to be one of the best days in recent SBC history.
Dr. Jason Allen has added another article.
There have been a lot of news articles on the topic, but these seem to be the facts. At this point, the city of Houston has not commented, since the news of the subpoenas has gone viral.
EDIT – look in the comments for a tweet from the mayor of Houston, in a comment by Brent Hobbs.