Breitbart News reported Wednesday that Houston officials have subpoenaed the “sermon notes” and “personal communications” of five pastors, in an attempt to ascertain which of those pastors have (or haven’t) “opposed or criticized the city.”
The subpoenas follow a lawsuit–Woodfill v. Parker–which was filed against the city of Houston after a citizen petition to overturn the “Bathroom Bill” was rejected. The “Bathroom Bill” is an ordinance that was passed by the Houston City Council in June that allows “members of the opposite sex into each other’s bathrooms.”
The petition was rejected by the Mayor and City Attorney although it had more than 50,000 signatures–where only 17,269 are required–and it had already been certified by the City Secretary.
The pastors facing subpoena are being represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)–a law firm for religious liberty.
On October 15 Breitbart News sat down with ADF’s lead attorney for this case, Erik Stanley. He confirmed that ADF “is representing the five pastors who have been subpoenaed.” He also said ADF has “filed a motion to quash the subpoenas.”
When we asked about the motivation behind subpoenaing the pastors, Stanley said:
There’s been some discussion about the motivation behind this. One of things that’s interesting is if you look at the subpoena there appears to be a political motivation. For example, in Sec. 2, Para. 12, they are asking for communication relating to Mayor Annise Parker (D).
What possible reference does that have regarding whether signatures on a petition were valid?
We also asked Stanley what aspect of the subpoenaed information represented the starkest affront to the First Amendment. He said:
One of clearest aspects is in Sec. 2, Para. 12, which asks for sermons on homosexuality or gender identity.
Sec. 2, Para 4, is also a clear affront, as it asks for pastors’ communication with their members. This would include text messages.
In conclusion Stanley said: “It’s a fishing expedition and it runs roughshod over the First Amendment.”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.