Yesterday, reports began to surface out of Houston, Texas that the attorneys of the city have subpoenaed pastors who have been vocally opposed to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. The subpoenas request that the a select group of Houston area Pastors turn over "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."
While I have my own personal reservations about the pulpit being used to address specific political issues and candidates and likely disagree with the positions these pastors were articulating, I firmly believe that these Pastors have every right, under the constitution, to preach, present on, and publicly critique anything that they feel convicted about. These Pastors have every right to preach against HERO, the mayor, and their beliefs about sexuality and gender identity. Within the confines of their church or within the public square, the first amendment grants all US citizens these inalienable rights. It is these very religious liberties that have made our nation so great, a safe haven for people of all religious, ethical, and social beliefs for centuries.
Actions like these, though rare, are incredibly harmful to the work that so many are doing in regards to LGBTQ equality and rights. When governments attempt such rash and unjustifiable actions, they give credence to the common conservative misconception that the "Gay Agenda" actually seeks to take away the religious liberties and freedom of speech of those who believe anything that is not "politically correct." It gives fodder to conservative Christians who believe that they are being increasingly "persecuted and oppressed" because of their beliefs. It's incidents like these that solidify the worst fears of many in our country and thus reinforce both discrimination and homophobia. With this one indefensible act, the city of Houston has clearly done a great deal of damage to the work of equality nation wide.
As an evangelical Christian and an activist for LGBTQ rights, I am deeply disheartened by the actions we are seeing in Houston. I stand in complete solidarity with the churches and pastors that have been subpoenaed, demanding that these legal actions be reversed. It is my prayer that these pastors will respectfully and civilly disobey the requests of the city of Houston and that they would see swift justice brought to this situation.
In the words of Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, "the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now, not ever." To that, I give a hearty "Amen!"