Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed Houston, Texas' openly gay Mayor Annise Parker after attorneys working for the city sent subpoenas to several pastors in the city, asking them to turn over "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO [the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."
In a statement Wednesday, Cruz said the move was another step in a government "assault against religious liberty" and said he stood with the pastors, who were all vocal opponents of HERO.
"The City of Houston’s subpoenas demanding that pastors provide the government with copies of their sermons is both shocking and shameful," Cruz said.
"This is wrong. It's unbefitting of Texans, and it's un-American. The government has no business asking pastors to turn over their sermons. These subpoenas are a grotesque abuse of power, and the officials who approved them should be held accountable by the people. The mayor should be ashamed. And we should all be proud to stand up and defend the pastors who are resisting these blatant attempts to suppress their First Amendment rights," Cruz added.
Janice Evans, a spokesperson for Parker, told The Huffington Post the mayor "agrees with those who are concerned about the subpoenas for pastors' sermons."
"The subpoenas were issued by pro bono attorneys helping the city prepare for the trial regarding the petition to repeal the new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in January," Evans said in an email. "Neither the mayor nor City Attorney David Feldman were aware the subpoenas had been issued until Tuesday. Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing. Attorney Feldman says the focus should be only on communications related to the HERO petition process."
(You can watch a video of Parker's remarks on the subpoenas from a press conference earlier this week above.)
New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer reported further on the subpoenas:
Parker, who says she hadn't heard about the subpoenas until yesterday, doesn't care if pastors called her a dirty sinner or advocated for overturning the Equal Rights Ordinance. It turns out the subpoenas were sent by outside attorneys working for the city pro bono.
They were looking into what instructions pastors gave out to those collecting signatures for a referendum on the non-discrimination law. (What exactly the pastors said, and what the collectors knew about the rules, is one of the key issues in pending litigation around whether opponents of the law gathered enough signatures for a referendum.)
"There's no question, the wording was overly broad. But I also think there was some deliberate misinterpretation on the other side," Parker said at a press conference Wednesday. "The goal is to find out if there were specific instructions given on how the petitions should be accurately filled out. It's not about, 'What did you preach on last Sunday?'"