Getting your head right, Part 2: Thought Police subpoena sermons of pastors opposing ‘Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance’

When an alert reader first brought this news item to my attention I was certain that someone had taken an item from the satirical website The Onion and disguised it as a news story.

I imagined the original headline had to have been something like: “Houston’s tolerant city officials will not tolerate any intolerance whatsoever.”

But, no, gentle reader, there appear to be too many references to this news from the Houston Chronicle to Fox News to a Houston TV station.

The lede on the Chronicle story reads:

“Houston’s embattled equal rights ordinance took another legal turn this week when it surfaced that city attorneys, in an unusual step, subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose the law and are tied to the conservative Christian activists who have sued the city.”

Specifically the subpoenas are demanding copies of “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.” Mayor Parker is Houston’s first openly lesbian mayor.

Resistance is futile

HERO is the acronym for Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. This ordinance apparently protects transgendered person’s “right” to use a restroom consistent with that person’s “gender expression,” regardless of actual biological sex. Opponents have dubbed it the “Sexual Predator Protection Act.”

According to a Fox News account, ministers who fail to comply with the subpoena 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.”

Opponents of the ordinance, passed in June, gathered 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed — but the petition was thrown out due to alleged irregularities.

A court date on litigation aimed at repealing the ordinance is set for January and the subpoenas are part of the discovery for the case on behalf of the city.

City Attorney David Feldman told the Chronicle that the pastors’ sermons are relevant to the case because they used the pulpit for political campaigning that encouraged members to sign petitions opposing the ordinance.

Ordinance opponent, Erik Stanley, an attorney for a group called Alliance Defending Freedom, told Fox News, “City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge. This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

In this day and age of constant social media posts and purloined audio and video posted on the Internet, do the Houston officials really even need a subpoena? Perhaps they could take a page from George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”:

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

And once you are found out, there is the certain outcome:

“We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation … we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.”



16 comments on “Getting your head right, Part 2: Thought Police subpoena sermons of pastors opposing ‘Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance’

  1. Bruce Feher says:

    We live in a police state! Kiss freedom goodbye……

  2. Winston Smith says:

    I finally realized today that love Big Brother 🙂

  3. Winston said as two gin-scented tears trickled down.

    “Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”


  4. Rincon says:

    “The fight over the anti-discrimination ordinance that passed in May has included protests and petition drives. Thousands of signatures were deemed invalid, which led to the lawsuit.

    Some signatures were acquired at churches which make the sermons fair game, according to City Attorney Dave Feldman.

    “If they choose to do this inside the church, choose to do this from the pulpit, then they open the door to the questions being asked,” Feldman said”.

    The question I have is, if large numbers of “invalid” signatures are found, does the government have the right to subpoena the records of the people involved? What if the Sierra Club engaged in voter fraud? Would their records be exempt from subpoena?

    I haven’t formed a firm opinion on this, but if it wasn’t the church and was a corporation or NGO instead, people’s reactions would probably be different.

  5. nyp says:

    I know you are all wet with excitement over this, but you really should cool down, and perhaps not rely so heavily on wingnut news sources. The lawsuit concerns the validity of certain referendum petitions, and one of the issues is what instructions were given by the various politicized pastors to the people who were charged with collecting signatures on the petitions. The pastors were heavily involved in as political actors in the referendum process. Why should they be the only ones whose actions are immune from scrutiny during the discovery process?

  6. Winston Smith says:

    Note to self: Pls add the Houston Chronicle and Houston’s ABC TV affiliate to the long list of news sources that are not approved by petey.

  7. It’s a conspiracy! Strip them of all rights and nail them to the cross of political correctness for daring to preach the gospel according to some dead homophobe.

  8. Those wingnuts at the Daily Caller say Twitter blocked a hashtag supporting the pastors.

  9. The petitions are either valid or not. Any campaign discussion in church or Sierra Club or the Ladies Evening Quilting Bee are not relevant and amount to fishing.

  10. Nyp says:

    Really doubt that Twitter is”censoring” hashtags

  11. Rincon says:

    The dead homophobe also condemned those that divorce and remarry. Do these people who call themselves Christians follow him or not? Seems to me that the political correctness and religious correctness are close cousins.

  12. Alan Stricklin says:

    Jesus said nothing about genocide

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