On Wednesday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker dropped the subpoena of Houston area pastor's sermons after her office was flooded with Bibles from pastors across the country and around the world. That was a small victory in this fight, but the pastors are demanding more because the war is not over.
The pastors, who have been labeled "The Houston 5," released a statement late on Wednesday via the No UNequal Rights Coalition.
"The fact that two straight weeks of a national firestorm ignited by these subpoenas finally drove Mayor Parker to grudgingly claim she is withdrawing them is little comfort to those of us who have had our First Amendment rights assaulted by her legal team," the statement said. "If and when she withdraws these subpoenas does nothing to mitigate their willingness to trash the Constitution for her own agenda and covering up her crime of stealing our right to vote."
The pastors also said that the primary issue is the violation of both the City Charter and the voting rights of the citizens of Houston by Mayor Parker and City Attorney David Feldman are the main issue and that has not changed.
"These subpoenas were always a distraction from the main issue that David Feldman simply fabricated a non-existent standard to intentionally invalidate 2750 petitions, over half of the total, and torpedo the referendum," the statement continued. "We were not intimidated by the subpoenas, we were not distracted by them from the main point and we will not be deterred until the voting rights of Houston citizens are restored either by the Texas courts or the Mayor deciding to just obey the law."
"Our attorney Andy Taylor has called this a 'head fake' and we concur," the pastors added in their statement. "She has now reportedly declared that she will not allow the people to 'vote on my civil rights.' Added to her remarks that the LGBT Equal Rights Ordinance is 'about my life,' it is clear that her rights and her agenda are all that is relevant to her, not those of the citizens nor the rule of law. If she is truly concerned, she will withdraw opposition to the referendum and let the people vote."
FRC President Tony Perkins told WND, "Standing together across the nation, Christians have sent a strong message to Mayor Parker."
"While we are encouraged by this evidence that the mayor is responding to pressure and withdrawing her unconstitutional subpoenas, this is about far more than subpoenas. As we have stated since the beginning of this intrusion into the private affairs of Houston churches; this is not about subpoenas, this is not about sermons, it is not even about biblical teaching on sexual immorality, it is about the political intimidation and the bullying by Mayor Parker that continues," he said.
Perkins will be the host for I Stand Sunday and will be joined by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Duck Dynasty's Phil and Al Robertson, the five Houston pastors who were targeted, Ronnie Floyd and others.
Spokesman for the Center for Religious Liberty Travis Weber told WND that he also questions Parker's motives in her subpoena withdrawal.
"It doesn't satisfy us in terms of believing she is [sincere] about ending the intimidation, the manner she's used her office to suppress these pastors' speech."
He also commented on the number of Bibles and sermons that have flooded Parker's office as evidence that "the church can't be trampled on," and that this was done to prove that very point.
Though Parker claimed that she had taken counsel from pastors regarding religious liberty and the ongoing debate (of which there is no debate, we have it), Perkins said that Parker's and the city's actions were illegal and totalitarian. "The citizens of Houston have a right to vote, and Mayor Parker has denied them that right. America must see the totalitarianism that accompanies the redefinition of marriage and human sexuality, which results in citizens being denied their most fundamental rights."
"The entire nation—voices from every point of the spectrum left to right—recognize the city's action as a gross abuse of power," he continued. "We are gratified that the First Amendment rights of the pastors have triumphed over government overreach and intimidation. The First Amendment protects the right of pastors to be free from government intimidation and coercion of this sort."
"But the subpoenas were only one element of this disgraceful episode," Stanley said. "The scandal began with another abuse of power when the city of Houston arbitrarily threw out the valid signatures of thousands of voters. The city did this all because it is bent on pushing through its deeply unpopular ordinance at any cost.
"The subpoena threat has been withdrawn but the mayor and the city should now do the right thing and allow the people of the Houston to decide whether to repeal the ordinance," concluded Stanley.
Once again, the City, the Mayor and the City Attorney were in violation of the law. The City Secretary had already validated all the signatures required in order to put the disgusting bathroom bill on the ballot for the people to vote on. The Mayor then backpedaled on her claims of validation of the citizens' initiative in spite of the reality because the story gained national attention. In fact, it came to light that City Attorney David Feldman had attempted to interfere and tell the City Secretary to alter the numbers in favor of the city. Perhaps criminal charges should be considered against Mr. Feldman.
In either case, while there has been a victory, the battle continues in Houston and it looks like Mayor Parker has awoken a sleeping giant, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Want to contact Mayor Parker and let her know you stand with the pastors and against her administration's push of an unlawful bill and unlawful tactics against the citizens of Houston? Here's her contact information.
Mayor Annise D. Parker
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562 Houston, Texas 77251
Phone: (713) 837-0311