From Newt Gingrich and Vince Haley at BarbWire.com:
The Mayor of Houston’s recent subpoena of sermons by Christian pastors in the country’s fourth largest city is a shocking violation of First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. There is no clearer violation of First Amendment freedoms than for government officials to attempt to censor religious speech.
Lawyers for the Christian pastors were prepared to sue to quash these subpoenas — and would have succeeded quickly in the courts on Constitutional grounds – when the Mayor withdrew the subpoenas amid an uproar of protest.
So why would Annise Parker, the Houston mayor, issue such subpoenas at all if a court would have stopped her from forcing the pastors to comply? Probably because she is playing for much larger political and constitutional stakes than the power to coerce disclosure of the communications five Houston pastors.
Her signature initiative–the so-called “bathroom bill”, a city ordinance that she championed and signed last May–is being threatened by a public campaign to repeal it in a referendum . The City has challenged the validity of the signatures the citizens collected to force a vote on the ordinance, which led a group of them to sue the City. Mayor Parker responded by subpoenaing five Houston pastors who oppose the ordinance, but who are not even parties to the lawsuit.
In politics, if politicians are not succeeding in their arguments, they change the subject. And Mayor Parker apparently is not succeeding in her defense of a law that opponents claim creates a right, among other newly created sexual and gender identity rights, for anyone to use public bathrooms of the opposite sex in the name of gender rights equality.
Losing her own argument, she’s changing the subject. And if you’re a liberal mayor trying to create new sexual and gender identity rights, there’s apparently no better object on which to refocus the public than the Christian pastors and their beliefs on gender and sexuality.
An attempt to set up the pastors as the foil to her radical agenda would explain the Mayor’s outrageous subpoenas, which demand, among other things, all of the pastors’ emails, texts, and sermons relating to the bathroom bill, the Mayor, the City attorney, restroom access under the bathroom bill, the topics of homosexuality or gender identity, and the petition drive to repeal the bathroom bill.
And it would explain the Mayor’s tweet the morning after the subpoenas came to light: “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?” (“HERO” is an acronym for the “bathroom bill” ordinance.)
Clearly the Mayor is trying to shift the debate from a fight over the merits of her sexual and gender identity agenda to a fight over the Christian worldview of sexual ethics. That’s exactly what the subpoenas were intended to accomplish.
Read more: BarbWire.com