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ADF Unimpressed by Houston's 'Revised' Subpoenas

10-20-2014
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Houston city attorneys have backed off a request to obtain sermons from local clergymen.

They've refused, however, to withdraw subpoenas seeking other information from five Houston pastors who publicly opposed an ordinance banning discrimination against gay and transgender residents.

Mayor Annise Parker said Friday that the word "sermons" is being deleted from the subpoenas. Parker said she believes the demand for other speeches or presentations related to a petition drive to repeal the city's equal rights ordinance is appropriate.

The Alliance Defending Freedom released a statement on the changes.

"The city of Houston still doesn't get it. It thinks that by changing nothing in its subpoenas other than to remove the word 'sermons' that it has solved the problem. That solves nothing," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said in the statement.

"Even though the pastors are not parties in this lawsuit, the subpoenas still demand from them 17 different categories of information - information that encompasses speeches made by the pastors and private communications with their church members," he continued."As we have stated many times, the problem is the subpoenas themselves; they must be rescinded entirely."

"The city must respect the First Amendment and abandon its illegitimate mission to invade the private communications of pastors for the purpose of strong-arming them into silence in a lawsuit that concerns nothing more than the authenticity of citizen petitions," Stanley said.

Christian activists sued after city officials ruled they didn't collect enough petition signatures to place a repeal referendum on the ballot.

Parker, who is gay, says the subpoenaed information is needed so the city can prepare for trial on the lawsuit.

The controversy has touched a nerve among religious conservatives around the country who are already anxious about the rapid spread of gay rights and what it might mean for faith groups that object.

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