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Houston, We Have a Problem

October 20, 2014

Well, actually the problem seems to be in Houston, a problem with HERO.  If you haven’t been following this story of the culture war, and in this case it does seem to be quite a war, there are lots of places to read about it.  I am just too lazy to link to them.  I’d advice anyone searching for details to look at arguments for both sides of the question, not just for people who already agree with you.

In a nutshell, the mayor of Houston, a gay rights advocate, has put forward the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) that establishes a broad and controversial definition of what rights are protected.  This triggered opponents of the measure to collect signatures to put to the voters an attempt to overturn the ordinance.  In due time they delivered a petition carrying more than 50,000 signatures to the city of Houston for this to be voted upon.  A month later the city announced that proponents of the repeal were “2,000 valid signatures short of the 17,269-signature threshold” and that “most of the pages contained mistakes that invalidated the entire page of signatures.” 

This move was seen by many, and frankly by me, as an attempt to simply dodge the vote.  As a result a suit was filed and HERO was put on hold.  In response to the suit the city attorneys issued subpoenas to a number of pastors and other leaders seeking, among other communications, “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.”  This came as part of the discovery phase of the suit.

Discovery is the long-established method of seeking evidence in a trial.  Attorneys on either side go looking for things that others have said and done that may make their case better.  While access to information is the norm it is not uncommon for one side to go on a broad-based fishing trip while the other seeks to get the judge to limit the whole “fishing trip” request for unrelated stuff.  That is where the case stands now; the next step is the judge’s determination of what is permissible.

Depending on who you listen to this case is either “the biggest attack on religious freedom in American history” or “a desperate attempt to protect individual rights against the tyranny of a hateful religious minority.”  Are the city leaders trying to intimidate pastors?  Perhaps so.  Are religious leaders trying to deny to others certain liberties many of us take for granted?  Perhaps so.  As I said, you can find a host of opinions on this.  Fox News and MSNBC are both foaming at the mouth.

But here is my question.  When have you ever heard of a pastor who was unwilling to let someone hear or read his or her sermons?  If they believe what they said they should proudly stand behind it.  Heck, they should give them to anyone who asks, let alone subpoenas.    I am not a regular pastor but I’ve given a lot of sermons.  If anyone wanted a copy I was always happy to comply.  Why aren’t these pastors?  Why would it feel like intimidation if someone wants to know what they have said?

Years ago, while working in India, we had a shipment of 2,000 Bibles stolen from the dock in Bombay (now Mumbai).  I remember a local pastor, when I reported the loss to him, simply shrugging.  He said “I suspect that God will use those Bibles wherever they go.”  Pastors, if you have spoken the word of God, why can’t your sermons do the same?


From → Christianity

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