March 26, 2017

October 15, 2014


Houston: Don’t Blame Us, We’re Asleep At the Switch

There has been an outpouring of outrage over the subpoenas issued by the city of Houston to several local pastors for sermons and private communications with their churches. Late today, the city decided to plead incompetence, ignorance, illiteracy, or a combination of all three, according to the Houston Chronicle:

Amid outrage from religious groups, Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman on Wednesday appeared to back off a subpoena request for the sermons of certain ministers opposed to the city’s equal rights ordinance, with Parker calling it overly broad.

The subpoenas, handed down to five pastors and religious leaders last month, came to light this week when attorneys for the group of pastors filed a motion to quash the request. Though Feldman stood behind the subpoena in an interview Tuesday, he and Parker said during the Mayor’s weekly press conference Wednesday that the wording was problematic.

Feldman is monitoring the case, he said, but had not seen the subpoena written by outside counsel working pro-bono for the city until this week. Parker said she also did not know about the request until this week.

Have to wonder: does the city of Houston, the fourth largest in the United States, normally farm out sensitive city legal business to outside lawyers, and then not bother to read what’s been submitted in its name by them?

“There’s no question the wording was overly broad,” she said. “But I also think there was some misinterpretation on the other side.”

Umm, that would be no:

YOU ARE COMMANDED to appear and produce and permit inspection and copying of the documents identified in the attached “Exhibit A” at the offices of SUSMAN GODFREY LLP, 1000 Louisiana Street, Suite 5100, Houston Texas 77002, on October 10,2014 by 5PM.

EXHIBIT A TO SUBPOENA ON PASTOR STEVE RIGGLE

3. “Document” and “documents,” mean all documents and tangible things, in the broadest sense allowed by Rule 192.3(b) and comment 2 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and include, but are not limited to, any writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, phonograph records, tape recordings, notes, diaries, calendars, checkbooks, books, papers, accounts, electronic or videotape recordings, and any computer-generated, computer-stored, or electronically-stored matter that constitute or contain matters relevant to the subject matter of this lawsuit. The terms include, but are not limited to, emails, instant messages, text messages, or other responsive data or information that exists in electronic or magnetic form, and such responsive data should be produced pursuant to Rule 196.4 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

4. “Communications” means every direct or indirect disclosure, receipt, transfer, or exchange of information, inquiry or opinion, however made, whether oral, visual, in writing or otherwise, including without limitation any conversation or discussion by means of letter, note, package, invoice, statement, notice, memorandum, inter-office correspondence, telephone, telegraph, email, telex, telecopies, text message, instant message, cable communicating data processors, or some other electronic or other medium.

10. You are to produce all documents, as defined above, that are in Your possession, control or custody or in the possession, control or custody of any attorney for You. Without limiting the term “control,” a document is deemed to be within Your control if You have ownership, possession or custody of the document, or the right to secure the document or copy thereof from any person or public or private entity having physical possession thereof.

11. All duplicates or copies of documents are to be provided to the extent they have handwriting, additions, or deletions of any kind different from the original document being produced.

II. REQUESTED DOCUMENTS

1. All documents or communications to, from, CCing, BCCing, or forwarded to you, or otherwise in your possession, relating or referring to any of the following in connection in any way with HERO, the Petition:
a. Plaintiffs,
b. Annise Parker or the Mayor’s office,
c. Anna Russell or the City Secretary’s office,
d. David Feldman or the City Attorney’s office,
e. HERO or any drafts of HERO,
f. the Petition, or any drafts of the Petition, including any discussions relating to the language included at the top of the Petition,
g. the legal requirements for petitions under Texas, Houston municipal, or any other law,
h. Petition signers,
i. Petition Circulators,
j. affidavits filled out by Petition Circulators, including the notarization of the affidavits,
k. the payment of Petition Circulators,
l. funding of the Petition or petition drives,
m. the topics of equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity,
n. language relating to restroom access,
o. language related to restroom access being or having been removed from a version of HERO, including any communications related to the removal of that language,
p. any discussion about whether or how HERO does or does not impact restroom access.
2. All communications to or from Plaintiffs.
3. All communications with the City regarding HERO or the Petition.
4. All communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.
5. All communications with Joe La Rue or anyone else at the “Alliance Defending Freedom” regarding HERO or the Petition.
6. All drafts of the Petition.
7. All lists of Petition Circulators.
8. All communications to or from Petition Circulators.
9. Any documents relating to the payment of Petition Circulators, including but not limited to:
10 a. budgets related to the payment of Petition Circulators,
b. check stubs or check registers reflecting payments to Petition Circulators,
c. copies of checks made out to Petition Circulators,
d. tax forms relating to the payment of Petition circulators,
e. documents explaining calculation of payment to Petition Circulators,
f. documents referencing incentives given to Petition Circulators for obtaining
certain numbers of signatures or completing a certain number of pages.
10. Any documents relating to funding and funding sources of the Petition and Petition-related activities.
11. All training materials prepared for Petition Circulators or anyone else involved in the collection of any signatures for the Petition.
12. 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.
13. All documents, studies, information, communications, or other data relied on in connection with the Petition to check, confirm, or ensure the truthfulness and accuracy of the statements made in the Petition, including but not limited to the statements in the Petition (or in any training materials prepared for Petition Circulators or anyone else involved in the collection of any signatures for the Petition) that “Biological males ARE IN FACT allowed to enter women’s restrooms in Houston under Mayor Annise Parker’s “Equal Rights Ordinance”, thereby threatening the physical and emotional safety of our women and children!” and that “Her ERO creates UNequal Rights for a tiny group of people by taking away rights of safety and privacy for the vast majority of our women and children!”) (emphasis in original).
14. All documents, studies, information, communications, or other data that you believe support or demonstrate the truthfulness and accuracy of the statements made in the Petition, including but not limited to the statements in the Petition (or in any training materials prepared for Petition Circulators or anyone else involved in the collection of any signatures for the Petition) that “Biological males ARE IN FACT allowed to enter women’s restrooms in
Houston under Mayor Annise Parker’s “Equal Rights Ordinance”, thereby threatening the physical and emotional safety of our women and children!” and that “Her ERO creates UNequal Rights for a tiny group of people by taking away rights of safety and privacy for the vast majority of our women and children!”) (emphasis in original).
15. All communications with Pastor Dave Welch or anyone else at or associated with the Houston Area Pastor Council referring or relating to HERO, restroom access in connection with HERO, the Petition, or this litigation.
16. All documents or communications reflecting or relating to the validity of signatures on the Petition or the validity of any Petition Pages, including but not limited to correspondence, notes, spreadsheets, or other documents regarding:
a. the validity of signatures,
b. the registered-voter status of any signatories,
c. the number of valid signatures,
d. the validity of Petition pages,
e. the validity of Circulator Oaths.
17. Your updated resume or curriculum vitae.

I’m no lawyer, but I can read English, and there’s no question that the city is looking to collect material from non-plaintiffs that it can then use in court to smear those who supported the petition (the purpose of which would have been to put repeal of the ordinance before city voters).

“Let me just say that one word in a very long legal document which I know nothing about and would never have read and I’m vilified coast to coast,” Parker said. “It’s a normal day at the office for me.”

Sorry, Mayor. The law firm acts in the name of the city you govern, you own it.

The intent, Feldman said, was simply to get all communications between pastors about the signature gathering instructions, a key part of a lawsuit opponents have brought against the city. Critics filed suit after Feldman announced they had failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a repeal referendum, claiming the city attorney illegally inserted himself in the signature verification process.

That’s a blatant lie. The communications sought were not just about “signature gathering instructions.” They were, instead, an attempt to gather materials that would expose what the mayor and her cronies abviously consider to be the Neanderthal, homophobic attitudes of people who supported the petition. If that was not the case, why ask for stuff like “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity,” or “all documents and communications…[dealing with] the topics of equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity”? Those items are not about the petition gathering process, but about the petitioners’ motivations for opposing the ordinance.

Feldman said the city would clarify what it is looking for in its response to the pastors’ motion.

“I wouldn’t have worded it that way myself,” Feldman said of the request. “It’s unfortunate that it has been construed as some effort to infringe upon religious beliefs.”

Translation: “Curses, foiled again! &$@* Christians!”


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19 comments

Sure, and the IRS only coincidentally went after conservative groups exclusively. I waiting next with baited breath for the left to trumpet how knee jerk the reaction to these “mistakes” has been.

[1] Posted by BlueOntario on 10-15-2014 at 06:35 PM · [top]

I think this is a job for Shelby Sharpe.

[2] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-15-2014 at 07:00 PM · [top]

Hmm, that’s odd.  That means Parker was defending an action she did not know about:

<blockquote class=“twitter-tweet” lang=“en”>If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?-A— Annise Parker (@AnniseParker) October 15, 2014</blockquote>
[removed][removed]

[3] Posted by Newbie Anglican on 10-15-2014 at 07:26 PM · [top]

Eh, embedding a tweet did not work but what she tweeted late last night was:
“If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?”

[4] Posted by Newbie Anglican on 10-15-2014 at 07:28 PM · [top]

Newbie, not only is it a defense of something she knew nothing about, but it’s legally wrong. Pastors are free to use their pulpits for “politics” as long as they don’t endorse candidates. Issue campaigns are perfectly legal. The mayor is ignorant of the tax code every bit as much as the Constitution.

[5] Posted by David Fischler on 10-15-2014 at 08:06 PM · [top]

Which “one word” is it she didn’t know about and wouldn’t have used?

Not buying any of this.  They were arrogant enough to think they could invalidate a petition with three times the necessary signatures, and then they thought they could suppress the free speech rights of people who oppose them.  This “backing off” is not credible .

[6] Posted by Katherine on 10-15-2014 at 08:22 PM · [top]

#5- That point had occurred to me.  One assumes that she also demanded the sermons and reams of other materials from all the TEC and other liberal clergy who backed her proposals in the first place, from their pulpits.  Oh, no, wait, they were preaching in agreement with her, and are therefore protected by the first and fourth amendments, as opposed the preachers who disagree, who have no such rights.

[7] Posted by tjmcmahon on 10-15-2014 at 08:50 PM · [top]

This is just a wake up call.

Please note that the Left is trying to expand the restrictions of Section 501(c)(3).  The tax law only prohibits supporting or opposing political candidates.  The Left is trying to scare churches and their pastors/members into believing they also cannot talk about or become involved in political issues.

The other thing the Left will do is go after the names and addresses of those who might have supported the petition.  That information will then be put on the internet, along with a Google map showing where each of them lives.  This was what was done to terrorize the supporters of traditional marriage in California, and some of those folks lost jobs and livelihoods, including the most infamous, Brendan Eich, formerly the founder/head of Mozilla/Firefox.

[8] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 10-15-2014 at 08:53 PM · [top]

David - #5 - I guess you didn’t get the memo under the new Democratic Party Amerika.  Tax code is there to allow you to bully your opponents. Constitution is there to use to impose your ideology no matter what the voters think. Lois Lerner and the Supreme Court got the memo.

[9] Posted by jamesw on 10-15-2014 at 10:39 PM · [top]

Jim the Puritan - Exactly.  Naming and bullying is a growing tactic of the New Left. They publicize names and their rabid mob does the rest.

[10] Posted by jamesw on 10-15-2014 at 10:41 PM · [top]

Mayor Parker and her enforcers got a bit ahead of the curve on this one, but make no mistake they—and their allies—will regroup and come back later. Their tactics might change slightly but the ultimate agenda is the same.

[11] Posted by Ideas Have Consequences on 10-15-2014 at 10:47 PM · [top]

Unfortunately the door was opened with the racial anti-discrimination laws.  I went along with the rationale for them at the time because I thought they were limited in scope to race creed color and national origin and religion.  Yes they are coercive, but, but limited to either immutable characteristics such as race and national origin and constitutionally protected behaviors such as creed and religion.

But now with the introduction of sex there are added behaviors which are the choice of the individual and are at odds with the consciences of the majority of Americans.  The level of coercion to compel compliance can only grow and the full coercive power of the state will be required.  The courts are almost useless as they are becoming the primary instrument in this coercion.  If we don’t unite to stop this now the state coercion that we associate with the worst of totalitarian governments will be applied to Christians and others who refuse to accept the sexual nihilism to come.

[12] Posted by Br. Michael on 10-16-2014 at 05:43 AM · [top]

The attorney from the self-described “high stakes” law firm that worked on this says,

Most recently, the City asked me to serve as lead counsel in defending its newly adopted Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (“HERO”) – which protects Houston’s citizens from employment, housing, and other discrimination – against a lawsuit brought by activist plaintiffs seeking to have the ordinance repealed.

This was not some freelancer doing stuff without the Mayor’s blessing.  Check out the site - this is a very powerful firm (a “1%” bunch, for peace & justice lovers) that the City of Houston asked to take on this particular issue.

[13] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 10-16-2014 at 07:34 AM · [top]

And of course we all know why this particular mayor has such an interest in this case.

[14] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 10-16-2014 at 08:06 AM · [top]

Once again you have the “scorched earth” policy of the left. 

“Who cares about the Constitution or the rule of law if you are in the way of OUR RIGHTEOUS CAUSE?  And if we have to lie, bully or otherwise intimidate those opposing our view SO WHAT?  OUR CAUSE IS SACRED - everything else is crap”.

Right, comrade?

[15] Posted by B. Hunter on 10-16-2014 at 12:38 PM · [top]

...and SHAME ON the citizens of Houston electing such as leftist as Mayor.  Shame on them!

[16] Posted by B. Hunter on 10-16-2014 at 12:39 PM · [top]

I would think even the ACLU would oppose this action.

[17] Posted by Adam 12 on 10-16-2014 at 05:17 PM · [top]

Author Eric Metaxes has been tweeting up a storm about this situation
@ericmetaxas

He’s urging all Christians to send a Bible to the mayor’s office… see all the tweets I’ve copied below.  Note, the first address given in s PO box.  At the end is the actual street address:


The Houston Mayor’s demand to see pastors’ sermons is THE most outrageous attack on Religious Liberty yet in the US. It demands a response.

So every pastor in the US should send a sermon to her office, Return Receipt Requested. I recommend the sermon be on biblical sexuality…

Mayor Annise D. Parker City of Houston P.O. Box 1562 Houston, TX 77251 Phone: 713.837.0311

I urge EVERY pastor to PLEASE do this as a way of saying we stand with the Houston Five—and we stand for Religious Liberty in the U.S.A.!

But if you are not a pastor, you can and should be involved. PLEASE SEND A BIBLE to the Houston Mayor’s Office. It is filled with sermons…

This is CIVIL disobedience so if you cannot do this in a way that honors Jesus, don’t participate. But I hope you CAN and WILL participate.

The Houston Mayor’s unAmerican demand to see pastors’ sermons is pure intimidation. It’s shocking, something right out of my Bonhoeffer book

If the American Church does not respond to this forcefully, I think it’s fair to say there is no American Church. Find a Bible and mail it!

The actual location of the Houston Mayor’s office is in City Hall. Pls mail a Bible to: Mayor Annise Parker 901 Bagby St. Houston, TX 77002

By sending a Bible you are saying: This is the Word of God. It is not subject to governmental oversight or regulation in the United States.

[18] Posted by Karen B. on 10-18-2014 at 10:16 AM · [top]

Another tweet from Eric Metaxes:

Anyone sending a Bible shd be sure to pray for the mayor & for this nation. Perhaps also include a gracious note w/the Bible, but send one!

[19] Posted by Karen B. on 10-18-2014 at 02:54 PM · [top]

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