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October 29, 2014

Parker Backs Down On Subpoenas – Won’t Admit They Were Fundamentally Flawed

It is a victory -- but fails to address the real problem with the subpoenas.

The City of Houston will withdraw its controversial subpoenas of five pastors tied to a lawsuit over the city's equal rights ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker announced at a news conference Wednesday.

The announcement came amid a national firestorm about the subpoenas, which have prompted outrage among Christian conservatives. Parker said two meetings yesterday, one with local pastors and another with national clergy, persuaded her to pull the subpoenas altogether.

"The goal of the subpoenas is to defend against the lawsuit and not to provoke a public debate," Parker said.

She is ordering the subpoenas removed for the sake of Houston, not because the request were in any way illegal or intended to intrude on religious liberties, Parker said.

Frankly, the request for sermons (many of which were posted online or available for purchase from the churches) was not the biggest problem. For that matter, the request for materials directly related to the petition process were not outrageous. The problem was that the subpoenas went far beyond that and included demands for church teachings about homosexuality and private communications about public figures – and, even more troubling, private pastoral communication that touched on issues. For example, the demand for all letters and emails about homosexuality would have included an email to a pastor from a parent who discovered that their child was gay and seeking spiritual counseling about how best to be a loving parent and a faithful Christian. Such matters are clearly not of public concern, but would have been put in the public record by the discovery process.

Parker clearly realized that she was going to get slapped down in the court of law, just as she did in the court of public opinion. Too bad that she had thought she could get away with this in the first place.





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