I’ll admit, when I first heard about the Houston mayor’s subpoenas for sermons given by religious leaders on basically any topic related, in any way, to transgendered bathroom, I thought it was a joke. There’s no way an American bureaucrat could be so shortsighted as to order mulitple violations of the First Amendment pursuant to tenuous legal language.
And, as happens most of the time, I severely underestimated the potential for an elected official to completely ignore the basic principles upon which our country was founded in order to achieve temporary legal success. Houston’s mayor did, indeed, issue an incredibly broad subpoena request for basically everything every church in Houston has ever said from its pulpit over the course of her transgender bathroom law’s legislative journey. And as anyone with a cursory understanding of the Constitution or basic litigation practice suspected, last night, she threw outside legal counsel under the bus and backed off her requirements, in the face of a bevvy of First Amendment cases from local congregations.
You see, America, it wasn’t that they completely overstepped their bounds as a governmental authority. They just got the wording wrong.
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.
Actually, guys, the content of the subpoenas was what was problematic. While you can investigate speeches or official statements about pending legislation, when you narrowly tailor your request to the scope of the litigation itself and you provide specifics, you can’t issue a blanket request for basically everything a church has ever said about homosexuality, gender identity, transgendered people or, for that matter, bathrooms. Here, the question is about referendum petitions, who signed them, when and why. It’s hard to believe every speech ever delivered in every Houston area congregation pertaining to gender identity is in any way relevant to the subject at hand. But I’m not running this show. A mayor who seems to have wanted to bully her constituents into accepting her authority seems to be.
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