I have had many requests over the past couple of days to offer my thoughts on the matter of the city of Houston issuing subpoenas to a handful of pastors in the Houston area who have been vocal against a transgender bathroom code. Here is an excerpt from the Houston Chronicle: City attorneys issued subpoenas last month during the case’s discovery phase, 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.”
Beyond the deep concerns I have about the ordinance itself, which is a discussion for another context, is the apparent bullying tactic put forward by the city of Houston to intimidate and/or silence local clergy regarding their opposition to the ordinance. It is an appalling violation of the separation of church and state, which is ironic considering many on the left of the political spectrum in the United States are regularly working to enforce the separation of church and state, at least as they define it. Moreover, it is not even an adequate understanding of Internal Revenue Service expectations for local churches, which allow for churches to address legistlative matters aggressively and with clarity.
These things said, three things come to my mind, simple as they are. First, for right or wrong, good, bad, or ugly, I have not manuscripted a sermon in all the years I have been preaching, so I would have nothing in print to give them were I in a similar situation.
Secondly, one of the silly things about the subpoenas is that if those churches are like ours then they have hundreds of sermons on their websites which can be pulled up and listened to at any time without a subpoena. The subpoena effort, regardless of intentions, comes off more or less as junior high drama.
Lastly, I would go to prison the rest of my life, or worse, before I stop preaching biblical truth and calling our people and culture to reflect God’s glory.
Chris Seay, the pastor of Ecclesia in Houston, has written a very thoughtful piece for Leadership Journal regarding this whole matter. It reflects the edifying spirit that ought to dominate matters like these. Perhaps you will find it helpful, too. You may read it here.