7 Points of Reflection: Responding to the Houston Mayor’s Press Conference Announcing the Withdrawal of the Subpoenas Targeting the Five Houston Pastors
by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.
October 29, 2014
- The mayor says the subpoenas were “legal, valid, and appropriate,” but is withdrawing them anyway.
No, they are not legal, valid, and appropriate. They requested irrelevant and privileged material, and had the purpose of harassing the pastors – these very qualities make them quite inappropriate.
- She says it is “extremely important” to protect her special rights ordinance.
What about free speech rights so essential to open democracy and religious liberty rights protected by the First Amendment? She didn’t mention it was important to protect these.
- She claims the pastors she met with (who were not the subject of the subpoenas nor authorized to speak on behalf of those who were) didn’t plan a “rally” to “attack me” or the city.
While she tries to paint herself as above the political fray, she’s the one who invalidated the signatures. At its heart, this entire situation is a political matter. She tries to separate her subpoena withdrawal from the politics here, but she ultimately can’t do this. It comes down to this – if the pastors had been speaking for the bathroom bill instead of against it, she’d be fine with that. This IS about political intimidation – no matter how much she says it isn’t.
- She cares about “broader concerns” implicated here so she dropped the subpoenas.
What about the “concern” of Houston citizens being able to democratically repeal a law they don’t like? That seems pretty “broad” to me.
- She says she had a good conversation about “rendering unto Caesar” with the pastors she met with (who, again, are not even the pastors who were targeted by the mayor’s office).
This isn’t a determination for her to make. Ultimately, this entire situation arose because the Houston 5 have not rendered unto the City what the City would like for them to – their views on sexuality.
- She believes she has “removed that discussion about freedom of religion from the local arena.”
No, she hasn’t. She’d prefer that “religion” have nothing to say about the versions of sexuality protected by HERO – the very thing which is driving the lawsuit – which she has vowed to defend. Thus her logic defeats itself.
- She also became defensive when asked why she wouldn’t just allow the citizens to vote on repealing HERO. She was asked a question expressing concern that the Houston 5 may still feel intimidated.
She attempted an answer, but did so unsatisfactorily. If the mayor wants to clear up the intimidation issue, she can allow the citizens she was elected to represent to actually vote on whether to repeal the ordinance – it’s that simple.