When the right wingers are running out of things to carry on about, it’s probably not a good idea to hand-deliver them something to shake down the gullible.
Earlier this year Houston passed an ordinance to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. A bunch of pastors took it upon themselves to get a petition drive going to repeal it. They lost, so of course they sued. After all, what good is judicial activism if you can’t use it yourself? In the course of the lawsuit, the City subpoenaed the sermons of the pastors who railed against the ordinance, and that had the predictable result.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was on Fox News last night claiming that Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) is “taking a bulldozer to that wall of separation [of church and state]” and trying to “dictate what pastors preach.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted that the subpoenas constitute a “march against our freedoms.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the subpoenas a “grotesque abuse of power.” And Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott (R) wrote to the Houston City Attorney that the subpoenas should be unilaterally withdrawn because they reflect “hostility to religious beliefs.”
Because discovery in a lawsuit violates everything we hold sacred in our judicial process. Just ask Kenneth Starr.
But on the whole it’s not a good idea to go after spouting preachers. For one thing, it skates way too close to the wall of separation of church and state (although it’s ironic that many pastors who claim there’s no such thing suddenly discover it when there’s a subpoena on the pulpit). Second, it gives them a status of martyrdom that they don’t deserve. Martyrs should be in jeopardy for a good cause: one that will enlighten the human condition, not feed the bigotry and fear that these terrible-tempered ministers shout into the headlines.
Mayor Parker is only adding to the flames with this. She needs to find another way to beat them at their own game.