Houston Modifies Subpoenas, Still Seeks Information About What Pastors Told Members

October 19th, 2014

After the initial kerfuffle of the City of Houston’s subpoena request to Pastors asking for copies of their sermons about the Equal Rights Ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker has issued revised subpoenas. They are effectively the same, but eliminated the word “sermon.” In other words, they want the same information provided by any other means.

In a press release, the Mayor Explains why she is seeking this information:

““I support the right of the clergy to say whatever they want to say, even if I disagree with them.  This is not about what they may be preaching from the pulpit.  It is about proving that the petition gathering process organized by these pastors did not meet the requirements of the City Charter.  This information is critical to proving the city’s contention that the petition was ineligible for placement on the ballot and that the organizers knew this.”
In other words, the City is hoping to find something to suggest that whatever the Pastors told their members was not consistent with the City Charter’s requirements for collecting signatures.
Putting aside any First Amendment issues, and the fact that the new subpoenas do not ask for information about sermons, I’m still not sure what they are going to find. The signatures, and whether they are valid or not, speaks for themselves. What difference would it make if the Pastors said something incorrect about the process?