The Rev. Scott R. Murray, senior pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston, and LCMS fourth vice-president, has written a commentary about recent developments in Houston, where city attorneys issued subpoenas to five area pastors requiring them to hand over copies of all communication with members of their congregations about a gay-rights ordinance.
The pastors were at the forefront of an effort to get a referendum on the November ballot to overturn the city ordinance, which would give people access to the restrooms of their choice in public settings as a matter of “gender equality.”
Even though opponents of the ordinance gathered some 50,000 signatures — more than the number required — to get the issue placed on the ballot, “the mayor and the City Council declined to follow the city charter, refusing to place the referendum before the people of Houston,” writes Murray.
So now, a group that supports the ballot initiative is suing the city to force it to follow the city charter. In return, the city subpoenaed the communications of the pastors, who are not even parties to the lawsuit.
In his commentary, “Why I stand with the Houston Five,” Murray acknowledges that “sermons aren’t exactly private or privileged communications; they are proclaimed to audiences in public and placed on our website for people to listen to any time,” and if condemning sin and calling people to repentance “offends the politicians, then so be it.”
He also charges the Houston mayor and City Council of “attempting to stop Christian pastors from commenting on moral issues that are important to politicians. They are using the coercive power of the city’s legal department and turning it on the speech of the church.
“Not only is this an effort to shame the pastors for their principled stand on sexual mores, but it is a naked attempt to silence them” and “attacks two of the freedoms protected in the First Amendment: the free exercise of religion and the right to political speech,” which could have “a chilling effect” on both.
To read the commentary, featured on the website of Religion News Service, click here.
Posted Oct. 17, 2014