Houston Mayor Annise Parker's decision to issue subpoenas for sermons from the city's Christian pastors was for "much larger political and constitutional stakes" than just to coerce disclosure from the ministers, says Newt Gingrich in a post on his blog
"The Mayor of Houston’s recent subpoena of sermons by Christian pastors in the country’s fourth largest city is a shocking violation of First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion," says Gingrich in a post co-written with Vince Haley. "There is no clearer violation of First Amendment freedoms than for government officials to attempt to censor religious speech."
Parker earlier this month
had the city subpoena a group of pastors to demand sermons they wrote about her that would cover the subjects of homosexuality, gender identity, or mention Parker herself, as the city's first openly lesbian mayor.
The subpoenas were issued after the pastors protested the city's new non-discrimination ordinance that the city council passed in June which, among other clauses related to sexuality and gender identity, would allow men to use the women's room and vice versa in an effort to protect transgender rights.
Opponents gathered 50,000 signatures for a repeal measure that was eventually thrown out. They sued the city, but ironically, the five pastors subpoenaed are not part of the lawsuit, says Gingrich.
He notes that the pastors' attorneys were ready to sue to quash the subpoenas and would have succeeded, but Parker decided to withdraw the demands following protests.
The so-called "bathroom bill," passed in May, is Parker's signature initiative and still is being threatened by threats to repeal it through a referendum vote, says Gingrich, calling it part of Parker's "radical agenda."
"In politics, if politicians are not succeeding in their arguments, they change the subject," he writes. "Mayor Parker apparently is not succeeding in her defense of a law that opponents claim creates a right, among other newly created sexual and gender identity rights, for anyone to use public bathrooms of the opposite sex in the name of gender rights equality."
So since Parker is losing her argument, she's refocusing her argument, he continues.
"If you’re a liberal mayor trying to create new sexual and gender identity rights, there’s apparently no better object on which to refocus the public than the Christian pastors and their beliefs on gender and sexuality," he contends.
And as such, Parker is "trying to shift the debate from a fight over the merits of her sexual and gender identity agenda to a fight over the Christian world view of sexual ethics."
She thought her effort would be effective, explains Gingrich, as she believed that even if the subpoenas were withdrawn, the city's pastors would think again before criticizing her or the bill.
Further, he says, Parker is "clearly aware that there is a provision of U.S. tax law that already tends to chill the speech of some pastors from the pulpit."
The law, the "Johnson Amendment" was authored by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson and states that tax-exempt organizations like churches may not "participate in, or intervene in…any political campaign on behalf of…any candidate for public office.”
And while the amendment, penned in 1954, is "brazenly in conflict with the free speech and free exercise protections of the First Amendment," Parker was threatening the tax-exempt status of the churches by attacking pastors who challenge her, says Gingrich,
Congress should repeal the amendment, Gingrich adds, noting that North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones has a bill prepared for that.
And last, there is an established strategy to paint protecting traditional moral values and "opposition to newly-invented sexual and gender identity rights" as being malicious, says Gingrich. This was recently backed by the 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidates the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
"Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the only purpose of those who supported this traditional definition of marriage was to 'disparage,' 'injure,' 'degrade,' 'demean,' and 'humiliate' certain groups of fellow citizens, says Gingrich.
Parker can answer two questions to clear the assumption, he continues: Does she believe that everyone who does not support her bathroom bill is a hateful bigot? And, does she support a citywide referendum on her bathroom bill?
The right response to the Kennedys and Parkers of this country is "faithfulness on the part of Christians and a political awakening on the part of all citizens," he concludes.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.