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Houston Officials Attempt to Clarify Their Controversial Sermon Subpoena

Following a firestorm of controversy, officials in Houston have revised a subpoena issued to several pastors seeking to find out if they made statements related to recently-passed legislation. However, the details of the revisions are still drawing some questions from critics of the move.

Here’s how it all started: A few months ago, Houston’s City Council passed “H.E.R.O.”, an anti-discrimination ordinance that contained specific protections for members of the LGBT community. A handful of local religious leaders objected to elements of the measure, and several groups sought to repeal H.E.R.O. More than 50,000 signatures were collected to have the repeal included on a ballot. After the city attorney determined that a portion of the signatures were invalid (even though only 17,000 were required), they were disregarded out, and the people who collected them sued the city. In response, Houston officials issued a subpoena to five pastors to see if they improperly instructed congregants to collect signatures. It sought, “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuals, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

Critics of the subpoena called it an infringement on religious liberty and an attack on free speech. The city however, said that their intention was simply in response to the lawsuit, and was issued to determine if pastors had acted illegally by getting church members to collect signatures. On Friday, the subpoena was revised, nixing the word “sermon” and narrowing the overall scope to require, “All speeches or presentations related to HERO or the Petition prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” Critics of the move, however, still appear to be unsatisfied with subpoena’s revision …

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