- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Attorneys for several Houston pastors are challenging the city’s attempts to subpoena their sermons as part of a lawsuit against the recently passed transgender-rights law, also known as the “bathroom bill.”

The subpoenas ask the pastors to turn over all communications related to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, which was approved by the city council in June. A citizen petition-gathering effort to overturn the measure was thwarted after the city attorney said the number of valid signatures fell short.

Opponents of the ordinance, which forbids businesses open to the public from stopping individuals from using opposite-sex bathrooms if their gender identity doesn’t match their biological sex, filed a lawsuit in August challenging the city attorney’s ruling.

Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Erik Stanley said the pastors subject to the city’s subpoenas are not party to the lawsuit.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said Mr. Stanley in a statement. “In this case, they have embarked upon a witch-hunt, and we are asking the court to put a stop to it.”

One of the subpoenas posted on the ADF website requires that the pastor produce “[a]ll speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

The subpoena also asks for, “All communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.”

In a Tuesday statement, ADF said that the citizens’ groups submitted three times the number of necessary signatures, and that the city secretary certified them as sufficient. But city attorney David Feldman said the petitions included “too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook,” according to an Aug. 4 report in the Lone Star Q.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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