Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pastors Seek To Quash Subpoenas For Sermons, Communications On Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance

Opponents of Houston, Texas' Equal Rights Ordinance enacted in May have sued after the city ruled that they had insufficient signatures on their petitions to get a repeal referendum on the ballot. (See prior posting.) As part of discovery in the lawsuit in state court, the city issued broad subpoenas (full text) to a group of five pastors calling for them to produce, among other items:
All communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO [Houston Equal Rights Ordinance] or the Petition....
All 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 pastors last week filed a motion to quash the subpoenas (full text) and a Memorandum in Support of the Motion (full text), arguing that the subpoenas are not "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible, relevant evidence." In a Statement emphasizing opponents' objections to provisions in the Equal Rights Ordinance relating to transgender access to bathrooms, Alliance Defending Freedom said Monday that the subpoenas are designed to stifle social commentary.  Fox News yesterday reported on developments.

UPDATE: According to KTRH News:
City Attorney David Feldman argues the subpoenas are justified because the churches are where opponents of the ordinance met. "We're certainly entitled to enquire about the communications that took place in the churches regarding the ordinance and the petitions because that's where they chose to do it," Feldman tells KTRH News. "Its relevant to know what representations and instructions were given regarding these petitions," he says. [Thanks to Matthew Crawley for the lead.]