At the height of the battle over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors leading the fight to repeal the measure. Even though HERO is now history, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is determined to keep this from happening again.
Patrick is listing the protection of sermons from government subpoena, or “sermon safeguard,” as one of his top priorities for the new legislative session. The bill will be filed as SB 24.
“No pastor should ever be faced with – under our U.S. Constitution, certainly under the First Amendment, and certainly not in the state of Texas – to have the use of legal power going in to be scrutinizing the content of sermons,” says Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastors Council. Welch was one of the five whose sermons were subpoenaed during the HERO repeal effort.
Former Mayor Parker says such a bill is unnecessary, but she doesn’t see much chance of stopping its passage. “All it will do is stir up bad feelings and divisiveness,” she says, “but that is the intention, I believe.”
News 88.7 reached out to Patrick several times for comment. His office did not return our calls.