Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.
So yesterday I was contacted by folks here in Texas and also from other places in the country about a news story that claimed Houston city attorneys had subpoenaed some pastors’ sermons. As it turns out, the story is true.
I don’t have access to the lawsuit or the subpoena, so what follows is based on what we know at this point. I’ll update this post as things unfold.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Houston passed an equal rights ordinance. We are the only major city without one. This is actually the city’s first nondiscrimination bill protecting any classification, including race, sex, and religion.
2. While many churches supported the ordinance, some churches opposed it, and petitioned to have it revoked.
3. The city determined the petitioners did not have enough signatures.
4. These churches filed a lawsuit.
5. As part of pretrial discovery last month, pro bono attorneys for the city subpoenaed the parties connected with the effort to get the ballot initiative, including all speeches, presentations and sermons.
6. Yesterday the blogosphere exploded.
7. Today Mayor Anise Parker said the request was “overly broad.” She and City Attorney David Feldman claim to have not known the sermons were requested. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/10/15/houston-mayor-criticizes-city-lawyers-subpoenas-of-sermons/
8. From a legal standpoint, sermons are public speech. They are protected, but not privileged. That is, you are free to say most things, but once they are said in a public venue they are a matter of public record.
9. From a PR standpoint, this was an overstep, creating a problem that plays right into the petitioners’ hands.
10. From a gospel standpoint, I would say:
• What’s the big deal? Share your sermons. Don’t be afraid. Let your light shine. Don’t hide your sermons under a bushel basket. What is there to fear?
• If your church’s goal is to proclaim the Good News of the gospel to all nations, then let them have the sermons, let them be published on the web, on your blog, podcast them, put them in the radio, televise them, go tell it on the mountain. Shouldn’t we want lawyers and city officials pouring over our sermons?