church and state hi res_newWritten by Don Byrd

October 30 UPDATE: The Mayor has abandoned the subpoenas altogether.

Last week, I posted about controversial subpoenas requesting the sermons of some Houston area ministers. Religious liberty advocates including the Baptist Joint Committee’s Brent Walker expressed concern about the subpoenas in a letter to the Mayor. The letter’s signatories included Russell Moore of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission as well as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Suzii Paynter.

Friday afternoon, the Mayor announced changes in the subpoenas, which still seek information from the ministers, but removes the word “sermons.” The Houston Chronicle reports:

The subpoenas now seek “all speeches or presentations related to [the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance] or the Petition” the pastors delivered, revised, approved or have on hand. . . .

“If during the course of the sermon — and I doubt this very much — a pastor took 15 or 20 minutes to go into detail about how the petition process goes, then that’s part of the discovery,” [Mayor Annise Parker] said. “But that’s not about preaching a sermon on anybody’s religious beliefs, it’s not conveying a religious message, that’s part of the petition process, and all we’re interested in is the petition process.”

The Mayor noted, “we don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston.”