The City of Houston recently subpoenaed five local pastors in an ongoing legal battle over a controversial city ordinance. The subpoenas demand the pastors turn over any sermons, speeches, and church correspondence related to homosexuality, gender identity, the city’s new equal rights ordinance, or Houston’s first openly gay mayor Annise Parker. If they refuse to comply, they could be held in contempt.
This battle began months ago when the city passed HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.) The stated purpose of the ordinance is to stop discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. But the ramifications of the regulations – such as transgendered individuals using opposite-sex restrooms – started a firestorm in the city.
Here’s a quick rundown of the battle moves to date:
- A local pastors’ coalition started a petition to force the ordinance to a public vote. The city attorney threw out the petition saying thousands of the signatures were not valid.
- Opponents of the ordinance filed a lawsuit in August challenging the city attorney’s ruling on the petition.
- The city issued subpoenas to five pastors who are not even parties in the lawsuit, but simply belong to the coalition who oppose parts of the ordinance.
On the surface, the players in this fight include the Houston city council, Mayor Parker, Houston-area ministers, and a bunch of lawyers. But in reality this battle is a spiritual one. Satan is fighting to squelch God’s Word.
Specifically, it appears the City of Houston wants to silence pastors on the issue of homosexuality. But generally, it seems the city would keep them from declaring any of God’s truth that conflicts with the city agenda. Essentially, they seek to force Christians to accept the world’s standards over God’s standards.
The specific issue is relatively insignificant. The real issue is much deeper, the clash far greater. When government attempts to sensor and silence those who would speak God’s truth religious liberty is at stake.
Christian Persecution in Houston, Texas
So let’s just call this thing what it is. Christian persecution. Right here in the good ‘ole USA. Right here in the Lone Star State.
It’s happening all over the world. We just aren’t used to dealing with it in our own backyards. But the tide has turned. I have no doubt it is only going to get worse.
And maybe that’s a good thing. (See previous post, “My Changing Perspective on Christian Persecution.”)
The American church has become complacent. We are spiritual couch potatoes. Our faith is flabby from the easy life. While our brothers and sisters across the world boldly declare the name of Christ no matter the cost, we are afraid to invite our neighbor to church.
Are you ready for a faith workout?
How will we respond when persecution comes to our neighborhood? Will we keep quiet about Jesus and hope no one knows we are Christians? Or will we boldly declare His name and stand uncompromisingly on His truth?
Today, I pray for those Houston pastors and their congregations who suffer for the name of Jesus. (See previous post “10 Things to Pray for Christians in Iraq.) May God use their persecution to strengthen their faith and bring glory to the name of Jesus. I also pray for myself. May I be counted with those who stood firm to the end no matter the cost.
Feel free to share a prayer for the pastors, their families, and the fight for religious liberty here in Houston.