Update (Oct. 17): New subpoenas issued Friday by the City of Houston do not ask pastors for sermon notes, instead limiting their request to instructions regarding a petition to repeal the city’s equal rights ordinance.
Mayor Annise Parker tweeted:
City just refilled subpoenas in #HERO. Clarified our intent. No mention of sermons. All about petition process instructions.
Never intended to interfere w/ pastors & their sermons or an intrusion on religion. Our discovery motion now clearly focused on petition.
The five pastors subpoenaed led a campaign to put the new ordinance up for a vote. When Houston officials concluded that not enough of their signatures were verifiable, ordinance opponents sued the city.
(Oct. 16): After Houston’s efforts to subpoena sermons made national news, the mayor of Houston has decided to narrow the requests and a state official is calling on the city to drop them altogether.
Major evangelical voices such as John Piper, Russell Moore, and Eric Metaxas decried the move following Tuesday’s headlines, joined later by groups on the other end of the theological and political spectrum, such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Interfaith Alliance.
Houston-area pastors, too, pleaded with the city to back off. Houston Christians called church offices Wednesday wondering if their pastors had been asked to turn over sermon notes and a long list of other church-related communications.
“People are up in arms thinking Houston has subpoenaed every pastor in the city,” said Steven Murray, spokesman for Houston’s First Baptist Church. “It’s five specific ones.” And as he’s told curious members: No, the megachurch’s lead pastor, Gregg Matte, was not among the five.