Houston, We Have a Problem

So then, the city of Houston, a true renegade in Texas politics, has started acting like a city in California, the kind of city in CA that has Buddhist wind chimes hanging from the front of city hall. Of course, to say the “front” of city hall is privileging the front over the back, and is an unparalleled example of frontism, the worst I have seen in fact, and so I repent in ashes and dust, not want to privilege dust over ashes, and remind myself yet again of my many failings. But I did not intend to write about frontism. I got distracted. There’s another of my many failings.

Anyhow, here is the Houston back story. The city had passed a non-discrimination ordinance, one which allows men to use the ladies’ restroom and vice versa. A petition to put that little bit of nonsense on the ballot was thrown out over alleged irregularities, despite the petition having over 50,000 signatures, and needing only 17,269. In response to that some folks filed suit against the city, and in response to that, the city issued subpoenas to a group of pastors who had opposed the ordinance, but who were not part of the lawsuit. With me so far? The city wanted copies of any sermons that these men had preached “dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor.”

Now I do get that most of my readers understand that most of the time my descriptions of the lunatic parade that we call contemporary politics is characterized by an admirable and commendable restraint. I try to practice what I call “holding back.” But there are times when holding back is not really what is called for. Holding back is not necessarily safe for the republic, for our cherished liberties, or for the veins in my neck.

Not really. The veins in my neck are fine. But the republic isn’t. The republic is in the middle of an apoplectic attack, and is currently drumming its heels on the floor.

Let me just briefly say what I think about this, using words and images from sages and prophets who have gone before us. Submitting petitions to people like this is like talking to a forty foot wall of cotton. Trying to reform Houston politics with those same people still on the premises is like washing a goat’s head — a complete waste of soap. Houston politics is currently under the control of 40-watt intellectuals, but incandescent heat-lamp despots. The Houston city council is a sebaceous strata in American politics, getting their dirty oil all over everything. The brains behind this naked grab, wanting to avoid the perils of student debt, years ago decided to skip going to college, and so instead they all had their heads blown up with a bicycle pump.

Really? Subpoenas? Sermons? Let the reality of what just happened settle on you. A city council subpoenaed sermons that they thought might be reflecting a little poorly on the king’s majesty. And so let this be a deep lesson to all you seminarians. Whenever you are preaching through Romans do not on any account mention the wart on the king’s nose. He takes it ill. And whatever you do, say nothing whatever about about Herodias wearing her hello-sailor-heels into the men’s room. You might have a promising ministry cut short. In fact, you yourself might be cut short.

My only hope is that if a sermon of mine ever gets subpoenaed I get some kind of advance warning so that I can put some extra zippy adjectives into it.

I have been pointing out the totalitarian impulse of progressives for some time, but they are not totalitarian because they want to impose morality. They are totalitarian because they want to impose an immoral morality. They are not totalitarian because they want to suppress something. All laws suppress something. The problem is what they want to suppress. They want to suppress decency and glorify kink, when they ought to be doing the opposite.

There are only two options — public virtue or public vice. There is no neutral third zone that enables our ruling elites to privatize all virtue and vice, thus enabling them as moderators of our public discourse to make their Olympian decisions in accord with some trans-moral system.

All law is imposed morality, and the only question concerns which morality will be imposed. Either you will impose virtue on the creeper who wants into the ladies room, or you will impose your system of vice on pastors who object to creepers being allowed in the ladies room. You will either punish vice or you will punish virtue. Houston is currently doing the latter.

So I hope that this situation — which, in its legal probity looks for all the world like a disheveled fried egg — provides the requisite levels of inspiration that Texans need. I trust I need say no more.

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Rob
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Rob

Speaking from Houston, let them have our sermons. Those city attorneys might get a little Gospel on their fingertips while grasping for straws.

Unless the sermon was by our esteemed Pastor Osteen, of course.

Moor
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Moor

I’ll try and summarize some of the responses that would normally follow an article like this… Doug. If you would just stop talking about this stuff, it would go away on its own. Your incessant labeling is the problem. Or, if you got out of your own way and just let it play itself out, you’d see it was for your own good. Or, if you would take off your Libertarian glasses, you’d see that this isn’t as bad as you think. Or, if you think what’s happening there is bad, take a look at fundamentalist Christianity! Or, your use… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

So I hope that this situation provides the requisite levels of inspiration that Texans need.

Inspiration to do what?

J
Guest
J

matt. If you need to ask the question then you are not ready for the answer… and are also obviously not a texan..;-)

Drew
Guest
Drew

Doug,
You should not have held back as much as you did. This is one of the most pathetic–if not the most pathetic–policies I’ve ever heard of.

Matt
Guest
Matt

If you need to ask the question then you are not ready for the answer

Humor me.

BJ
Guest
BJ

I think if I were a Houston pastor, I preach a doozey this Sunday and hand over the transcript. I mean it is Texas, right. I can’t wait to see how this plays out. I guess we’ll see what Texas Christians are made of.

Rick Davis
Guest

Matt, It appears that at least 50,000 Texans have legally petitioned, remonstrated, prostrated themselves even. Their petitions have been slighted, their supplications have been disregarded, and they have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. Now being a Virginian, born and bred, I don’t know what a Texan would say about this. But I do remember that one of the greatest Virginians in history (and probably the single greatest politician America has ever had, imho) had a few words to say about such situations in which the governing authorities have abandoned the rule of law. I imagine… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

matt

Humor me.

Shoot the son-om-a-bitch. I speak as a mere-christian and laity.

Humored?

prayersofadoration
Member

Tar. Feathers.

Tony from Pandora
Guest
Tony from Pandora

It seems they didn’t fill out the petition correctly. Why didn’t they make sure that it was filled out right? One may argue that the city is looking for any reason to throw out any opposition, but isn’t that a reason to follow the law to the letter concerning filling out the petition to be sure it’s beyond reproach? The movie ‘Victory’ with Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone comes to mind. Allies POWs vs Nazi soccer game. Whenever the Allies remotely came close to breaking the rules, they were flagged. The Nazis were given a lot of freedom to play… Read more »

Jane
Member

It seems they didn’t fill out the petition correctly.

In the judgment of the city official actually authorized to certify the petition, the petitions were valid. The basis of the lawsuit is that the petitions were thrown out after being certified by someone who had no authority to do so.

Virgil Hurt
Member

Several of you mentioned letting them have our sermons. Mine are posted online for anyone to listen to. In addition to this, I often publish my speaking notes. So, I don’t have a problem with letting them hear and see my sermons. I want to own every word. What I do have a problem with is them thinking they can, by right, demand my notes, as if they get to determine what and how I speak and preach. When this is the issue, we just say, No! Their goal is to ultimately shut down free speech and free pulpits. The… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

Fwiw,

I do not think its Yosemite Sam time yet; I wanted to disabuse Matt of any thought that it is not an option for some (i.e. me).

I have some confidence that some pastors in America have a spine and some wisdom.

I am interested in seeing how many in ‘organized religion’ respond to this.

God Bless.

t

Jason Kates
Guest
Jason Kates

It seems they didn’t fill out the petition correctly. Why didn’t they make sure that it was filled out right? One may argue that the city is looking for any reason to throw out any opposition, but isn’t that a reason to follow the law to the letter concerning filling out the petition to be sure it’s beyond reproach? Writing as a signer of said petition, I can assure you that my church’s participation in this was above board and done with every precaution. Our pastor said something like, “You know they will try to disqualify you for the slightest… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

I do not think its Yosemite Sam time yet

Well that’s comforting. I sometimes wonder how right-wingers imagine such a thing would play out. A swift and overwhelming defeat seems likely.

It seems the mayor is backing off, the lawyers making the subpoenas were pro-bono, they were too broad and will be revised. So victory, no?

Tony from Pandora
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Tony from Pandora

Jason,

Then, perhaps, your signature is one of the 15,000 approved signatures. Like you said, I haven’t seen the actual documents or the specific issues of why most of the signatures were rejected… Hopefully, those rejected will vote her out of office next term…

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

Here’s what’s missing from your recitation of the facts: One of the side issues in the lawsuit is what the pastors told their parishioners about the petition requirements. The pastors are claiming they were told one thing, and relayed that information to the people doing the petitioning. However, some witnesses have come forward to say that the pastors are lying and that’s not what they told their parishioners at all. And the way to determine who is telling the truth, the pastors or the contrary witnesses, is to request sermons, transcripts, etc. to determine what they did in fact tell… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

One of the side issues in the lawsuit is what the pastors told their parishioners about the petition requirements.

That’s an issue, but the subpoena was way too broad for this purpose. I agree there was no first amendment issue, but this whole situation falls under the advice “Stop being stereotypical.”

Len
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Len

With so many Christians up in arms about sermons being subpoenaed, one has to wonder if they, in the name of religious freedom, would raise the same ruckus if Muslim sermons were being subpoenaed.

Craig C. Capen
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Craig C. Capen

Three… Weeks…… Before elections. (The court rulings, too.)

A serious offense, no doubt, but still I’m smiling.

David Price
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David Price

I’m willing to bet a week’s pay that all the churches being subpoenaed are 501c3 non-profits. These churches have voluntarily come up under the authority of another “master” that defines terms like “propaganda” and threatens penalties for engaging in and blessings for avoiding engaging in such. So now the master comes calling. Churches being under this yoke (by their own choices mind you) is the most pressing issue of the day…and it’s almost never discussed. Note to Houston churches under subpoena…obey your master.

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Matt, of course, it’s overbroad, but that’s what civil litigators do. They issue way overbroad subpoenas, and let the other side object. My friends in the civil litigation bar all tell me this is par for the course, and the only thing that even makes this an interesting story is that it involves pastors.

That said, because it involves pastors, it was entirely predictable that they would make it about religious freedom issue. I’m surprised nobody in the city attorney’s office was politically savvy enough to have seen it coming.

Jane
Member

Jason, the point is that it doesn’t matter why anyone is claiming the signatures weren’t valid. They were duly certified by the person with the authority to do so, and only thrown out by someone who had no authority to rule on the validity of the petitions in the first place. People don’t sue over signature disqualifications unless there are shenanigans involved.

jimr
Guest
jimr

“With so many Christians up in arms about sermons being subpoenaed, one has to wonder if they, in the name of religious freedom, would raise the same ruckus if Muslim sermons were being subpoenaed.”

We will never have the opportunity to find out.

Johnny Simmons
Member

They’ve backed down, but not before Senator Cruz gave a big press conference at the local megachurch.

Matthew Paul Abel
Guest
Matthew Paul Abel

I’m interested in the Mayor of Huston’s position on concealed weapons. I’m also interested in how mayor’s that administer severely restrictive gun laws would view this bathroom “law”. Y’all see where I’m heading, right? The progressives and the liberals and the democrats are the ones waging war on women. It won’t be a laughing matter or a clown show or anything but evil when a young lady is raped and murdered in a women’s restroom after being denied the right to possess an effective defense weapon. Pepper spray? Don’t make me laugh. Men are evil (and women, but in this… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

It won’t be a laughing matter or a clown show or anything but evil when a young lady is raped and murdered in a women’s restroom

What exactly is stopping this now? It’s not as if the bathroom door refuses to open for men.

timothy
Guest
timothy

What exactly is stopping this now? It’s not as if the bathroom door refuses to open for men.

9mm, 38 special, 45 ACP…..

Jane
Member

What exactly is stopping this now? It’s not as if the bathroom door refuses to open for men.

Nothing’s “stopping” it — I don’t know about murder, but women have been raped in public bathrooms before. Happened in my own town a few years back.

Besides, the fact that it isn’t “stopped” by not permitting men to go into bathrooms doesn’t mean that everyone noticing that something is not right when a man walks into a woman’s bathroom isn’t a deterrent. Make it not not-right for a man to walk into a woman’s bathroom, and the risk goes up.

Jane
Member

David Price, I’m not quite following your logic —

by taking advantage of a legal structure that the state authorizes, an entity is subject to every abusive and illegal requirement any government authority wishes to impose and shouldn’t complain?

So if I obtain a fishing license, I can’t complain if soldiers get quartered on my house?

Whether a church going the 501(c)(3) route is good is a reasonable issue to raise; suggesting that if they do, they’ve no grounds to object to anything any government decides to do, doesn’t follow.

delurking
Guest
Heather Torosyan
Guest
Heather Torosyan

I remember way back when (the early 70s), the Equal Rights Amendment was being debated by everyone. One of the objections would be that it would allow men into women’s restrooms. The ERA supporters pooh poohed that as ridiculous. Men can still enter, but women will quickly leave. Why would a man want to so badly, unless he had to go really badly? In that case someone is put on guard duty outside so women won’t be creeped out. In women’s self defense classes they tell you what to watch out for. The only thing I see as positive in… Read more »

Steven
Guest
Steven

Eric the Red: “the only thing that even makes this an interesting story is that it involves pastors”

You don’t think it’s a tad bit interesting that some people want to use the wrong bathroom, and that it’s actually possible that they might be allowed to? If a woman walked up to the stall next to you and did her business would you find that even a tiny bit interesting?

David Price
Guest
David Price

Jane…I think the objection to church incorporation is adequately stated in Christ Church’s Constitution at its section titled Incorporation. http://www.christkirk.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Constitution-PDF.pdf. It is certainly good and proper for a master to check every now and then on those under his dominion. 501c3 corporations are prohibited (by way of a condition of exemption) from “carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation” as a “substantial” part of its activities, among other prohibitions. Why is it not proper for the civil magistrate to inquire of its subjects whether they are adhering to the rules they have agreed to follow? If the civil… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Steven, this whole bathroom controversy is 99% cultural. My first introduction to Europe, many years ago, was using the men’s room at the Amsterdam airport and having a cleaning woman in there doing her job while men relieved themselves. She paid no attention to them, and they paid no attention to her. I have been on ships that only had a single shower room that men and women used at the same time. If you don’t think it’s a big deal, it’s not a big deal. And anyone who misbehaved would have been tossed overboard, figuratively if not literally. But… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

by way of a condition of exemption

David — Exemption is inherent in the nature of church.
One need not get a 501-3-c to be exempt.

So I take what you meant as = as a condition of getting its incorporation granted.

Jane
Member

David, I understand the principled objection to church incorporation. I largely agree with it. I don’t understand the logical connection between availing yourself of something the state offers as a defined legal relationship, and suddenly being subject to every conceivable legal abuse and having no right to complain about it. Why should (logically) engaging in one defined contractual relationship remove all your standing to object to abuses that clearly exceed any authority granted in that contractual relationship? Maybe as a “natural consequence” it is to be foreseen, but that’s not the same as saying there’s nothing to object to. If… Read more »

Jaquan
Guest
Jaquan

No one here has mentioned the 4th amendment violation to this subpoena

John C
Guest
John C

One point that’s backwards…..

One is not a tyrant because one does IMMORAL backhanded and high handed things to destroy everyone standing against you….

One does all of those things because one IS a tyrant….

Unfortunately, the current political situation lets them act with impugnity…. and WE are the bad guys….

Matt
Guest
Matt

Impunity? They’ve completely backed down, pleading ignorance and promising to narrow the subpoena. Seems like the opposite of impunity to me. What do right-wingers actually want here?

David Price
Guest
David Price

Jane…I am not suggesting the what the Houston churches are being subjected to is not objectionable; it certainly is. My point is that they have no *grounds* for the objection. They may not like the nature and stipulations set forth by their earthly master. They are crying…”We don’t like this!” That much is obvious. Is the church really that naive? It goes (and this is an important point) *of its own free will* to the civil magistrate and *requests* some benefit, mainly tax-exempt status. By it’s very nature as the Church, it has this already under the law. And then,… Read more »

Bert Perry
Guest

It was claimed that the rationale for opposition to the ordinance is that “transgendered” people would commit crimes; that could happen, but it’s not the reason. The reason is that anyone bent on committing a sex (or other) crime, “trans” or not, can use the ordinance as an excuse to enter the “wrong” rest room and take advantage of people while they are, due to what they’re doing, a bit more vulnerable than they would be otherwise. Now the presumption of “boys go in the boys’ room and girls go in the girls’ room” is not a perfect protection, but… Read more »

David R
Guest
David R

So now they are forcing ordained ministers to perform same-sex marriages. There will be no progressives coming to their defense.

http://dailysignal.com/2014/10/18/government-ordained-ministers-celebrate-sex-wedding-go-jail/

RFB
Guest
RFB

Hey Matt,

Regarding the “oh, they will never do that” department, look up (^) one post. How about imperious instead of impunity.

randy curtis
Guest
randy curtis

I appreciated the article and especially enjoyed the last four
paragraphs. They read like GKC. Alas, I repeat myself.

Stand fast.