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Florida Pastors go to Houston to fight for religious freedom

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Pastor David B. Anderson, Faith Baptist Church, Sarasota, FL.

A group of seven ministers from Florida decided to stand up for religious liberty and went to Houston to see what can be done to protect their brethren. Pastor David Anderson, from the Faith Baptist Church in Sarasota, FL, was on of those who flew to Houston to meet with Democrat Mayor Annise Parker. This issue was personal for Pastor Anderson as he faced a similar attack on his religious freedom when a judge ruled that he could not speak out against abortion from the pulpit. After a two year court battle, he won.

This group of Florida pastors may have been the catalyst for the Mayor of Houston, who is an openly lesbian activist, to withdraw the subpoenas asking for private information from five Houston pastors. The following is a letter Pastor Anderson sent to his congregants about his mission to Houston titled “What Happened in Houston?”:

What Happened in Houston?

The Mayor of Houston, an open LGBT activist, has successfully advanced an aggressive gay rights agenda for five years, all the while being fervently opposed by evangelical pastors in the area. From all indication, there is palpable ill will between her and the pastors opposing her initiatives. After these pastors succeeded in compiling 50,000 signatures on a petition to overturn the new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (which forbids public and private buildings from restricting the use of restrooms on the basis of gender when it comes to transsexuals) the city council disqualified the petition for irregularities.

In response to that disqualification, a group of pastors filed a lawsuit against the city for violating the voting rights of Houston citizens. The mayor responded to the lawsuit with the power of subpoena – demanding that the five pastors prominent in the petition drive surrender personal information relating to their activities during the petition drive, including; sermons, speeches, notes, emails, texts, tweets, and diaries.

It was this use of subpoena that generated my response. I joined a delegation of six other ministers on a mission to Houston. Our hope was to hold a press conference at City Hall, conduct a prayer service on site, and then have a meeting with the Mayor. We left for Houston by faith, with none of those plans confirmed.

Our goal was not to comment on gay rights or the Mayor’s ongoing struggle with these pastors, but to openly and aggressively oppose her use of the power of subpoena to control, interfere, restrict, and intimidate, a pastor’s right to freely exercise his/her faith with the threat of fine and imprisonment. The Texas Constitution actually guarantees freedom of religious communication in stronger and more specific language than does the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

By God’s grace, we had a successful press conference and a beautiful prayer service on the entry plaza of City Hall. Each of us spoke for 2-3 minutes and each of also prayed. All of it was recorded by the CBS Houston affiliate KHOU, Telemundo and NPR. The reporters asked thoughtful follow-up questions. The Mayor’s staff was in the audience, right in front of us. After prayer, we went up stairs to the Mayor’s office to inquire about having a meeting. We were met by the Mayor’s Chief of Staff and invited into the waiting area while he spoke with her. He came out to tell us she had agreed to meet with us if we could come back a few hours later. This was an unprecedented development because her interactions with the ministerial groups and Christian activists groups had turned so unpleasant she had not met with any in a very long time.

We left her office rejoicing that God had answered our prayers. We had no idea to what extent until we came back later for the meeting. She invited us into her personal chambers where we all set around a conference table. It began tense and terse. She was defensive and her staff was ready to protect her should they deem she was being overwhelmed. We took turns sharing our concerns with her. Within a few minutes the tension melted and we had a truly open-hearted and open-minded discussion. It was a respectful dialogue and exchange of ideas. The content of which must remain confidential.

In that hour each of us implored her to withdraw the subpoenas and we each gave a rationale for doing so. She gave us the very strong impression that she would seriously consider our words and get back to us. We thanked her for listening and departed. As we were walking out, most of the team went to the cameras and reporters, but the Chief of Staff called me aside to continue the discussion with his staff. This discussion, too, was informative, open, honest and enlightening – but again confidential. We thanked each other and said our goodbyes.

As we drove off, we marveled together that the mayor of the fourth largest city in America gave us more than an hour of her time, listened intently, seriously pondered our words – even though we represented her “enemy.” She is a powerful and highly placed homosexual activist, but she let down her guard to us and hinted that she may do the politically inconceivable act of admitting she was wrong and reversing her decision. We prayed and thanked God for using us for reasons we do not know, and for purposes we could not foresee.

About 30 minutes later, we got a call from the Chief of Staff telling us that if we would be willing to stand with her at the press conference as she would withdraw the subpoenas. We were flabbergasted. What an answer to prayer! Half of us agreed to do so after a quick discussion and the other half chose not to. I thought it was the best tact for me, and the most reflective of Spirit of Christ, since I was there in a pastoral role, trying to show her His love. I believed my church family would support this decision to set aside my concerns about the homosexual agenda since she would be doing what I (and the others) had asked her to do. It was going to cost her dearly with her LGBT supporters. I had assured her that I was there for one reason only, to stand up for the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion in a godly and Christ-like manner. I first and foremost saw her as a woman in need of Christ – as did our whole delegation.

However, after we met with some local pastors, we concluded it would be best for her to make her announcement on her own. We explained that assessment to her Chief of Staff and he graciously received it, but made no promise that the Mayor would still withdraw the subpoenas without our presence. We prayed for the Lord to move her to do what she knew was right (at least on this issue) and remove this threat to the free exercise of religion.

We were grateful to watch live on TV, early the next day, the Mayor holding a press conference to announce her decision to withdraw the subpoenas. She said that after numerous meetings, but particularly the one she had with seven pastors from out of town, she had come to accept that the subpoenas were inappropriate and that she was withdrawing them! A reporter asked her who the seven pastors were and she read off our names. I immediately sent her and her staff an email thanking her for courageously doing the right thing.

I know it sounds odd for an evangelical Baptist pastor to work with, encourage and thank a LGBT activist, but what she did prevented a terrible and dangerous precedent from being set. We went there to accomplish one immediate purpose (the withdrawal of the subpoenas) and one long-term purpose (be a testimony of Christian character and love). I am not saying that the believers in Houston had not done so previously, but it appeared that their relationship with her had so deteriorated that love was no longer being perceived.

It is hard to put the magnitude of what happened into words. I think it is unprecedented in recent times and certainly as it relates to powerful LGBT activist politicians. I am humbled to have played a small part in this exchange and my prayer is that it is represents only a small part of something much bigger that God is doing in Houston. Those pastors have taken a strong stand, and we hope our contribution proves to be a blessing in their lives and ministries and makes their love more apparent to those they oppose culturally or politically.

I also want to thank each of you who invested money and/or prayers in this endeavor. I want to thank my church family for allowing me the freedom to participate even though there are BIG issues here at Faith requiring my attention. My prayer is that God will bless FBC for its willingness to let me take part in ministry opportunities that have no immediate numerical or financial profit for our local church. I thank God our church family sees a bigger picture than just the here and now, and that its concerns are not restricted to our ministry’s welfare only.

I am also thankful that I knew my church family would want me to follow the dictates of my heart and prompting of the Spirit. I felt no hesitation to be kind and helpful to a woman diametrically opposed to our theological beliefs, my personal political bent, and our church’s position on homosexuality. I knew FBC would want me to. I returned home exhausted, exhilarated, humbled, thankful and inspired.

May God bless you all, and may God work in and through His church in Houston,

Pastor Dave

See you Sunday

RELATED VIDEO: SNN: Sarasota Pastor reasons with Houston Mayor on Sermon Subpoenas – Herald Tribune

Christian persecution in the U.S.: Openly gay Houston mayor demands pastors turn over sermons

My friends, the persecution of Christian pastors has begun in this country. We previously warned about the efforts of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and its secretive settlement with the IRS allowing them to demand sermons to scrutinize for “political activity.” Well, it has indeed happened, in one of the reddest of red states in the reddest county in America: Houston, Harris County, Texas.

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker

As reported by Fox News, “The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court. “The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.” ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

If there is anything that should unify Americans, it should be an assault on Christian ministers. It is absolutely amazing that the Obama administration sends a personal congratulatory note to the Islamic center in Oklahoma that spawned Alton Nolen who beheaded a 54-year-old American grandmother — and we have this openly lesbian progressive socialist tyrant allowing a subpoena against Christian pastors.

This is the test case (and as it happens I was just in Houston last week and will be back next Monday) and this is unconscionable! However, if this case is successful, it will be replicated elsewhere — and where is the Left screaming out about First Amendment rights of these pastors: “Freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof?” Where is the ACLU? After all, they care so much about the rights of unlawful enemy combatants aka Islamic jihadists and terrorists.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” attorney Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.” Fox says, “the subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.”

This is just how upside down Mayor Parker is and reflects her intent to establish a radical far left, gender-blind agenda and through coercion and intimidation, destroy any opposition – including church leaders. This is the tyranny of the Left and the radical gay agenda in full display. And I just have to ask, how does this bring anyone into alignment with the gay community if they are fully supportive of these initiatives?

Houston is home to Pastor Joel Osteen and I wonder if he’s going to make a stand and speak out — or is his ministry just for show? I can bet that just up the road in San Antonio, Pastor John Hagee won’t be taking this lying down. And what about Pastor T.D. Jakes up in Dallas — where does he stand?

Many people laughed when the progressive socialists came out with their “Turn Texas Blue” campaign – who’s laughing now? The State Capitol of Texas, Austin, is well known as a bastion of progressive socialists and now look at what’s happened in Houston — perhaps Gov. Rick Perry should stop going to Blue states and asking them to move to Texas. Leftist progressives are like locusts; wherever they migrate they bring along their destructive policies and agenda in order to infest their new host — just look at how the migration of leftist progressives from California has affected Colorado? And now it’s happening to Texas.

Here’s a clear example of the radical gay agenda and tyranny of Houston Mayor Parker. Per Fox, “the Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot. However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.” As voter referendums supporting traditional marriage are being tossed aside by courts, judicial activism and legislating from the bench is alive and well.

“After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit, the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors. The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.”

Mayor Parker won’t explain why she wants to inspect the sermons — and what makes her believe she has the power to do so anyway. Mayor Parker’s director of communications, Janice Evans, said “We don’t comment on litigation.”

Fox reports that “ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots. Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity. The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law. “This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.” Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.”

I’ve said before that America is under assault from the unholy alliance of progressive socialists, Islamo-fascists, and secular humanists. What is happening in Houston is wrong on so many levels, it defies logic and reason but it is to be expected from the tyranny of the Left.

If Mayor Parker is successful, it will happen in other major American cities under radical progressive socialist control. It is time for all — especially Christian Pastors — to stand up, “be strong and courageous,” and defy this illegal edict reminiscent of Henry the Eighth, who proclaimed himself head of state and head of church.

Mayor Annise Parker is out of control, and knowing the backbone of true Texans and Houstonians, she will be defeated. To the gay community, if this is what you support and believe in, you’re not positively advancing your case – but demonstrating you advocate coercion as a means.

Time to rally America, and let’s send a message to Mayor Annise Parker of Houston: Molon Labe!

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.