Texas

Planned ‘Sermon Safeguard’ Bill Aims To Refight Houston Equal Rights Battle

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick wants the Texas Legislature to make it illegal for government officials to subpoena pastors’ sermons.

Mayor Annise Parker addresses the pro-HERO crowd
Mayor Annise Parker addresses the pro-HERO crowd after voters rejected the ordinance by a wide margin.

At the height of the battle over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors leading the fight to repeal the measure. Even though HERO is now history, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is determined to keep this from happening again.

Patrick is listing the protection of sermons from government subpoena, or “sermon safeguard,” as one of his top priorities for the new legislative session. The bill will be filed as SB 24.

“No pastor should ever be faced with – under our U.S. Constitution, certainly under the First Amendment, and certainly not in the state of Texas – to have the use of legal power going in to be scrutinizing the content of sermons,” says Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastors Council. Welch was one of the five whose sermons were subpoenaed during the HERO repeal effort.

Former Mayor Parker says such a bill is unnecessary, but she doesn’t see much chance of stopping its passage. “All it will do is stir up bad feelings and divisiveness,” she says, “but that is the intention, I believe.”

News 88.7 reached out to Patrick several times for comment. His office did not return our calls.

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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