Hand Over Your Sermon, Or Else

Intimidating the Faithful

Wake up, folks. Religious freedom is our most precious liberty under the Constitution. And if you heard what happened in Houston lately, you know it’s under threat. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

Earlier this week, the city of Houston, the fourth-largest city in the U.S., issued a subpoena to a group of pastors demanding copies of sermons that touched on the subjects of “homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly-lesbian mayor.”

Let that sink in. In America, a city government has demanded that religious leaders turn over their sermons or face contempt of court charges, even possibly jail time.

Words fail me. This is beyond outrageous. John Stonestreet and I—and Chuck Colson before us—have been warning for years that our religious liberties are in peril in every aspect of life. This may be the wake-up call the church in America needs.

Okay, so here’s the background. In May, the city council enacted an ordinance that permitted transgendered men to use women’s public restrooms.

Mayor Parker defended the ordinance as a measure that supported the “Houston I know [that] does not discriminate, treats everyone equally and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life.”daily_commentary_10_17_14

Missing in that high-sounding rhetoric was any guidance regarding how to distinguish a transgendered man from a guy who simply wants to see women in various states of undress in a public restroom.

In response to this, opponents of the ordinance gathered more than 50,000 signatures to put a measure repealing the ordinance on the ballot. While “the city secretary, who is entrusted by law to examine and certify petitions, certified [it] as sufficient,” the city attorney and the mayor’s office threw out the petitions claiming irregularities. The people behind the petition drive then sued the city.

That’s when Houston decided to play hardball and issued the subpoenas to the pastors. Mayor Parker called the demand for the sermons “fair game,” even though none of the pastors was directly connected to the petition drive or the lawsuit.

A colleague of mine, who graduated from law school and passed the bar, asked “how is this legal?” when he learned about the subpoenas. And of course, he wasn’t alone. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a piece entitled “Houston, We Have a Constitution,” wrote that he was “simply stunned by the audacity” of the subpoenas.

As the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Christiana Holcomb put it, “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions. Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment.”

Presumably, Houston’s lawyers also graduated from law school and passed the bar, so they had to know that there was no way this action would stand up in court. So why did they proceed?


They proceeded because their goal was not legal—it was political. The goal was not to prevail in litigation over the petitions but to intimidate their opponents and create what the Supreme Court has called a “chilling effect” on future challenges to government actions by religiously-motivated citizens. The message was “oppose us and we will make your life miserable.”

As I record this commentary, it seems that Houston is re-thinking the subpoenas. But it’s important to note that if they are, it’s only because citizens are crying foul and pushing back—hard. As they should.

That in itself is a sad reminder that the freedom we once took for granted is now up for grabs. And that we can never, ever be silent in the face of this kind of horrendous and utterly un-American intimidation.

Maybe we’ll win this round, but it’s clear that we have a problem—and not only in Houston.

Further Reading and Information

Hand Over Your Sermon, Or Else: Intimidating the Faithful
The alarm has been sounded; now raise your voice. Share this commentary with family and friends. Post it on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure your pastor gets a copy. It's high time we joined the fight to defend our religious liberty.


Houston, We Have a Problem
Erik Stanley | Alliance Defending Freedom | October 13, 2014

Houston, We Have a Constitution
Russell Moore | Moore to the Point | October 14, 2014

Available at the online bookstore

The Liberty Threat: The Attack on Religious Freedom in America Today
James Tonkowich | Saint Benedict Press | July 2014

The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity
Os Guinness | IVP Books | September 2013

The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today
Alan Sears, Craig Osten | B&H Publishing Group | July 2003


I am not trying to be contrary. I am crushed over what I see happening to our country. However, it might just be that the difficulties we see on the horizon will serve to purify the enemic worldly church so that it can once again lift up the Name of Jesus in this dark dark world.
I think you are describing a false dichotomy. We do not need to choose between following scripture and asserting our rights. We can and must do both, as Paul did, e.g., in Acts 16:37.
How is a believer to respond to this issue? What is the Biblical response? Should activism be our focus in these Last Days? If we believe that our Lord's return is imminent, than what should be the focus for believers? Is the church in America ready to stand if the worst happens and we lose our First Amendment Right, as the Bible says will ultimately happen? Do we believe everything the Bible says, or is it just the moral issues that we are up in arms about?

I hope what will happen because of this situation is that people who call themselves Christians will be forced to evaluate that identity. I pray that people will ask themselves, "What does the Bible say about sin, any sin, and do I agree? If I agree with God's word, than how should I live, and am I willing to pay the price for following Jesus whatever the cost? If our focus is on fighting for our rights, we may win a battle - but we lose what this is all really about.

If American Christians are going to stand in these last days, we must first understand what that means, what the cost is, and is it a price worth paying? Are we Christians first or is patriotism more important?

I think of Luke 22:31“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” 34And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”

Can I say what Peter said, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” This is a question that each of us must ask ourselves and be truthful, because at some point we will surely be asked by others. If you cannot answer this question in your own heart, you must evaluate where you stand with the Lord.

Jesus did not protect Peter from the temptation and trial. He was indeed shaken to his core and when everything was taken from him, the Lord then enabled him the privilege of dying for His sake.
I would think so.

In any case, I know exactly what I would do if I got the order to hand over the sermons: contact BreakPoint's ally, the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) at http://aclj.org/get-legal-help/get-our-legal-help. They routinely handle cases like this, they are very successful, and they do it pro bono (for free).
Seems to me the churchs' lawyers should find out if those same papers were sent to ALL houses of worship for all religions. Mosques, etc. If not could not some sort of a discriminatory complaint be made?
The Rainbow Crowd bullies will not stop until they destroy ANYONE who dares question them or disagree with them in any way.

I've been saying that they've been at war with us for years. We need to wake up. And we need to fight back.

As a postscript, the saddest part of this stunt is that even if they'd gotten their hands on those sermons, they may not have found much objectionable in them. Christian pastors/churches are so terrified and/or compromised that most of them won't talk on the subject of homosexuality, same-sex "marriage" or any other aspect of the Rainbow Crowd.

THAT'S the real outrage here.