As pastors embroiled in a lawsuit against the city of Houston rallied thousands Sunday for the cause of religious liberty and with chants of “Let the people vote,” their cohorts in the battle also were crying out for the church to repent for its retreat from the public square and its role as the public conscience.
Part revival meeting, part civics lesson, the “I Stand Sunday” rally Nov. 2 in Houston drew more than 6,000 people to Grace Community Church, led by one of five ministers subpoenaed for their role in a legal fight against city hall. An additional 300 churches and 765 homes logged into the live stream webcast.
“We are in this place in America today not because of the mayor of Houston. It is not because of what she did. It is because of what so many people in our churches have failed to do,” Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a former Baptist pastor, told the audience.
The lack of civic participation on the part of Christians has resulted in cultural conflicts arising throughout the nation, with Houston as a flashpoint in the national clash between religious liberties and government policies.
And though Mayor Annise Parker has directed city attorney Dave Feldman to withdraw subpoenas against the five ministers, the mayor’s critics called the court order an act of political intimidation that could not be undone with the removal of the subpoenas. For the pastors, and more than a dozen speakers gathered on their behalf, the primary issue remained — the city administration’s unauthorized dismissal of thousands of signatures on a referendum that thwarted the residents’ right to vote on the issue.
The ordinance that sparked the legal battle was passed by Houston’s city council in May to give civil rights designation to individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. More than 50,000 signatures were gathered on a referendum to put the ordinance to a vote in Houston. And though enough signatures were verified by city secretary Anna Russell to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, Feldman disqualified thousands of pages of signatures for reasons not prescribed in the city charter.
The coalition sued the city to have the signatures certified and the ordinance put to a vote by the city’s residents. As part of their defense, the city subpoenaed five ministers, calling for their sermons, speeches and other communications with their church members.
“It’s not about the issue of transgender rights. It’s about the fundamental issue: Do all citizens have equal rights? And those rights include the right to vote,” Huckabee said in a news conference prior to the rally.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Bonnie Pritchett/Southern Baptist TEXAN