Over the last few days I have been asked one question several times, “Pastor, what would you do if your sermons were subpoenaed? Allow me to give you are little clarification as to why that question has been asked. Annise Parker, a lesbian and the mayor of Houston, has led the city of Houston to pass a non-discrimination ordinance known as Houston’s Equal Right’s Ordinance (HERO). I am not an attorney and could be wrong about my conclusions but it seems that much of the resistance to this ordinance was because originally it called for individuals to be able to use the restroom of the gender they felt matched their gender. So if a man felt his gender was female he could use the female restrooms. While most of the Christians in Houston undoubtedly oppose homosexuality they may not have raised such a ruckus if not for the bathroom language.
The Christian community in Houston organized and gathered over 50,000 signatures on a petition seeking a referendum to overturn the ordinance which passed by an 11-6 vote of the city council of Houston. The organizers needed only approximately 17,000 signatures so they gathered almost 3 times the amount needed. For unknown reasons the city council rejected the petition saying there were irregularities. It is worth nothing that the petition was certified by the City Secretary before the council threw it out.
The community was outraged by the 50,000 petitions being dismissed by 11 individuals. Concerned citizens filed a lawsuit, Woodfill v. Parker, over the dismissal of the signatures. The city attorney then subpoenaed five Houston pastors demanding their sermons and communications with church members that made referrence to homosexuality, Mayor Parker, the petition or the ordinance be turned over. IT HAS TO BE NOTED THAT NONE OF THE FIVE PASTORS ARE NAMED AS BEING PART OF THE LAWSUIT.
Here is how the subpoena reads, “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
A few things seem evident to reasonable people. This is political intimidation on the part of a homosexual mayor to push her agenda. She wants the church to remain silent on this issue. This is a way for her to threaten not only pastors in Houston but everywhere in America to be silent on homosexuality. Secondly, the subpoena is over reaching at best and completely unconstitutional at worse. In America those that practice religion have been guaranteed that our religion is beyond the reach of the government. This case absolutely threatens that guarantee. Not only Christians but all citizens should be angered over this action by the city of Houston.
Now to answering the question, “What would you do if someone subpoenaed your sermons?” My answer is going to be so disappointing to many. I would probably send them both a manuscript and video of my sermons. Romans 13:1 and 2 reads, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resists the power resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
Based on Romans 13, I probably would surrender my sermons for review. Governments may be just or corrupt. They may be weak or strong. They may be democracies or dictatorships. They can be benevolent or cruel. But Romans 13 says God has ordained them and is working through them for good. I would rather be subject to an unjust government than to have no government. We would live in anarchy without our government and authorities. I can’t imagine how our streets would be if there were no police.
The standard I am comfortable with for civil disobedience in the face of our government is when it compels you to sin or forces you to do actions that would hurt the cause of Christ. If our nation ever forbids the preaching of the entire Word of God then I am more than ready to disobey our officials. If I determined that the seizing of these sermons would be used for hurting our Lord’s cause then I would not surrender them. However, I would seek the counsel of an attorney and follow our nation’s appeals process.
I want to leave you with this thought, we have already overcome the world. We should not panic and we need to remember we are commanded to fight this cultural battle we face with love, kindness and mercy. We should prepare for what is coming our way as our society is going to oppose Christianity more vehemently in the days ahead. However, we need to tone down some of the rhetoric and flavor our language with love and kindness. We must never let anyone intimidate us, especially the gay agenda, into compromising the Word of God. God’s children need a boldness as we fight for the very soul of America. However, we must do all of this in accordance to the Word of God and a way that honors our Lord Jesus.