Today opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance gathered at Grace Community Church for a rally dubbed "I Stand Sunday." The rally featured prominent Conservative personalities and was based on subpoenas issued to 5 Houston area pastors that were heavily involved in the repeal attempt of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
Let's examine their claims that their religious liberties are under attack - claims that are blatantly false.
1.) The subpoenas that were issued in no way, shape or form threatened the ability of any church or pastor to preach whatever message they chose to preach from the pulpits. The freedom of religion is protected by the United States Constitution and nothing short of amending that document jeopardizes it.
2.) These individuals claim that the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance threatens their freedom of religion. The fact of the matter is that religion is one of the 15 protected characteristics in HERO. If a person, including any of these pastors, is legitimately discriminated against because of their religion, HERO provides a local mechanism to report and resolve that discrimination. If anything, HERO provides another layer of protection to religious freedom because it creates a municipal-level of protection, further reinforcing protections at the state and Federal level.
3.) These opponents are falsely claiming that the City of Houston is refusing to allow a public vote based on the petitions submitted by their coalition. The fact is that the petitions as submitted by their coalition did not meet legal requirements laid out in the City of Houston charter - requirements that their coalition was very well aware existed, requirements that they trained their petition gatherers to meet. To know the requirements, fail to meet those requirements, and then expect that those requirements should not apply to your efforts implies you are seeking special rights above and beyond what any other individual or group would receive. Laws exists as a standard everyone must meet and no one should be above the law. A reminder of their acknowledgement of the requirements can be found here.
4.) The rhetoric and activities demonstrated by attendees of the 'I Stand Sunday' rally do not suggest this is truly about religious freedom at all. The line-up of speakers highlights some of the most vocal and outspoken opponents of equal rights for LGBT people. Their primary motivations and their areas of focus are exclusively not First Amendment rights, but on denying equality to LGBT people.
5.) 18 states and over 180 cities across the country have ordinances exactly like the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and in none of those cities has any religious freedom been compromised. And when you think about it from a purely objective stand point, doesn't it sound truly unbelievable that any city government would attempt to deny someone the right to practice their religion? The reason it sounds unbelievable is because it is simply not true.