Houston, We Have a Problem.

Ever need a Hero? The people at Hobby Lobby are HERO’s in my book. They stood for what was right and didn’t waiver. However in Houston HERO is an acronym for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance also known as the “Bathroom Bill”. “In this ordinance HERO amends Chapters 2, 15 and 17 of Houston’s Code of Ordinances prohibiting discrimination in public facilities and private employment on the basis of “protected characteristics.”

This list of protected characteristics includes race, color, ethnicity, notional origin, age, sex, familial and marital status, military status, disability, religion, genetic information, pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Opponents of HERO claimed it will have several unintended consequences, like allowing transgendered men to use women’s restrooms.

Supporters of HERO countered that the ordinance does not allow men to use women’s restrooms and has exemptions for private businesses and religious organizations.” (quote from article titled: “Mike Huckabee, Phil Robertson Join ‘I Stand Sunday’ Event to Support Houston Pastors Subpoenaed for Their Sermons,” By Michael Gryboski , Christian Post Reporter).

This is a real problem exposing women, young children &/or our daughters going into a public bathroom and finding a strange man in it (who may or may not have had a gender changing operation) or is pretending to be transgendered for other reasons.

The greater issue has to do with our rights. In the early 80’s when I was in art college; a male student completely upset the entire female population of the school by continually going into the women’s bathroom and dressing as a woman. The young ladies at school were petrified and had to endure a process that basically trumped every woman’s right in that school.

The same thing is playing out in Houston. The city’s attorney apparently invalidated a majority of the 50,000 people who signed a petition opposing to the HERO amendment.  A government official dismissed the petition’s overwhelming response as invalid.

Believing that the action was politically motivated a group filed suit and was summarily attacked for doing what they have a right to do and that is to exercise their right to free speech. The result was that five pastors were subpoenaed for all their sermons related and not related to their activity in opposing the “Bathroom Bill.” Consider for a moment, a local government is attacking five Pastors’ freedom of speech and religion, It isn’t about a candidate it is about an issue (read unintended consequences).

This is what, I think, a “theophobic” (morbid fear or hatred of God) government wants or will do with all the information they subpoena. They will parse, dissect, search out any political inconsistency that opposes their agenda, philosophy or party and then prosecute these men on whatever they find or think they find in relation to the HERO act or some other issue.  Already, thousands of dollars are being spent which penalize these pastors and their churches – all because they acted according to their rights and conscience, If they will do it to then it is fair to assume they will eventually do the same to us.

Here is my point.  For the sake of a few, many must suffer. Houston’s government has no problem making a larger group of people suffer in order to accommodate a minority segment of their population. Worse, the government is willing to use its authority to squash those who oppose their point of view, even to the point of violating their constitutional rights. “That is Stalinesque.” For those who are worried please remember that the us Constitution recognizes and protects my inalienable God given right to speak in public and private. I can speak my conscience, my beliefs (religious and political) and I can oppose others who do not share them. This is a religious and political issue because the local government in Houston made it one.

Finally, let me speak to unintended consequences. When Lyndon Johnson ran for re-election in the Senate in 1954 and he had opposition from two powerful, secular, non-profit organizations that were distributing thousands of pieces of literature opposing his candidacy. Johnson found a way to silence the opposition. He proposed an amendment to a pending tax-bill before the Senate called the Johnson Ammendment. “Non-profits (including churches) were prohibited from doing anything to support or oppose a candidate for office.”

Churches were not the intended target of the bill but it has been used by the IRS against churches anyway because churches fit in the definition.

Conclusion: Our Baptist forefathers fought for inclusion of religious liberty in the Bill of Rights, had they not done so we would be paying a tax to the Congregationalist Church today.

Baptist’s have fought for religious freedom and this issue in Houston has everything to do with our future religious freedom. As Baptists, political involvement has been our heritage and hopefully it will continue to be our legacy.

I would propose that if this issue continues, and that the battle against these pastors is perpetuated, that each of us consider helping these men financially to continue to battle for religious freedom and speech.

Your Pastor, Dave Rowser