Houston, We Have Liftoff!

houstonLast week,we reported on the egregious directive by Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, in which subpoenas would be issued for the sermons and “other communications” of five specific pastors in that city. Their ostensible crime (for want of a better word) was their exhortation against the new municipal policy regarding so-called transgendered people and the city’s accommodation of their bathroom proclivities (again, for want of a better word).

The reaction to this original, idiotic ruling was swift. However that was not our immediate concern. More troubling was the threat of subpoenas to the pastors and the near-eradication of their First Amendment rights. Mayor Parker was rightly taken to task for this by this blog and others.

I am happy to report that Her Honor has seen the light. Last week, she met with a delegation of seven pastors of various denominations. Orthodox Christianity was boldly represented in this delegation by Fr Alexander F C Webster, whom you all may know from his illustrious writings and frequent contributions to this blog. Mayor Parker graciously received these pastors and gave thoughtful consideration to their concerns. As you can see from the report below, she also appeared with this delegation for a news conference. Long story short: she rescinded the threat of subpoenas and (if I am not mistaken) agreed to revisit the original ruling.

It’s not often that a public official acknowledges in such public fashion an error. For this she is to be commended. Fr Webster as well deserves a hearty pat on the back for spearheading this effort. Mention must also go to the hierarchy of ROCOR (Webster’s jurisdiction) which chose to fight this moral battle. A hearty AXIOS! all around.

P.S. This was not an unalloyed victory however given that none of the other Orthodox jurisdictions saw fit to join the battle. Would it have not been a greater witness for Orthodoxy had the other jurisdictions (or better yet, the Episcopal Assembly) chosen to come to the aid of their Christian brothers in Houston? Where specifically was the EA committee which is supposed to deal with culture and social issues?

View the video here.


  1. Tom Winters says

    There is a separation of Church & State in this country and the City of Houston could request whatever to amount to nothing. Now, if a so-called church is really preaching politics and not religion, they could lose their tax exemption status. If Houston or any other civil entity required sermons, etc., they don’t have to be turned over and a class-action suit should be filled for millions. The people of Houston should love this as the Mayor is escorted out of office. Along the same lines, when the “state,” enacts legislation contrary to Christian principles, the “church” can ignore their rulings and do not effect them; i.e., gay marriage, abortion, etc.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mr. Watson you are living in an anachronistic delusion of mammoth proportions. There is no longer rule of law.
      The only separation of church and state is the desire to separate any influence the church from the state and make the church subservient to the state in a kind of secular Sergianism.

      Besides you sound huffy.

      • This is so silly and one sided a perspective…the reality is easily the opposite. Take a look at Iran where the government is subservient to Islam or Pakistan where anti-blasphemy drives Christian persecution. In fact, I’d appreciate a reference…the only one I can think of is Massachusetts driving Catholicism out of the adoption business or requiring coverage of birth control on health policies. In both cases, the church is not required to change doctrine as the former example.

  2. Michael Kinsey says

    Do you know for a fact,that the ROCOR Met did not give his blessing to the intrepid spearhead of the opposition to the Mayors’ madness, He , obviously did not censor his priest. If you know it for a fact, please state it plainly, otherwise, let us give the Met the benefit of the doubt as to the Met’s inept indifference on a worthy goof fight. Maybe ,he just sent his best hitter to do the job.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      RE: “Do you know for a fact,that the ROCOR Met did not give his blessing to the intrepid . . .”

      I cannot tell you the times I have received a blessing do “such and such,” by clergy, who tried very hard to get it right, but didn’t. Not their fault. They’re just human.

  3. Michael Bauman says

    George the EA committee on social and cultural issues will never do anything. It is a vain hope to ever think they will.

  4. Fr. Alexander — you acquitted yourself well on television. Very diplomatic. Congratulations and thanks to you and to our hierarchs who supported you.

    I have to say that this clip makes the mayor come across as an unpleasant character. The unmitigated gall to say that nation-wide protests over this sort of subpoena is just a gimmick to gin up the conservative base? It shows how out of touch she is that she would think that in a non-election year that she wouldn’t get exactly the same outrage. Either that or (more likely) she is simply lying through her teeth.

    And I highly doubt that the black pastors who were shown protesting lead congregations that vote Republican…

    This is just the tip of the iceberg… The next goal will be to have your church’s tax-exempt status pulled if you don’t marry, ordain, and commune active homosexuals. There will be more of these trial balloons floated all over the country. The mayor has to pretend to be responsive because she is an elected official. Once these things start being handed down by unelected courts, all the protests in the world won’t make a bit of difference.

  5. Michael Kinsey says

    Fair play and honesty are genuine proofs of our good will toward men, also including giving credit where credit is due.Only those who have entered the great whore, serving themselves, would do otherwise. Thus ,their stated opinions are worthless. just the facts ,Mam!

  6. Michael Bauman says

    Mr. Winters, your understanding of the nature of the separation of church and state is flawed. I am sure you know that at the time the First Amendment was ratified, all of the states had established churches (except Georgia, I believe). The First Amendement was desiged to protect the states right to do that and not have federal establishment. The founders invited and expected there to be a robust critique of the actions and policies of the federal government by the various churches.

    It was not the intent to keep Christians out of the government rather to protect various churches from the influence and control of the federal government. Indeed to prevent the very type of action which the mayor tried to take.

    Freedom of religion in the Constitution is absolute. “The Congress shall make NO law…..” The tax exemption was designed to give more freedom to the various churches not less to engage in any sort of political commentary and action they thought properly in line with their faith.

    Unfortunately as the power of the federal government grew and our culture became increasing secular, the desire of the powerful was to muzzle the voice of faith by privatizing it and making it irrelevant and using the tax power to control the content of public utterance.

    The tryannically minded mayor of Houston has taken the next logical step — making the church submit to the state. A sort of secular Sergianism. Of course the Mayor of Houston has more than likely taken the next step to the Queen of Hearts level: “Off with their heads.” It is the logical and only conclusion from the nihlist ideology to which she subscribes.

    The Church must always be a voice of truth and that goes far beyond the civic virtue model you seem to favor.

    • The danger in your thoughts is you gloss over the singlemost important aspect of separation. It was done to stop a repeat of Henry the 8ths action creating a state church and naming himself leader of that church.

      And the irony of all the arguments that somehow the secularists today are creating a new religion has no merit. The mayor was clearly trying to leverage tax law in a threatening way which was way outta line.

      Additionally, if an Imam issues a fatwa to carry out violence; there is nothing in the constitution protecting his religion or speech. Separation was never intended to give rights to religions. It was intended to stop states from creating government ordained religions.

      • Furthermore, Bush’s faith based initiatives were probably the closest thing we have ever had to a leader seizing at least political power through a violation of separation…

        I won’t suggest it was anything like Henry the 8th creating the Anglican, but it was certainly a creation of the church of fbi. Of course, they did not persecute Catholics.

        • Michael Bauman says

          So now, without an established church, the feds have become equal opportunity oppressors.

          • Well, Sharia law is the only theocratic example I need to see to prefer separation. The worst part about Sharia law is it is applied at a local level and with varying degrees of insanity. At least the judiciary in the US attempts to apply similar law.

            Tying a woman in a barrel so she can’t move for a stoning for be-bopping with the wrong man should be enough for any Christian.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Sharia law has nothing to do with the Christian moral tradition and having it be the norm for a civil society. Besides, under our secular state tyranny, Sharia law is given more deference than Christian or Jewish moral and ethical norms.

              All moral norms however quickly disintegrate unless they are founded on a lived faith.

  7. Christopher says

    Fr. Joseph Huneycutt has an excellent sermon on this subject. It actually has quite a bit of revelance to the Fr. Robert’s essay in that Fr. Robert and his ilk would have us “define ourselves by our sin” in their new and “updated” anthropology:


  8. Michael Bauman says

    So Dan, you are a self-excommunicated lapsed Orthodox. It seems the lapsed Orthodox and the lapsed Catholics know so much more about how things should be in the churches they no longer participate in than the actual faithful.

  9. Drop the labels and excessive adjectives Michael. You have never worn my shoes. I love the church and that should be enough.

    There is a problem with this web blog. What is it Michael?

    • Dan Fall,

      Answer this question so that I can clearly know where you stand. Does Fr. Arida or any Orthodox priest, under the authority of his bishop who is subject to the authority of his brother bishops in a synod, a synod that has clearly stated in the past Orthodox teaching on homosexualism. Does that priest have the right to defy his bishop and his Church’s leadership and Orthodox teaching by communing active and unrepentant gays? A yes or no will suffice.

      • The answer is no. The problem is noone but Arida knows whether they are unrepentant. Even civil marriage does not constitute non-repentance; although it becomes a stretch at that point.

        I have never advocated for the fantastic idea homosexuality is considered ideal, but neither is overeating. The difference is one is supposedly easier than the other to avoid.

    • “I love the church and that should be enough.”

      That’s right Mr. Fall. It is about your feelings (self referenced and self justified), your “love” (defined by your self of course with no reference to Christ and Revelation, i.e. Love properly understood and lived), your “church” (defined by your self of course with no reference to the Church, the Spirit, and the actual Living Body of Christ the King). It is “enough” because you are enough, you are the Alpha and Omega, and who in their right mind would question Dan’s Self because it is sufficient unto itself. What the Church actually teaches and Loves does not overrule the “church of self love and church of self rule” – how could it?

      This is of course modernism through and through, Mr. Fall’s chosen flavor might best be described as Moralist Therapeutic Deism…

      It is difficult to break through such a construction, a high and strong wall built by the self. (idealism’s always are).

      Try to remember Mr. Fall: Behold, the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel

      • The way you twist and pervert kind words and kind deeds in the name of the Gospel should give you and everyone pause.

        The one for whom you were named would never speak in such a way.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Mr. Fall. You may love the Church but that seems illogical to me: people who love the Church, love Jesus Christ and follow Him obedient to the revealed truth in the Church.

      To me you seem angry and hurt. That I can understand. My own anger at certain things happening nearly forced me from the Church. By God’s grace that did not happen.

      Whatever your hurt, it is either an opportunity to go more deeply into the Church or make one’s own feelings paramount which leads to separation from the Church and from Jesus.

      Obedience is the key.

      What is wrong with this blog is that we all tend to run after our own self-justification rather than seeking God’s mercy. Wonkiness follows.

      Still the is no place in the Church who seek to normalize same sex sexual activity.
      There us abundant room in the Church for all those who seek a life of prayer fasting almsgiving worship forgiveness and repentance.

      My comment was out of bounds. Please forgive me.