Pastors plan to sue Mayor Parker over sermons subpoenaed

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The fight over Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance continues and pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed, now planning to sue Mayor Parker (KTRK)

The fight over Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, goes on, despite a Texas Supreme Court decision that ruled the anti-discrimination initiative has to either be repealed by city council, or go to the voters.

A lawsuit is preparing to be filed, claiming religious freedoms and the right to vote by the ordinance, approved last year by council. The objection by various pastors, and the Houston Pastors' Council was that gays were included as protected classes in the ordinance, which bans discrimination in housing, employment and other areas.

Mayor Annise Parker is named in the lawsuit. It claims that the pastors' religious freedoms were "trampled" when their sermons were subpoenaed by the city. It later withdrew the subpoena.

The lawsuit also claims that civil rights were violated when voters were not allowed to cast ballots on the measure in a referendum.

We attempted to contact a member of the mayor's staff for comment. Our call has not yet been returned.

The lawsuit asks for damages. If the lawsuit succeeds, any money awarded would go toward paying legal costs generated by the pastors and the pastors' council, which are said to be several hundred thousand dollars.

In a statement released this evening by Rev Dave Welch, of the No Unequal Rights group, he writes, "The Mayor of Houston violated the law, attempted to use raw intimidation and trampled on the rights of one million Houston citizens."

The group, including pastors of several small congregations whose sermons were subpoenaed by the city, will hold a news conference Monday, the same day the lawsuit will be filed.
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