Texas Governor Signs ‘Sermon Safeguard Bill’ Preventing Government From Probing Preaching

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — The governor of Texas has signed into law a bill that prevents the government from subpoenaing copies of sermons or questioning pastors about the content of their messages.

“Texas law now will be your strength and your sword and your shield,” Gov. Greg Abbott declared during a ceremony at Grace Church of the Woodlands. “You will be shielded by any effort by any other government official in any other part of the state of Texas from having subpoenas to try to pry into what you’re doing here in your churches.”

Senate Bill 24 was birthed following the 2014 controversy surrounding Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who had requested copies of sermons and other material from several area pastors as part of the discovery phase of a lawsuit over a petition seeking to repeal the city’s “bathroom bill.”

As previously reported, attorneys for Parker, an open lesbian, asked for “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to [the bathroom bill], the petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity…”

A motion was soon filed in turn to stop the city from scrutinizing the speech of area pastors, which caused Parker’s attorneys to alter their demands.

The clergy members who were the subject of the city’s discovery requests then sued Parker for “trampl[ing] on the rights of one million Houston citizens” through the subpoena requests.

Uproar over the matter spurred lawmakers to present legislation that would prevent such situations in the future.

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“A governmental unit may not, in any civil action or other civil or administrative proceeding to which the governmental unit is a party, compel the production or disclosure of a written copy or audio or video recording of a sermon delivered by a religious leader during religious worship of a religious organization or compel the religious leader to testify regarding the sermon,” read Senate Bill 24, presented by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.

While the bill was signed into law at the governor’s mansion on Friday, a special ceremony was also held at Grace Church on Sunday, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also attending.

“We got in a situation we had never been in, didn’t want to be in,” Steve Riggle, the senior pastor, told the Houston Chronicle. “We got our sermons subpoenaed—which is a difficult position, because you’d sure like the mayor to read the sermons and to listen to them—but at the same time, we weren’t about to give them over because of a document that was given to us in subpoena form. We felt like that was wrong, so we said no.”

Patrick told those gathered that the bill didn’t arise from a Democratic or Republican issue, but “a right to keep men out of ladies’ rooms and to not allow boys and girls to shower together in the 10th grade.”

He further elaborated that the nation is “not split between Republicans and Democrats, but it’s split between those who believe in our Savior Jesus Christ and those who are lost like I was once and all of us were.”

A few residents protested Abbott and Patrick’s appearance at the church, claiming it violated the “separation of Church and State.”


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  • http://www.personaltouchmaids.org/ TammyHenson

    Amen

  • yabruf

    Weird that you need legislation to uphold our first amendment rights in the constitution.

    I guess when you live in a city that elected a sodomite as mayor you can expect to be attacked as a Christian, regardless of our fundamental rights.

    • Parodyx

      Do you ACTUALLY know what the word “sodomite” means, I have not seen you use it correctly even once.

      • Amos Moses

        well i am sure a pair of dyx knows ………….

        • Parodyx

          I don’t think you know either.

        • Colin Rafferty

          I believe that lesbians would be the LAST people who would want to perform sodomy.

          • Amos Moses

            not according to the legal definition …… and despite label “lesbian” ……. one does not need a male organ to commit it ……. a plastic one will do …….. DUH ………..

          • Colin Rafferty

            It’s not a question of what’s possible, but what’s desired. Someone who is uninterested in sex with a man is generally uninterested in having a simulated man. The act is only physically stimulating to a recipient who has a prostate, which rules out most lesbians.

            To put it bluntly, if you wouldn’t want something stuck up there, neither would a lesbian.

          • james blue

            Oral counts as sodomy, so I’m not so sure I agree.

            The original poster probably didn’t think of that when posting.

          • Colin Rafferty

            Good point. But I also agree that it was unlikely what he was talking about.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Sodomites = all supporters of Sodomy. Romans 1. LGBTs are used by the Western powerfuls to install slavery by Sodomy upon the earth.

        • Colin Rafferty

          I’ve told you before, that’s not actually the meaning.

        • Parodyx

          No, the word “sodomy” doesn’t appear in the Bible.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            It is from the Holy Bible. God punishes sexually depraved people. Read Jude 1.

          • Parodyx

            Did you hear what I said, Grace? The word “sodomy” is not in the Bible.

          • http://www.personaltouchmaids.org/ TammyHenson

            And yes, she heard what you’re attempting to say as most liberals feel if they continue to try to pound something away in the heads of most conservatives & Christians, surely we will sooner or later believe it. You feel if you yell loud enough & just long enough, we’ll change our minds towards whatever it is you’re protesting against today. It’s always something new.

            The reason you guys grow hoarse is we continue to strong in our beliefs & in our God. We said NO MORE. Our Lord is our foundation. He is our foundation, an ever-present help in our struggles. He heard our cry for help when we felt all was lost for our nation. When in despair over such demoralization, He chose to give us yet another chance. So, we, His people, stepped up to the plate & we will not step off. So, yes, Grace heard you. No, she’s not from the US. However, she has a better grasp on what holds this nation together more so than half of our citizens here. She has sat back & watched this country collapse. She knows what will put it back together. The word sodomy does not occur in the Bible, although it does originate from a place name in the Bible – Sodom. The specific sin of Genesis 19 was forcible anal rape of a man by another man. Grace always backs her game with the Word. If you don’t know the results of Sodom due to their horrific sins, I can freely post it here. That will be God’s next step if we don’t reverse our steps. That, my friend, is exactly what we’re attempting to do here.

          • Parodyx

            The act of sodomy is practiced by straight people as well as homosexual. My understanding is that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was inhospitality. It does not make sense to refer to today’s homosexuals as “sodomites” no matter how you slice it. Why do you defend this practice?

          • http://www.personaltouchmaids.org/ TammyHenson

            And if they aren’t married, it’s just as sinful. Any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin. I, personally, don’t call them that. Never have.

            God wouldn’t destroy 2 cities & turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for the simple act of not showing hospitality. The men were literally beating the door down telling Lot to bring the men out so they could have sex with them. Some translate this as reading “so that they may know them” & interpret it in the terms of hospitality as you suggest. However, Lot offered his own daughters which had not yet known a man instead which they refused. Why would that satisfy what they were seeking? The angels’ arrival & the men’s behavior towards them only strengthened the lack of righteousness that reigned in these cities. The Lord didn’t send them to retrieve Lot & his family because no one offered to shake people’s hands & give them a piece of bread & welcome them. Heck, these dudes were more than happy to welcome any newcomers obviously. So, that argument holds about as much water as a submarine with screen doors, though I’m not claiming to be this big theologian or anything.

      • yabruf

        Simple: Historically a sodomite is a depraved citizen of the city of Sodom.

        In modern society a sodomite is simply a homosexual. One who commits sexual acts with the opposite sex.

        The term sodomite is almost 4000 years old.

        Let me know if you are still confused Parodyx and I can dumb it down a little more for you 🙂

        • Jason Todd

          Opposite or same?

        • Parodyx

          “One who commits sexual acts with the opposite sex”

          No, that is a heterosexual.

          Please dumb it down for me some more, o great intellect.

        • Chris

          “In modern society a sodomite is simply a homosexual.”

          Well let’s see what the dictionary says, Hmmm?

          Well Merriam-Webster defines Sodomite as “a person who has anal sex with another person : someone who practices sodomy.”

          So a Sodomite can, in modern parlance, include heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Now let’s see if you learn and use the word correctly next time.

  • SFBruce

    This law was completely unnecessary. As this article points out, the one time the government asked for sermons from pastors, it backfired from a public relations perspective, and was never carried out. If mosques had been the object of these requests, I think the response would have been very different. I’m all for religious liberty, as long as it’s true liberty, and not used as a cloak for the state to promote one religion over another.

    • Jason Todd

      This law was completely unnecessary.

      “IRS agrees to monitor churches for electioneering”, Washington Post, July 21, 2014.

      This is why it is necessary. Openly and blatantly unconstitutional.

      Bottom line: A pastor’s sermon is nobody’s business.

      • TheLastHonestLawyer

        Um, no.. completely Constitutional. Churches do not pay taxes under a 501(c)(3) exemption. The federal government has the power to investigate potential violations of their own laws.

        Also, unless the church operates a private club (like the LDS) and allows anyone to enter and listen to the sermon, there is no expectation of privacy.

      • SFBruce

        In 1954, then Senator Lyndon Johnson introduced a bill requiring all non-profits, including but not limited to churches, to refrain from endorsing or opposing political candidates. At the time, it wasn’t considered controversial, passed Congress without debate, and was signed into law the same year by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As far as I can tell, only one church has been denied tax exempt status as a result: Branch Ministries. In 1992 they placed full-page ads in the Washington Times and USA Today urging voters not to vote for Bill Clinton. As a result, the IRS revoked their tax exempt status. They filed suit in DC district court where they lost. When they appealed, the lower court’s decision was upheld unanimously. So, your premise that the law is unconstitutional and that a pastor’s sermon is nobody’s business is false.

        • Jason Todd

          In 1954, then Senator Lyndon Johnson introduced a bill requiring all non-profits, including but not limited to churches, to refrain from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

          Yes, and it was done for reasons of malice. I know all about the Johnson Amendment. And it is 100% unconstitutional. Is, was, and will remain. Period.

          And I don’t give a fleep what men in black robes think. If any law runs counter to what the Constitution says, it is unconstitutional.

          WHAT PART OF THAT DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?!?

          • SFBruce

            I understand you perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you’re right. I also understand that while you’re entitled to your own opinions about constitutionality, those “men in black robes” that you denigrate are the ones who have the last word on the matter.

          • Jason Todd

            Dude, you have no idea what you are talking about. You obviously have never read the Constitution, otherwise you would understand judges aren’t the final authority on anything.

            We are a constitutional republic. Not a kritarchy.

            Exactly how many times will I need to say it before I get it in that biased, bigoted brain of yours?

          • SFBruce

            As long as your responses to my comments include nothing but factual inaccuracies, tortured logic, and exercises in incivility, you won’t convince me of anything.

          • Jason Todd

            As long as your responses to my comments include nothing but factual inaccuracies

            Where and when have I been factually inaccurate?

            tortured logic

            Again: Where and when?

            and exercises in incivility

            You think it is okay for the government to look over the shoulders of pastors and control what those pastors say, even in the pulpit, and you expect me to be civil? Really? Don’t ever mistake me for the spineless wienie you want me to be.

            you won’t convince me of anything

            Another mistake on your part. I am not here to convince. I am not going to change your mind anymore than you will change mine. I am here to educate my peers, to give them the ammunition they need to shoot down people like you.

    • SFBruce

      In 1954, then Senator Lyndon Johnson introduced a bill requiring all non-profits, including but not limited to churches, to refrain from endorsing or opposing political candidates. At the time, it wasn’t considered controversial, passed Congress without debate, and was signed into law the same year by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As far as I can tell, only one church has been denied tax exempt status as a result: Branch Ministries. In 1992 they placed full-page ads in the Washington Times and USA Today urging voters not to vote for Bill Clinton. As a result, the IRS revoked their tax exempt status. They filed suit in DC district court where they lost. When they appealed, the lower court’s decision was upheld unanimously. So, your premise that the law is unconstitutional and that a pastor’s sermon is nobody’s business is false.

  • james blue

    I wonder if this also applies to Mosques

    • TheLastHonestLawyer

      Absolutely.

  • Colin Rafferty

    Typical religious people looking for special rights.

    • Grace Kim Kwon

      Christianity alone is special in the entire universe. Secular Westerners do not know that because they are a spoiled species. All serious humans know that Christian teaching alone is special, life-saving, and flawlessly and supernaturally moral.

      • Colin Rafferty

        Note that these same rules apply to all religions, including Mosques and the Satanic Temple.

        • Grace Kim Kwon

          No, today’s West has no freedom on declaring sin as a sin, although they have a moral chaos to be able to mock the Christianity. Americans are crazy. If you equate Christianity and Satanism, that means prohibition of all kinds of morality.

          • Colin Rafferty

            I’m talking about the Texas law. It specifies “religious leaders or religious organizations”, not “Christian”. So it protects Muslims and Satanists exactly the same way it protects Christians.

            Now if Imams are preaching to their people that they should destroy America, they cannot be questioned about it, because of this law.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            That translates: American men do not wish to protect their homeland because there are no more maidens in the land.

          • Colin Rafferty

            I’m fairly certain my seven year old niece is still a maiden. But what does that have to do with this article? Are you saying that this is a good or a bad law? I can’t tell.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Liberals lack common sense. A female child is not called maiden but a girl. Maiden means a marriage-aged virgin woman. The government should not oversee Christian churches’ sermons, but other religions and Satanism need checks because they may harm human life. Doctrines are important because people carry them out.

          • Colin Rafferty

            What’s marriage age? You believe there are none? You clearly don’t live here.

            And I do appreciate that you are consistent and honest in your view that religious freedom is terrible, and you simply think the US should have a Christian theocracy.

            Just wondering, do you currently live in a Christian theocracy, and if not, are you fighting for getting one there as well?

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            18, after high school graduation. USA needs Christian theocracy or it forces Sodomy. I’m under democracy which Christian Americans brought into the world. Democracy works only with the Christians or their mimickers.

          • Colin Rafferty

            My apologies. For some reason I thought that you didn’t live here, since you seem to always talk about the US in the third person.

            And as I’ve always said, no one is forced to have sodomy.

            And those Christian Americans wrote the First Amendment as part of their government, BTW.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Please don’t apologize. I don’t live in the USA, and a man should not apologize easily anyway. USA brought and/or preserved democracy into countless nations on earth. Americans are not aware of their white Christian forefathers’ great contributions. I wish the USA would grant citizenship to everyone who feels like American instead of imposing the mental illness of transgenderism. Yes, everyone is forced to endorse Sodomy in the West. That’s the serious religious freedom issue which the 21st century is dealing with. Christian Americans created everything superb.

          • Nidalap

            That would have a lot more effect if you could show that they were being questioned about it BEFORE this law…

          • Colin Rafferty

            I’m not sure your point. Are you saying that the police are doing a bad job, and should therefore be further hobbled by a bad law? Or that you don’t mind?

          • Nidalap

            You stated they would be stopped from asking about it by this law. That implies that before it they could or would.
            If they never questioned before, the law would have no noticeable effect…

          • Colin Rafferty

            Okay, so it was my first guess. You think the police are already doing a bad job, so you don’t mind further hobbling them. Thanks.

          • Nidalap

            Oh, they’re already plenty hobbled.
            That’s why they can’t figure out the motive behind terror attacks and why they have to strip search 90 year old grandmothers at airports in order to avoid offending certain groups…

          • Chris

            “That’s why they can’t figure out the motive behind terror attack…”

            Well the police simply don’t have your ability to read minds. I think they prefer to deal with something called ‘evidence’.

  • Tree Kangaroo

    This wouldn’t even be necessary if these bigots hadn’t twisted the First Amendment all out of shape. What is it about “free exercise of religion” that they just can’t grasp. Get government’s intrusive nose out of the churches.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Government needs to be checked by the Christianity. Governments do evil when they oppose Christianity. USA is the grand proof of the fact.

  • TheLastHonestLawyer

    Wonderful. Now radical Imans can preach hatred and terrorism and Texas authorities can’t do anything about it.

    • calduncan

      We’ll cry when they throw you off the roof. Maybe.

      • TheLastHonestLawyer

        Way to miss the point. Under this law, an iman could directly order terrorist attacks and the law cannot touch him because his speech during the sermon cannot be legally touched.

        By Texas, anyway.

        But hey, I’m already Muslim. Easy enough for me to return to the Faith. So, what was your point again, beside a most un-Christian death wish?

  • Robert

    Good law you want to know what’s sermon is about you have to go to church like every one else.. Or to the radical mosque down the road.