When a number of pastors in Houston found themselves under attack from the city government for their opposition to a radical ordinance, CAAP was among the first to come to their defense and demand that the city respect the freedoms of speech and religious belief. Thanks to pressure from a number of groups and citizens, the city eventually backed down.
See excepts of media coverage of the issue below.
Fox News Houston
The conflict between Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Houston pastors continues to make national headlines.
The pastors were issued subpoenas by the City of Houston because of their challenge to the city’s recently enacted Equal Rights Ordinance.
Today, The Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) is in Houston to show support for the pastors that have been served subpoenas by the city. They believe that the subpoenas of sermons and church communications violate the First Amendment.
The Reverend Bill Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African American Pastors, said the attack on Christian pastors by the openly gay mayor of Houston, who subpoenaed their sermons and other communications after they opposed a city ordinance that allows transgender people to use any public restroom, signals the need for “the next civil rights movement.”
Owens, speaking from Houston, told CNSNews.com that he and other pastors in his coalition held a press conference on Tuesday to support the Houston pastors and express their concern about this threat to religious liberty.
“Attacking ministers about what they preach is way over the line,” Owens said, adding that he thinks the action taken by Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian, and the city attorney is a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion, and church leaders need to fight back.
“This is truly the next civil rights movement,” said Owens, who operates his coalition in Memphis, Tenn.
Owens said the gay rights movement is trying to make expressing one’s Christian views on homosexuality “hate speech.”
“It’s not hate,” Owens said. “We don’t hate anyone. It’s expressing our religious beliefs.”
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance battle has crossed state lines as local pastors were joined by pastors from across the nation at a Tuesday press conference.
“Stand up to the people that think they can silence us. They think they have won but they have not won,” said Rev. Williams Owen with the Coalition of African-American Pastors.
Pastors from St. Louis, San Diego, leaders from Detroit to Minneapolis gathered Tuesday in Houston to support local pastors at the center of a city lawsuit.
ABC 13 News
But during a news conference, local pastors and members of the Coalition of African American Pastors and Others said that what they say in a sermon is their freedom of speech and should not be attacked or violated.
Reverend William Owens, President of the Coalition African American Pastors says, “This is a country based on laws. No one can dictate to America what you have to do. You can’t silence us because we won’t stand for it.”
Those at the news conference said they will do what they have to, even file a lawsuit if necessary, to maintain their freedom.
Houston Sermon Subpoena Controversy Is ‘Far From Over,’ Say Conservatives Who Support the ‘Houston Five’ Pastors
The Christian Post
Prior to the mayor’s Wednesday announcement that she had decided to drop the subpoenas against the five Houston pastors, The Rev. Bill Owens, president of CAAP, told The Christian Post that Parker’s actions were “intruding on our civil rights.”
“We have a right to speak what we feel to be true in the public square and it’s wrong for them to try to silence us. Its unheard of,” said Owens.
In a statement shared with CP Thursday, Owens added: “We are happy to see that Mayor Parker has been made aware of the injustice being perpetrated against freedom of religion and withdrawn the subpoenas. Today, we have seen proof that when the people rise up against unjust government retaliation, great things can be accomplished. The combined voices of thousands of ordinary citizens around the country have shown that activism works.”
He continued, “Free expression of faith and the ability to speak on such matters without fear of government action is the essence of our democracy. Preserving these liberties will be the basis of a new civil rights movement as CAAP, the churches, and people everywhere come together to defend our values and our right to voice them.”
Southern Baptist Texan
In response to Parker’s announcement, Erik Stanley, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom representing the five subpoenaed pastors said, “The mayor really had no choice but to withdraw these subpoenas, which should never have been served in the first place. The entire nation—voices from every point of the spectrum left to right—recognizes the city’s action as a gross abuse of power.”
Another group of pastors from across the nation arrived in Houston Tuesday as a show of solidarity with the five subpoenaed pastors. Some of those who traveled to Houston included William Owens Sr., a minister and founder of The Coalition of African American Pastors, Bishop George McKinney of St. Stephens Church of God in Christ in San Diego, Bishop Michael Bates of Calvary Christian Center in St. Louis, Cherilyn Eager of the American Leadership Fund, and Janet Boynes of Janet Boynes Ministries.
They did not seek a meeting with the mayor but held a press conference expressing their concern about the mayor’s overreaching authority and violations of religious liberties. Several of the African-American pastors said the administrations’ dismissal of the petition reminded them too much of voter rights suppression.