Thousands Stand with Pastors Targeted by Houston Mayor

WASHINGTON – Thousands gathered in a Houston church Sunday evening and many more watched online to defend the right of pastors to be free of government intimidation.

The gathering came after Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian, and fellow officials subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors.

Host Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, told the crowd at Houston’s Grace Community Church that more than 700 churches and 3,000 home groups had signed up to take part in the “I Stand Sunday” event via the webcast.

“I stand here today with you that I may speak, preach and teach on the issues that deal with society, the issues that the Bible speaks about,” Pastor Hernan Castano of Iglesia Rios de Aceite, one of the “Houston Five” — as the pastors have become known — said.

Mayor Parker became upset with church-organized opposition to a pro-gay, pro-transgender city ordinance. In a legal move, she had called for local pastors’ sermons to be subpoenaed.

Erik Stanley, a senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, has been representing the pastors.

“These subpoenas are just one front in a rapidly developing conflict. And the philosophy underlying this conflict is that sexual liberty trumps everything, including religious liberty,” Stanley said.

Another of the pastors’ lawyers, Andy Taylor, told participants it’s sad how far Houston officials have strayed from the spirit of the First Amendment.