The City of Houston is withdrawing the controversial "sermon subpoenas" that targeted five local religious leaders who vocally fought the city's equal rights ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday.
"I am directing the city legal department to withdraw the subpoenas," said Parker.
Parker's announcement came amid heavy criticism over the subpoenas, which targeted local pastors who were particularly critical of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and worked with activists who petitioned to repeal it. The city is now fighting a lawsuit against a group of Christian activists who say they got enough signatures to put the anti-discrimination policy to a public ballot referendum; the city threw out entire pages of signatures, saying they were incorrectly gathered and that the petition failed to meet the mark.
Conservative leaders responded to the subpoenas with outrage, urging people to send sermons and bibles to the Mayor as a form of protest.
According to Parker's spokesperson, their office has received somewhere between 500 and 1,000 bibles so far.
"I would like to ask every pastor in America, send her your sermons," Mike Huckabee said on his Fox News show recently. "Everybody watching the show ought to send her a Bible."
Glenn Beck and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have also been encouraging people to flood the mayor's office with religious materials as a form of solidarity with the targeted religious leaders.
"Go find the best sermons you can find on religious liberty and send them to City Hall in Houston," Beck said on his radio show.
Parker's administration had already withdrawn its request for the pastors' sermons prior to Tuesday's announcement, but she said meetings with a number of local and national clergy on Monday persuaded her to pull the subpoenas altogether.
Parker made it clear, however, that while some members of the clergy did influence her decision, the move had nothing to do with the five local religious figures behind the anti-HERO petition. Rather, it was about the city of Houston.
"I didn't do this to satisfy them or for them," said Parker. "I did it because it was not serving Houston. It was dragging the city of Houston and the citizens into a debate I didn't want to have."
So now that the whole sermon subpoena business is all over and done with, perhaps it's time for the nation to stop sending the city copies of the Old Testament.
The mayor appears to be pretty stocked up -- at least for the next thousand years or so -- and there are probably better uses for a spare King James copy anyway.
Parker addressed the bible-mailing protest during the news conference Wednesday, stating that along with the bibles, she has received plenty of hate mail.
Still, she considers the bibles a "loving gift" to the city of Houston, and says they will be donated to local churches and groups who have expressed interest in them.
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