Subpoenaed Sermons: The Case for Handing Them Over

The sky is falling here in Houston.

The mayor’s office has subpoenaed sermons from a handful of pastors. The request seems to be a bullying tactic aimed at pastors who have opposed the city council’s “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” which protects gender identity along with categories such as race, sex, and creed. The biggest point of contention is that the law might require businesses to allow people to enter public restrooms based on their self-proclaimed gender identity rather than their biological sex. Who’s surprised that some Texans are disturbed?

Houston’s churches are leading the resistance against the new law, and it seems that the mayor’s office is trying to intimate this resistance by requesting copies of sermons and other communications.

It’s a petty move.

It’s constitutionally disturbing.

It’s a violation of the separation of church and state.

But why don’t they just give her the sermons anyway?

I know that freedom of religious expression is one of the cornerstones of our American experience. I know that the First Amendment grants citizens the free exercise of religion. I know that government isn’t allowed to infringe upon these freedoms. But I also know what a sermon is.

A sermon is a proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If a bureaucrat wants to read about the gift of salvation given to those who believe in Christ Jesus, who am I to stop him? Every pastor I know would love to have people pore over his sermons. But all of the sudden this changes when the person in question works for a lesbian Democrat. Now I hear people shouting, “They have no right to our sermons!” Well of course they don’t, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hand them over anyway.

Are there things in these sermons that would damage the cause of Christ? I hope not. If there are, then our pastors need to start preaching better sermons. If our churches preach inflammatory untruths, then we might have something to be ashamed of. But if our pulpits proclaim the word of God, then what have we to fear?

I say let a Christ-centered sermon be preached in the congregation, and let it be discussed in the media, and let it be argued in the courts.

I remember a certain apostle named Paul who got called into court to answer for his sermons. He didn’t hide his message from the king. He didn’t tell the king that it’s none of his business. The message stayed the same because it was a good and true message. Paul said:

For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.

Are we satisfied to leave our message in a corner?

If we hand over a sermon, we’re not traitors to the cause of Christ. It seems to me that we’re quite the opposite. Giving someone a sermon used to be the heart of the Christian movement. As churches, we shouldn’t have anything to hide, and we shouldn’t boast in anything but Christ our Lord.

Of course maybe the more prudent thing to do would be to resist the subpoena, in order to make sure the mayor doesn’t think she can look at our sermons before we preach them. But if we resist, we need to do so in a manner that shows the world we have nothing to hide. I encourage the pastors of Houston to give the mayor what she wants. Not just the pastors who have been subpoenaed. All the pastors. Give her your sermons. Give her all of them. Give her twenty years worth of faithful preaching about the goodness and sufficiency of Christ.

So maybe the sky is falling here in Houston, but if it is, let us stand on the Rock that is Christ rather than on our constitutional prerogatives.


This post is an especially unpopular opinion, which is why it’s posted on my personal site.

7 thoughts on “Subpoenaed Sermons: The Case for Handing Them Over

  1. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:

    I’m inclined to agree. Seems counterproductive on the part of the mayor to say the least. Bad idea on her part regardless of legal consideration.

    Still, don’t we stand for truth? Expose all the truth in every way possible. All pastors in Texas should send every sermon they ever prepared. Give the mayor and her layers all the truth and love possible.

    Odd that I had known nothing of the Houston mayor. Now I’ve read about her twice this week.

    It is said we can’t legislate morals. Yet the preachers of tolerance try to criminalize such whenever they gain the power. Love and understanding are the touchstones, and it’s a two way street. Tolerance is only a small single step toward what we all owe each other. We are all fellow travelers. We are in this together. We are only here a moment. Make the best of it, and do some good.

  2. Colin, it’s not that they are asking for sermons that has ruffled feathers. The subpoena asks for all emails, text messages, voice mails, and other private communique between pastors and congregants. Asking for sermons is no big deal since its likely that they are already available as audio or video files online. Its demanding personal and private messages between a pastor and his congregants that is problematic.

      1. Except that the pastors in this case are not involved in the suit against the city, and the subpoena asks for pretty much everything related to morality or city government or the mayor personally.

        Sermons are public record. Private correspondence is a different matter.

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