Constitution Under Assault - Again
By John D. Turner
16 Oct 2014

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Amendment I, Constitution of the United States of America

The framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were pretty smart fellows. They managed, in a very short document, to set up the entire framework of our government. I would submit that, just looking at the length of the “stimulus” package and the “Affordable Health Care Act,” to mention just two recent pieces of legislation, such would be beyond the capabilities of the august body of elected officials we have today. Additionally, the founders managed to succinctly and understandably word the first ten amendments to that constitution in such a manner as to ensure their understandability by any citizen then alive in 1787 who wished to read them.

So what is it about those plain and simple words that seem to defy understanding by our current crop of liberal Democratic “progressive” leadership? I refer this time to the portion of Amendment 1 referring to “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Because, increasingly, it seems that government at all levels display a serious lack of ability to read these words and comprehend their meaning, carving out all sorts of “exceptions” as they see fit.

The latest example of jaw-dropping executive overreach occurred, of all places, right here in my home state of Texas. It’s funny, but to outsiders, Texas seems to be this land of free-thinking red state cowboys, the last bastion of conservative freedom and thought as it were. To those of us on the inside however, it is reminiscent of the old oak tree that seems so solid on the outside, but on the inside is rotten to the core; a condition only revealed when high winds cause it to topple over and expose the innards for the entire world to see.

What those on the outside fail to notice is that while there might be a lot of conservative, freedom-loving folks in the great state of Texas, there are, as in most places, a whole lot of left-leaning progressive types as well. And increasingly, they are being elected to office at the local level. Indeed, while the leadership at the state level may be conservative, the mayors and city councils of the major cities in Texas lean more than a little to the left.

So it is in the City of Houston, where the mayor and the city council recently passed a new non-discrimination ordinance (HERO – Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) on an 11-6 vote. Protected classes under the new ordinance include sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, and pregnancy. Two of these bear extra consideration: Gender identity and sexual orientation. To prevent confusion or possible misrepresentation, these are defined in the ordinance as follows:

While the ordinance was not specifically designed to protect the rights of gay and transgendered people, that is where the debate has mainly centered. The ordinance was proposed and championed by Annise Parker, the first openly lesbian mayor of Houston, who herself acknowledged and essentially encouraged that perception with a pointed remark that “the debate is about me.”

“This is not the most important thing I have done or I will do as mayor,” Parker said after signing the ordinance, “But it is the most personally satisfying and most personally meaningful thing that I will do as mayor.”

The ordinance prohibits employment discrimination by the city of Houston and all private employers with 50 or more employees, and it specifically bars retaliation against any employee who complains. It applies to housing, businesses serving the public, private employers and city contractors. Among other things, as pointed out by its opponents, it means that transgendered men and women can choose for themselves which restrooms they will use.

Religious institutions are specifically exempt.

Similar legislation is in place in California, and here in San Antonio, the mayor and city council passed a very similar anti-discrimination ordinance last year.

There has been a lot of opposition to the ordinance by the public. Opponents vowed to continue fighting it at the ballot box, calling for a referendum so that the issue could be put before the voters. However that attempt was thwarted when the Houston City Attorney threw out the petition, claiming that it failed to garner the signatures required to put it on the ballot. The requirement was 17,269 signatures. The petition drive turned in more than 50,000; however most were subsequently disallowed by the City Attorney as “invalid.”

Not to be outdone, opponents then filed a lawsuit. The city struck back by issuing subpoenas against a group of pastors, ordering them to turn over to the city any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the mayor. The city wants to make sure that such sermons do not violate the antidiscrimination ordinance.

Apparently the city of Houston believes that, by passing its HERO act, it is now exempt from the provisions of the first Amendment to the Constitution and is able to dictate what can and cannot be said, not only in public discourse, but from the pulpit of churches within the city limits.

This is following the lead of Canada, which has jailed pastors who spoke out from the pulpit against homosexuality, which the scriptures say is a sin, but which the government of Canada says are protected under their anti-discrimination and “hate speech” laws.

Of course, in Canada, they don’t have that little thing called freedom of speech, guaranteed in their constitution.

Apparently Mayor Parker has never heard of it either. Or of the 14th Amendment, which makes the requirements of the Constitution, binding on the Federal government, binding on the States as well; to wit:

“…No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; …nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” -- 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This means that you cannot make a law that takes away from Americans the basic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Period. Now perhaps Mayor Parker believes that since she is the mayor of a city and not the governor of a state that the provision does not apply to her. If so, then she is sadly mistaken, for her city lies within the jurisdiction of the State of Texas; it is not a separate country in and of itself. And much as Mayor Parker might like things to be different, she is still bound by the laws of the State of Texas and the laws of the United States of America, including its Constitution and all the amendments there to of included.

So where she might be able to pass a law that says women can use the men’s restroom and vice versa, she is not empowered to require pastors (or anyone else) to submit their sermons to her for vetting before they are delivered. That would violate freedom of speech, not to mention free exercise of religion

It is interesting that the first thing that those preaching “tolerance” do once they get power is to secure their victory by going after those that, apparently, they are incapable of tolerating themselves. But that’s OK; it is perfectly fine to be intolerant of the intolerant; as long as you get to define the words and you hold the reins of power.

It is particularly interesting that the minions of the city government of Houston are not only looking for things in the sermons that might violate their anti-discrimination statute (which specifically does not apply to religious institutions in the first place), but also anything that specifically mentions the mayor herself.

Apparently in Houston, you are no longer allowed to mention the mayor’s name across the pulpit. You have to wonder how long it will be before Houston’s finest start arresting public citizens for saying anything in disagreement with the mayor in public discourse, or newspaper writers for disagreeing with the mayor in editorials or news items. Actually the latter probably won’t happen as the media is in agreement with the Mayor’s stance; they are ideological bedfellows as it were.

It is interesting that an elected official would express such interest in what was being said in a Christian church, when they could simply attend the sermon and find out for themselves, and not be in the slightest bit interested in what goes on in Muslim mosques across the country (including in Houston), where people are being radicalized and turned against the country, but hey – they have freedom of religion and freedom of speech too, right? And as long as they aren’t publicly opposing her sexual proclivities and personal utopian ideas of how the world should work, who cares?

But then again, it isn’t about finding out what is being said – it is about stopping it before it can be said; and about intimidating the pastors (and anyone else that might be tempted to speak out) so that they won’t say it in the first place. Because when it comes to gay and transgender “rights,” let nothing stand in the way; particularly that moldy old document, penned by a bunch of slave holding dead white guys 226 years ago.

Mayor Parker and the rest of her ilk across the country who believe that it is OK to trash our freedoms and basic rights if the cause is good enough, had best hope that the pendulum never swings back the other way. Because eliminating those rights is a double edged sword. She may get what she wants in the short run, but what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

And as they say, “payback is a bitch.”

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