Two weeks ago we brought you the story of Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her alleged vendetta against several local Christian pastors. The official statement from the Mayor's office was that no offense was intended – in fact, she claimed that the subpoenas were actually issued by a nonprofit legal team working on behalf of the city to defend the “bathroom bill,” and that she herself had no knowledge of them before the whole situation blew up in her face. Essentially, she borrowed a page from the Barack Obama “I learned about it on the news” playbook.
But now it appears that Ms. Parker may have bitten off a bit more than she could chew. In response to the subpoenas, pastors and average citizens from all over the United States have sent her videos and transcripts of sermons. Some have gone a step further and mailed entire Bibles as well.
The responses have been varied. Some say she asked for it. Some say the pastors should not have given her anything because of the obvious attack on the First Amendment. I think a lot of them have missed the point.
The problem is not that Mayor Parker subpoenaed sermons. I'll say that again. The problem is not that Mayor Parker subpoenaed sermons.
Why not? Because sermons are written to be heard. Sermons are written to be made as public as possible. Some are televised. Most are recorded. And the bottom line is, had Mayor Parker bothered to warm a pew in any of the churches that were party to the subpoenas, she would not have needed to ask for their contents.
What no one is talking about is the fact that those subpoenas also included private communications between pastors and their congregants. Private emails and conversations that were neither rehearsed nor intended for public consumption. Conversations that, had they happened in Catholic churches rather than Protestant, might well have been covered by the privilege granted to priest and confessor.