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N.M. Baptists stand with Houston pastors

DEMING, N.M. (BP) — The Baptist Convention of New Mexico has taken a stand with five pastors in Houston who have had their sermons and other communications subpoenaed following their opposition to a homosexual-transgender rights ordinance passed in May.

“… whereas we believe that this attempt to subpoena their sermons and church communications is a violation of First Amendment rights and of the separation of church and state, we thus resolve to state our belief as such,” reads the resolution unanimously approved during the convention’s Oct. 21-22 annual meeting.

“… we further resolve to support them in their fight against this action; we further resolve to pray for them in this fight and aid them in any other way as is possible and appropriate; we resolve, finally, to stand in like fashion in the event that similar legal action be taken against pastors or ministers in the state of New Mexico,” the resolution stated.

Fred Luter, the Southern Baptist Convention’s immediate past president, voiced a prayer for the pastors following the resolution’s passage.

Luter, who is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and the SBC’s first African American president, was the convention’s guest preacher, bringing sermons related to the convention’s theme, “Standing Strong,” in each of the meeting’s three sessions.

The subpoenas had been issued in September to the pastors by a law firm assisting in fighting a lawsuit opposing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). City lawyers targeted the pastors because of their leadership in opposing the new ordinance.

Opposition to the ordinance is based in part on concerns it will violate the religious freedom of business owners and others who disagree with the measure. Also, foes think it will make women and children vulnerable to sexual predators by permitting people to use public restrooms of the gender they identify with rather than their natural gender.

After foes collected 31,000 signatures during a petition drive to place repeal of the ordinance before Houston voters, nearly 14,000 more than required to qualify for a referendum, Houston’s city attorney, David Feldman, disqualified enough of the signatures to prevent a vote.

HERO opponents then filed suit, seeking court approval for a referendum. On Oct. 17 Feldman struck the word “sermons” from the subpoenas. Attorneys for the ministers, though, maintained that nothing short of a complete withdrawal of the documents would suffice.

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  • John Loudat