In the spring of 2014, the city council in Houston, Texas, passed an Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) that banned discrimination in housing and employment based on, among other things, sexual orientation and gender identity. That did not sit well with anti-LGBT activists in the city, who set about collecting signatures in an effort to place the ordinance on the ballot in the next election so that voters could repeal it.
When the signatures were submitted for verification, city officials declared that organizers had not gathered enough valid signatures and rejected the effort to place the ordinance on the ballot. In response, organizers sued the city and, as part of the lawsuit, attorneys for Houston subpoenaed "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession" from a handful of pastors who had been deeply involved in the effort to repeal the ordinance.
Those are the facts of what happened ... but that is not the story that Texas-based right-wing activist and pseudo-historian David Barton told last week when he spoke at Charis Bible College.
In Barton's telling, Houston passed a nondiscrimination ordinance and then used it to persecute Christian pastors by demanding that they hand over all of their sermons, emails and social media posts so that government officials could scour them to see if anyone was criticizing homosexuality.
Nondiscrimination ordinances that protect sexual orientation and gender identity, Barton said, are unnecessary and designed solely to "attack biblical principles" and persecute Christians.
"When this ordinance was passed in Houston," Barton said, "Houston passed this ordinance and they said, 'Now pastors, we want to see your sermons. We have subpoenaed your sermons, we want to see if you're saying anything bad about homosexuality or homosexuals, because if you are, you're in trouble.' And so, with this NDO, it wasn't to protect the groups from discrimination, it was to go after Christians who were saying God has a moral standard of right and wrong and homosexuality is not right."
"We find the NDO being used to attack Christian pastors," Barton claimed. "They subpoenaed them and said, 'We want 16 forms of your communication, we want to see every text you've done, we want to see every email you've done, every Twitter, every Facebook, every social media of any kind; 16 different forms, we've subpoenaed them all.'"
Pastors are now "subject to civil action" in cities that have passed nondiscrimination ordinances, Barton falsely claimed:
This a perfect example of why Barton's claims about history cannot be trusted since, as we have noted before, if he cannot be relied upon to accurately recount recent events that anyone with access to Google can easily check and verify, why should anyone trust anything that he says about complex events from early American history?