Early voting is already under way in Houston, where anti-gay activists forced a new nondiscrimination law onto the ballot next Tuesday. During a legal fight over the validity of signatures gathered for the effort, lawyers for the administration of Mayor Annise Parker issued broad subpoenas to five ministers asking for sermons and other communications about homosexuality and the law, which gave the ministers and their allies an opening to cry "religious persecution." Even though the subpoenas were quickly withdrawn in the face of criticism from across the political spectrum, the city’s anti-gay activists are running with it, vowing to overturn the law and run conservative Christians for every city office.
On Wednesday, Rafael Cruz, pastor and father of presidential candidate Ted Cruz, told a gathering at the World Congress of Families that if “the righteous” are not voting or running for office, what is left is “the wicked electing the wicked.” He then launched into a discussion of Parker and Houston’s nondiscrimination law, which he grossly mischaracterized as “the bathroom ordinance,” saying “the ordinance basically said, depending on how you feel on a particular day, you can walk into any bathroom.” If your daughter objected to a man entering her bathroom, he said, she could be sued. “The opportunity for sexual abuse, for sexual attacks, for rape, is incredible.” Later that day, Cruz alleged that the LGBT community’s goal is to “legalize pedophilia.”
The five pastors who faced subpoenas have not only mobilized churches for the referendum to overturn the nondiscrimination law, Cruz said, but they have also “recruited strong, committed Christian men and women to run for mayor, and for every position…”
In response to a questioner who accused the LGBT movement of partnering with pedophiles, Cruz urged people to be on the watch for nondiscrimination ordinances protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, which he said are being promoted “stealthily” to be part of school curricula. He urged conservative activists to run for city council and school board to prevent such policies from being put into place, saying, “We need to take control of city councils and school boards and reverse these laws.”
Houston Pastor Dave Welch, one of the five pastors subpoenaed, gave the evening keynote at the anti-gay Stand4Truth conference that took place the day before the World Congress of Families opened in Salt Lake City this week. Welch echoed the militaristic rhetoric of other speakers, saying it’s necessary to recognize that “we are in a war. War is very real. War has casualties…It’s a spiritual war…ultimately, eventually, a political war.”
Welch said the subpoenas have energized religious conservatives, saying, “As always, God takes what the enemy meant for evil and used for good.”
Welch portrayed Mayor Parker, a lesbian, in sinister terms:
The mayor, who lies about everything from the beginning. And she’s still lying about this. It’s just who she is. She literally is one of those who is caught in the snare, in the web of her darkness and her condition. I pray, we do pray for her, that God delivers her and sets her free from that. But we’re going to make sure…that she’s not mayor of Houston anymore.
And he blamed churches for being “asleep” and allowing a lesbian to get elected in the first place, comparing it to “the old ‘peace in our lifetime’ catastrophe” when “you didn’t stop the evil when it was cheap.”
“They didn’t understand the consequences of putting somebody in political power, with the authority of the sword, who has literally rejected every element of the created order of God and his word and his moral truths. Why would we expect somebody to act lawfully when they are living lawlessly?”
Welch portrayed LGBT people as pawns of Satan, part of a cosmic war between good and evil:
Here’s the bottom line for us today, I believe as we go forward in what we do next. We need to remember as we are facing the enemy, if you will, that the enemy that we are really up against we can’t see. Those that we can see are caught in the snares of deception and are being used as pawns for the real enemy. We must love them enough to speak truth to them, with clarity, with consistency, with boldness, and with love. That is the only hope they have to be free…
Also speaking at the event was Rev. Bill Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors, who organized a press conference of pastors opposing the Houston subpoenas. Owens said he and Welch have worked together for 20 years and are “unsung heroes.” Owens has been a fierce critic of President Obama on marriage equality and has opposed protections for transgender people with the same kind of inaccurate and alarmist fearmongering about bathrooms that is now the focus of ugly ads by the opponents of Houston’s nondiscrimination law.
Owens’ group is associated with the National Organization for Marriage and has been supported by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and the American Principles Project — an organization founded by anti-gay Catholic leader Robert George and backed by right-wing funder Sean Fieler. Earlier this year, CAAP honored Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for defying federal courts on marriage equality. Owens said on Monday that social conservatives will never get to the “promised land” on marriage and other issues until they build a movement that includes Black people.