The Benham Brothers, Mike Huckabee and "Duck Dynasty" stars Phil and Alan Robertson were among the thousands of people who gathered at Grace Community Church in Houston Sunday to protest the city's recent subpoena of pastors' sermons about homosexuality, an equal rights ordinance and lesbian mayor Annise Parker.
The now-withdrawn subpoenas were issued by Houston's city attorney in response to a lawsuit filed by opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that opponents believe would allow men and women who identify as transgender or opposite sex to use the facilities, such as restrooms, of their choice.
Known as HERO, the Houston City Council approved the ordinance in a vote of 11 to 6 in May, and Parker was a strong proponent of the measure.
"Maybe what has happened in Houston will be a wake-up call for people who understand that the First Amendment is not the right of the government to tell Christians to sit down and shut up," Click2Houston.com quoted former presidential candidate Huckabee as saying. "It is the people telling the government to stand back and let freedom ring."
Huckabee further explained that the rally inspired thousands of Christians to join together in solidarity because "They find it unimaginable that in the U.S. this type of brutish act would take place. They expect it in North Korea, they expect in Russia, in Iran. They do not expect it in Houston, Texas."
Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" fame added i his comments: "America, America, it cannot be said too strongly or too often that this great nation was not founded by religionists but by Christians. Not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a sign to them, your opposition, that they will be destroyed, you will be saved — it has been granted to you, you lucky Texans," Robertson added.
The five pastors who were targeted by the subpoenas — Hernan Castano, Dave Welch, Magda Hermide, Khanh Huynh and Steve Riggle — also addressed the audience at the church and those watching online.
The subpoenaed sermons incident derived from months of debate over the controversial ordinance, which amended chapters 2, 15 and 17 of Houston's Code of Ordinances, prohibiting discrimination in public facilities and private employment on the basis of "protected characteristics."
The list of protected characteristics included race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sex, familial and marital status, military status, disability, religion, genetic information, pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Protestors from the LGBT group Get Equal stood out in front of the church during the rally that was hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council.
"I think they are really hurt and they believe strongly in what they believe in and we happen to disagree," a protestor, Tiffani Bishop, was quoted as saying.
Protester Terry Gonzales added: "I think everyone deserves equal rights. It doesn't matter who you are or who you love. That's none of my business. Everyone has the right to access to everything."
The live telecast of the event reached into 765 churches, and nearly 3,000 home groups, according to FRC.
More than 65,000 viewers sent text messages taking the pledge to vote in the midterm election. "With only two weeks' notice, churches across the country quickly signed up to simulcast "I Stand Sunday" in a demonstration of solidarity with the pastors and churches in Houston, Texas, who have been harassed by the city's mayor because they publicly challenged her efforts to advance policies that are in direct conflict with biblical morality," FRC said in a statement.