Conservative groups are organizing an event on the first Sunday in November to support the five Houston pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed by city officials. Known as "I Stand Sunday," the event will feature former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, Alan and Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" fame, and local clergy.
In a conference call held Wednesday afternoon, FRC President Tony Perkins stressed the importance of spreading awareness of what he describes as "political intimidation" tactics coming from Houston city officials.
"This is not about speeches, not about sermons, not about teachings even on biblical morality as to homosexuality, it is about intimidation," said Perkins. "This is about political intimidation and it is about the mayor using the bully pulpit to try and silence the pulpits of Houston."
Earlier this month it was revealed that the city of Houston had subpoenaed five pastors regarding a rejected referendum about a recently passed LGBT city ordinance, called the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, known by the acronym, HERO.
HERO 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."
This list of protected characteristics includes race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sex, familial and marital status, military status, disability, religion, genetic information, pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Opponents of HERO have claimed it will have several unintended consequences, like allowing transgendered men to use women's restrooms.
Five Houston pastors whom city officials believed were critical of the ordinance were told they had to turn over all sermons they had preached regarding homosexuality, HERO, and about lesbian Mayor Annise Parker.
The subpoenas garnered nationwide criticism from both liberal and conservative organizations, with Parker backing down on the scope of the subpoenas.
Last week, Parker stated that the subpoenas will be narrowed down to "speeches" rather than "sermons" about the hot button issue.
"We don't need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners," said Parker in a statement. "We don't want their sermons; we want the instructions on the petition process. That's always what we wanted, and, again, they knew that's what we wanted because that's the subject of the lawsuit."
On the conference call, Perkins moderated a discussion that included remarks from Huckabee, as well as Houston-area pastor David Welch, who was one of the five pastors subpoenaed.
Huckabee tied the actions of Houston officials to that of other incidents in the United States of Christians who oppose homosexuality or gay marriage being sued or fined by local governments.
"I think this event on Nov. 2 is a very significant event," said Huckabee, who added that the priority was "to stand with those pastors and the people of Houston."
In his comments to those on the call, Welch said that he was in "shock" when he got word that Houston officials demanded to see his sermons.
"As much as we knew we were dealing with a corrupt city government, I don't think anyone really expected that they would step out and be so broadly aggressive," said Welch.
"It was a real wakeup to realize that we, all of a sudden in this country, where we essentially thought we had the private speech, free speech, and freedom of religion, to the have the fourth largest city in America with unlimited resources … bearing down on the pastors."
Scheduled to be held at Grace Church in Houston on Nov. 2 and webcast nationwide, the 90-minute simulcast for "I Stand Sunday" is being sponsored by the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, Christian Votes and Vision America Action.
"Hosted by Family Research Council and other partners, speakers from across the nation will gather at Grace Community Church in Houston to focus on the freedom to live out our faith free of government intrusion or monitoring," reads the I Stand Sunday website.
"We will stand with pastors and churches in Houston who have been unduly intimidated by the city's mayor in demanding they hand over private church communication."