Amid outrage from religious groups, Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman on Wednesday appeared to back off a subpoena request for the sermons of certain ministers opposed to the city’s equal rights ordinance, with Parker calling it overly broad.
The subpoenas, handed down to five pastors and religious leaders last month, came to light this weekwhen attorneys for the group of pastors filed a motion to quash the request. Though Feldman stood behind the subpoena in an interview Tuesday, he and Parker said during the Mayor’s weekly press conference Wednesday that the wording was problematic.
Feldman is monitoring the case, he said, but had not seen the subpoena written by outside counsel working pro-bono for the city until this week. Parker said she also did not know about the request until this week.
“There’s no question the wording was overly broad,” she said. “But I also think there was some misinterpretation on the other side.”
The subpoenas drew national attention this week, prompting Christian conservative groups to condemn the request as governmental overreach. U.S. Sen Ted Cruz issued a statement Wednesday, saying Parker “should be ashamed.”
“Let me just say that one word in a very long legal document which I know nothing about and would never have read and I’m vilified coast to coast,” Parker said. “It’s a normal day at the office for me.”
The intent, Feldman said, was simply to get all communications between pastors about the signature gathering instructions, a key part of a lawsuit opponents have brought against the city. Critics filed suit after Feldman announced they had failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a repeal referendum, claiming the city attorney illegally inserted himself in the signature verification process.
Feldman said the city would clarify what it is looking for in its reponse to the pastors’ motion.
“I wouldn’t have worded it that way myself,” Feldman said of the request. “It’s unfortunate that it has been construed as some effort to infringe upon religious beliefs.”