The following letter is being circulated in Texas. It was allegedly written by the Attorney General of Texas and shed’s more light on the controversy mentioned in yesterday’s blog.
October 15, 2014
Mr. David Feldman
City of Houston
900 Bagby, 4th Floor
Houston, Texas 77002
Dear Mr. Feldman:
Your office has demanded that four Houston pastors hand over to the city government many of their private papers, including their sermons. Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment. The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government. Nothing short of an immediate reversal by your office will provide that security. I call on you to withdraw the subpoenas without further delay.
I recognize that the subpoenas arise from litigation related to a petition to repeal an ordinance adopted by the city council. But the litigation discovery process is not a license for government officials to inquire into religious affairs. Nor is your office’s desire to vigorously support the ordinance any excuse for these subpoenas. No matter what public policy is at stake, government officials must exercise the utmost care when our work touches on religious matters. If we err, it must be on the side of preserving the autonomy of religious institutions and the liberty of religious believers. Your aggressive and invasive subpoenas show no regard for the very serious First Amendment considerations at stake.
A statement released by the Mayor’s Office claims that the subpoenas were prepared by outside lawyers and that neither you nor Mayor Parker was aware of them before they were issued. Nevertheless, these lawyers acted in the City’s name, and you are responsible for their actions. You should immediately instruct your lawyers to withdraw the City’s subpoenas. Religious institutions and their congregants should never have to worry that a government they disagree with will attempt to interfere in their religious affairs. Instead of safeguarding that trust, you appear to have given some of the most powerful law firms in Houston free rein to harass and intimidate pastors who oppose City policy. In good faith, I hope you merely failed to anticipate how inappropriately aggressive your lawyers would be. Many, however, believe your actions reflect the city government’s hostility to religious beliefs that do not align with city policies.
I urge you to demonstrate the City’s commitment to religious liberty and to true diversity of belief by unilaterally withdrawing these subpoenas immediately. Your stated intention to wait for further court proceedings falls woefully short of the urgent action needed to reassure the people of Houston that their government respects their freedom of religion and does not punish those who oppose city policies on religious grounds.
Attorney General of Texas
“No minister, anywhere, should ever have to submit a sermon to a government censor.” – Senator Rand Paul
Only minutes ago, Senator Rand Paul spoke up for the Houston pastors who have become the latest target in what religious leaders say is the city government’s ongoing war against its own churches. Messaging on Twitter, Senator Paul declared, “The First Amendment doesn’t exist to keep religion out of government. It exists to keep government out of religion.” Said Paul, “I stand with the pastors and churches in Houston against government interference and harassment.”
Houston city attorneys, under the direction of Mayor Annise Parker, have now subpoenaed sermons preached by selected pastors whom they believe are opposed to the city’s new agenda.
Here is a quick review of the unfolding drama in Houston.
Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly Lesbian mayor of a major city, promoted an ordinance banning anti-gay discrimination in the public and government subsidized venues. So far so good. But a controversial part of the ordnance allowed transgender citizens to file discrimination lawsuits if prohibited from a restroom. Was this a problem? Where there signs up saying, “No transgenders allowed?” Some Christian leaders now caught in the middle of the controversy contend that this was an angry politician, purposely poking the bear.
There were all kinds of discussions in the community. Who was to determine who was transgender and who was not? A doctor? A psychiatrist? Could a man suddenly declare himself a woman and enter a woman’s restroom? With under age children?
As the proponents of the ordinance hoped, the churches reacted with confusion and panic. There was a recall effort launched to get the ordinance on the ballot. The churches gathered more than 50,000 signatures. It was well over the 17,269 needed. And then the city poked again. The Houston city attorney declared that there were insufficient signatures.
The churches sued.
The city attorneys issued subpoenas for their sermons. And not sermons from the churches who filed the lawsuit. No, they wanted sermons from other pastors whom critics suspect were specifically targeted because they posed the biggest threat to the city’s agenda. The subpoena called for “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.”
Concerned Christian leaders insist that this is not a comedy of errors, that it is not a mistake but it is a systematic, purposeful attempt to silence and frighten the churches into changing their doctrines and suborning free speech. The city attorney’s will use taxpayer’s money to bankrupt the churches and silence their political voices. Thus the decision to go after the selected churches who were not even involved in the lawsuit with the city. It was much the same tactic that allowed the gay and lesbian takeover of the Episcopal Church, taking some congregations and using their resources to take over others. Only this time it is acted out in the public square with public money which will now be used to destroy the churches and silence their voices.
The city has deep pockets. In fact, the churchgoers, paying their taxes, will ironically finance the city of Houston in its war to destroy their own culture.
The Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other Liberal groups expressed alarm at the city’s overreach. Meanwhile, Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission expressed sadness at the events and astonishment at the “audacity” of the Houston City government’s attack on its own pastors and congregations.
Coincidentally, the day before the Houston subpoenas, Moore held a private meeting with Senator Rand Paul at the Senator’s office in Washington, D.C. Part of the conversation was about the war on Christianity unfolding in places around the world. Who would know what the next volley would be fired by the city government of Houston, Texas?
John M. Wilkerson died last September and I have been neglectful in writing about it. Rev. Wilkerson was known as a pastor who led congregations in Florida, the Bahamas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and California. But he was much more than that. He was a mentor to some of the greatest leaders in evangelical Christianity.
As a pastor he had an impressive career. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, he laid the foundation for a new, vibrant, giant congregation that is still dominant. In Ft. Worth, Texas, he took over an old, tradition bound, Pentecostal church, helping it transition into a new generation.
As a person, John had many gifts that the evangelical Christian world sorely needed. He was classy, calm and mellow, which was something of a contradiction within the boisterous Afro-Pentecostal culture where he ministered. And he was kind and soft spoken, something almost out of place among the hard driven, competitive Fundamentalists, who nevertheless appreciated his effective knack at evangelism.
Wilkerson’s legacy is how he inspired young ministers, including many within his own family. His son, Rich Wilkerson, pastors in Miami. His nephew, David Wilkerson, was a bestselling author.
When the Assemblies of God jealously rejected their own Loren Cunningham and his Youth With a Mission, John Wilkerson boldly and openly celebrated what was happening. Here was an idea that President John Kennedy had lauded. The Peace Corps had reportedly borrowed many of Cunningham’s ideas. Why not cheer for our guy?
While some pastors openly attacked the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, Wilkerson hailed their ideas and encouraged young Christian entrepreneurs who went onto make millions of dollars and support missions worldwide. Businessmen felt at home, even encouraged, in the churches where he was pastor.
When the Jesus Movement started, Wilkerson took a front row seat. Stately, with their country club good looks and dressed to the nines, John and Bonnie Wilkerson would welcome the barefoot, dirty, hippies to their churches.
When the Catholic Pentecostal Movement began, they had open arms.
He always kept his sense of humor about people, about life and about God. Nothing seemed to surprise him or panic him. Everything provoked a smile.
As one might expect, Wilkerson’s churches always boasted the most innovative youth groups. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, his youth director, Dick Eastman, ran a thriving program with youth retreats and “Ski Camps.” It was a teenager’s dream. But when Dick went onto lead the prestigious evangelical organization Every Home for Christ, Wilkerson was his biggest cheerleader.
Wilkerson did not seem jealous of other ministries. Rather he enjoyed them, as if they were his own achievements as well.
If John was handsome and polished, his wife, Bonnie was beautiful and witty. John and Bonnie Wilkerson were an inspiration to a whole generation following behind. As a young traveling speaker and writer, I spoke for them in many of those churches and was on the receiving end of their friendship. John and Bonnie Wilkerson made you feel that what you were doing was the greatest thing that had ever been done.
Born in Hammond, Indiana, January 16, 1930, John M. Wilkerson died September 12, 2014. Leaving Bonnie behind.
Watch Doug Wead and
51 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT AMERICA
(9 PM EST and repeated at 1 AM)
Will Hillary Clinton’s new granddaughter be a political plus or minus? Will she make us feel kinder toward Hillary, a sometimes choleric personality, or will she remind us that the Clinton’s have been around too long and are corrupted by the process? Or does it really matter?
Here’s my historical rule of thumb. Grandkids are usually bad for male leaders and good for female leaders. The American electorate, anyway, clearly likes their men young and vigorous like John F. Kennedy and Theodore Roosevelt. And worldwide, older women have been more successful in politics than younger women. Maggie Thatcher comes to mind. So too does Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was revered for her wisdom. She was actually called “the grandmother of the Jewish nation.”
John F. Kennedy was portrayed as youthful and “vigorous,” his failing health hidden from view. FDR’s polio was carefully shielded by an adoring press who traded access to the boss for serving as his personal public relations team.
When Ronald Reagan’s grandchildren were photographed with the president building a snowman in the Rose Garden, Reagan’s media savvy staffer, Michael Deaver, had a fit. The grandchildren were never to be seen. Even the children were kept at bay, when possible. The Reagan children, products of different marriages were a reminder that the president had been divorced and the grandchildren were reminders that he was old. Even today, while most Americans can name the Reagan children, not very many can name the grandchildren who were kept from view.
In fact, many recent presidents were grandfathers with grandchildren roaming the halls of the White House. George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Dwight Eisenhower and FDR all had grandchildren living, at various times, in the White House.
Eisenhower’s grandson, David, lived in the White House with his mother and father, John and Barbara Eisenhower. The latter, the president’s daughter in law, served as Eisenhower’s hostess on road trips in place of the First Lady. Mamie Eisenhower had a fear of flying.
Meanwhile, in the Eisenhower White House, grandson David played with the Vice President’s daughter, Julie Nixon. Years later they were married on the eve of the Nixon presidency, thus at least one president’s grandchild helped elect an American president.
The very first president, George Washington, married the widow, Martha Custis and when her children died, they raised the grandchildren as their own. George and Martha lived with them in the president’s mansion while George served as the nation’s head of state.
America’s love affair with young, vigorous presidents may be a reaction to our European, monarchial roots. European cultures have sometimes revered their aging political leaders as if they were Kings or Queen s. French President Charles de Gaulle served until age 79. British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was finally voted out of power at age 81. Otto von Bismarck served as German Chancellor until age 75. German leader, Paul Hindenburg, served as president until age 86 and in more recent years, Conrad Adenauer served until age 87.
Young female leaders have a more challenging time. When a younger, First Lady, Hillary Clinton tried to organize the White House push for healthcare, critics said she came off as pushy and presumptuous. When Republican presidential candidate, Michelle Bachman, an Evangelical Christian, won the Ames, Iowa Cavalcade Straw Poll in 2011 and had a clear path to winning the Iowa Caucus, Southern Baptists leaders rejected the idea of a women candidate and pushed for Texas Governor Rick Perry, also an evangelical Christian, to get into the race. It was a disaster. Both candidates failed.
When GOP nominee, John McCain picked Alaska governor, Sarah Palin as his running mate, critics labeled her screechy and shallow. Her biggest critics were other women.
The gold standard for modern women political leaders is the late, former, Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher. The story is that she was given voice lessons to help her lower her voice from a shrill housewife to the calm, sagacious leader that is known to history.
Likewise, one can see the changes in Hillary Clinton’s demeanor. She has morphed from what critics described as the mean-spirited, know-it-all supervisor of the driver’s license bureau into a more wise and caring leader. It is very likely that a granddaughter will only speed up that transformation. If Hillary Clinton is elected president and her political advisers trump the Clinton family penchant for personal privacy, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, born September 26, 2014, to Marc and Chelsea Mezvinsky, may just be the most visible presidential grandchild we have seen in a long time.