Equal Rights Law Bound for Trial After Pointless Hearing

Photo by Susan Du
Anti-HERO lawyer Andy Taylor called Friday's hearing a great success. Nothing changes in Houston.

Legal jargon, heated accusations and random baseball metaphors aside, Friday's Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) hearing accomplished nothing. The law is suspended until its supporters and opponents duke it out at trial, set for January 2015.

HERO is Mayor Annise Parker's anti-discrimination law that gives legal protection to citizens who are maltreated because of their age, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. Private businesses and government are subject to comply, but religious institutions are exempt.

Nevertheless, representatives of the religious right have banded together in an effort to repeal HERO ever since it became law in late May. Anti-HERO activists circulated a petition to put the ordinance on the November ballot for a referendum vote and gathered more than 50,000 signatures - well more than the 17,269 required for the measure. After review, the city found that only 15,249 were valid, trashing the petition.

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New Montrose Church Juggles God, Gays, Stylish Glasses

Categories: Religion

Photo by Susan Du
Pastor Marshall Dallas of Sojourn aims to expand religious influence in Montrose despite the neighborhood's clear political leaning.

Marshall Dallas is not exactly selling monotheism to the Romans, but that doesn't mean church planting in Montrose has been smooth sailing.

Leading the flock at Sojourn on any given Sunday, the tatted pastor sports thick-rimmed vintage glasses and a plaid button-up rolled up at the elbows, his dark beard trimmed slightly shorter than Biblical proportions. Yet despite Sojourn's outwardly hipster makeup, Dallas isn't rocking the theological boat just because he rocks an Astros snapback. The church views homosexuality as a sin, currently has no gay members, and would ultimately excommunicate members who fail to renounce their homosexuality.

Locals question whether a Montrose church plant could ever succeed as a neighborhood fixture if it fails to accept a key demographic.

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What A Muslim Looks Like

Categories: Religion

Photo by Maha Ahmed
Several years ago, my mom told me about an incident in which one of my cousins and his friends were told, or more fittingly "yelled at," to "go back to their damn country." They were playing basketball in a local, empty outdoor court, when some white people drove by and started slinging slurs at them. Punches were thrown. Someone got hurt.

When she told me, I remember wondering to myself whether this was only a petty classroom feud that had seeped out of school walls and into the neighborhood, whether it was an isolated incident.

My cousin and his friends weren't even old enough to drive at the time, but they did look like the post-9/11, media-curated image of terrorists I'd grown up seeing all around me --their skin was brown, and one of them wore a turban. They looked like me.

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Why I Liked Being Jewish at an All-Boys Catholic School

Categories: Religion, Whatever

Photo courtesy of Aaron Reiss

The locker my freshman year at St. Thomas High School was on the second floor of the main building, 50 feet from a chapel where Mass was celebrated before every school day. The walls along the hallways were filled, floor-to-ceiling, with lockers. Freshmen got the lower ones. I had to get on my knees to get my books out of my creaky, cream-gray locker.

Next to me was a kid named Jack Reidy. He was one of those guys who went through puberty in sixth grade and dominated the middle school athletics scene.

Everyday, I'd squat down to access my locker and have to shift my weight as Jack's huge ass blocked part of my locker. I didn't say anything about it to him for the first couple months of school because he was massive, and if sitcoms were anything like real high school, he would have kicked my ass.

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Houston Mosque Will Ball Hard for Palestine

Photo provided by Amir Hossain
Hossain translates his 16 year passion for basketball into humanitarian aid

In case you didn't know, Houston is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the country and the city is home to a network of mosques and religious centers run by the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

Houstonian Amir Hossain is part of this American-Muslim community. He wants to use his love for basketball to build unity and support a cause that helps people in the Middle East.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Hossain is kicking off a charity basketball tournament called Hoop4Palestine. "Basketball teaches Islam in its own creative way by promoting companionship," Hossain said. "[It allows] kids to learn how to work together in a peaceful manner to achieve something."

Muslims around the city are currently participating in the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sundown every day until the end of July.

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Mayor Annise Parker Looks Forward to Tossing Out Anti-HERO Petition

Photo by Susan Du
Mayor Annise Parker greets fellow HERO supporters at City Hall on Thursday before her address responding to a petition submitted for repeal of the anti-discrimination law.

Mayor Annise Parker's seen some shit, least of which are sloppy petitions.

Opponents of Houston's newly passed anti-discrimination law submitted a petition to repeal it in the 11th hour today, boasting 50,000 signatures for a measure that only required about 17,000. The mayor responded in an announcement at City Hall that she's looking forward to throwing out a high number of them in the counting process.

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Now What Happens to All Those Anti-HERO Shirts?

Photo by Aaron Reiss

They said no. They screamed it.

Protesters yelled in front of city hall Wednesday, in opposition of legislation for a Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

"We say no," the protesters repeated.

A few women, serving as reverb, chanted "God says no."

ERO adorned their chests, thick red slashes cutting through acronym. The shirts sold for $5.

The cheap price wasn't enough to attract much of a market. Though most of the anti-HERO protesters wore the t-shirts - the number of people was closer to 50 than to 100 - there were three boxes filled with shirts.

And soon, the shirts would be of no use. City Council passed the HERO with a 11-6 vote.

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Hucksters and Texas Tent Revival Politics

Photo by J E Theriot
No keeping religious talk out of Texas politics.
Religious liberty is at the very heart of what it means to be an American, yet Texas conservatives and our state's activist pastors have conveniently forgotten that.

Lately, it feels as if Texas is waging some sort of religious war on a number of different fronts.

Throughout history, politicians have embedded a few religious references in their speeches, but nothing close to what we're seeing lately. Beginning in earnest with Ronald Reagan's nomination in 1980 and continued by Bill Clinton, "Religispeak" has evolved into a must-have tool for every conservative's campaign rhetoric and policy effort.

In the same way that sex sells in the media, politicians discovered that religion does also.

It was last fall when Tom Delay's conviction was overturned and an article in the Dallas Morning News quoted him as saying God is calling him to lead a constitutional revival. He referred to his legal battle and sentencing as his "time in the wilderness."

And then...he remarked how glad he would be to get his concealed carry license back.

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Street Preacher Responds to UH Students Who Compare His Church to Westboro Baptist

Categories: Religion

It's about free speech, ya'll.
If you're an abortion advocating-atheist-transgender person, David Stokes probably hates you. Actually, to be more accurate, Stokes probably wants to save you. He'll gladly share this with you on a sign that might say you're going to hell, too.

The self-proclaimed street preacher took it to the University of Houston in a letter to the editor published yesterday on thedailycougar.com, after a student journalist compared his Bulldog Ministries with Westboro Baptist Church. In case you missed it, the head of that church, the hate spewing anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps Sr. died last month.

The Daily Cougar had the March 24 article headlined "Phelps' death calls for reflection on local campus bigots." Big points for localizing a national story. Bulldog Ministries has been a presence on campus for at least a couple of years, angering some student organizations, particularly the campus' LGBT group. But, according to Stokes' letter, his is another variety of anti-gay religious rhetoric.

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Accused Killers Giving Satan Worship a Bad Name

Categories: Crime, Religion

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

God is good, and for some Satan is too.

Satanists don't deserve the bad rap they're getting after the recent news linking accused killers to the Prince of Darkness. The words "satanic ritual murder" or "occult killing" set off alarms in God-fearing people, and that's probably why prosecutors and the media run with it.

This hit home when two Harris County teens were charged with capital murder last week in what the Chronicle referred to as an "occult killing". Other news outlets headlined it "deal with the devil" or "ritual murder".

John Jordan of the Harris County DA's office is working the case and says that Jose E. Reyes, 17, allegedly talked a 16-year-old into joining him in killing schoolmate Corriann Cervantes. The younger kid wanted to join Reyes in a deal with the devil. Cervantes,15, was mutilated, strangled and raped. Authorities said there was an upside-down cross carved on her belly.

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