The City is Withdrawing Sermon Subpoenas, So Stop Sending Bibles

carl & tracy gossett
The City of Houston is withdrawing the controversial "sermon subpoenas" that targeted five local religious leaders who vocally fought the city's equal rights ordinance, Mayor Parker announced Wednesday.

"I am directing the city legal department to withdraw the subpoenas," said Parker.

Parker's announcement came amid heavy criticism over the subpoenas, which targeted local pastors who were particularly critical of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and worked with activists who petitioned to repeal it. The city is now fighting a lawsuit against a group of Christian activists who say they got enough signatures to put the anti-discrimination policy to a public ballot referendum; the city threw out entire pages of signatures, saying they were incorrectly gathered and that the petition failed to meet the mark.

Conservative leaders responded to the subpoenas with outrage, urging people to send sermons and bibles to the Mayor as a form of protest.

According to Mayor Parker's spokesperson, their office has received somewhere between 500 and 1,000 bibles so far.

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Citing 'War on Teachers,' Houston Educators Vow to Back Ogg in DA's Race


Claiming incumbent Devon Anderson has helped launch a "war on teachers," representatives from five Houston-area teacher groups vowed to back Kim Ogg for District Attorney at a news conference Tuesday.

At issue is a supposed agreement between the Harris County District Attorney's Office and Superintendent Terry Grier, an agreement under which the DA's office would help investigate any future allegations of cheating on standardized tests in the district.

"The DA's office is not the testing police," Ogg declared. "Allegations of cheating are basically administrative violations."

There's just one little problem that Anderson-backed "war on teachers," though: it doesn't appear to exist.

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Black Panther Party Founder Rejects Local Successors

Photo by Susan Du
Bobby Seale, founder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, had some harsh words for local black organizations.

On a whirlwind tour of local media stations, Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale firmly clashed with some local black activists on the role of armed resistance in current affairs.

Houston, home of an active New Black Panther chapter, hosted Seale this weekend for the revolutionary anti-police brutality organization's alumni reunion. Although the original Black Panther Party for Self Defense disbanded in 1982, a number of successor organizations around the country have adopted its iconic logo and its key practice of citizen armed resistance.

Houston's New Black Panther Party, led by high-profile activist Quanell X, is one, though Seale gave the organization a "two thumbs down" for hijacking the Black Panther name to incite violence against non-black people.

"Straight up, it's a bunch of racist rhetoric that's hijacked our name. What they do and what they say is totally antithetical to what the organizers of the Black Panther Party were about," Seale said, citing the leader of the national New Black Panther Party's endorsement of Al Qaeda. "I don't trust them. I can't care for them."

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DPS Tells Mayor Parker's Daughter She Can't Have Two Moms


We already know that Texas' bullheaded stance on gay marriage -- that it won't in any way recognize it, even if couples were married in other states -- trickles down to individual Texas Department of Public Safety clerks. Same-sex couples in Texas have to navigate roadblocks that can royally screw with your day, even if you're the mayor of the 4th largest city in the country.

A tweet from Mayor Annise Parker caught some of that frustration with DPS Thursday, after one of the Houston offices barred her daughter from taking a driving test because, well, her daughter has two moms.

Parker, who is the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city, wed her longtime partner in January, but the two women jointly adopted this child and her older sister in 2003. Both women are legally her parents.

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Last-Minute Shit-Slinging in District Attorney's Race

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As the race for District Attorney continues to heat up, Democratic challenger Kim Ogg is talking weed policy again -- and this time, she's questioning the low number of burglary cases Devon Anderson, the incumbent DA, has prosecuted compared to misdemeanor pot charges pursued by the office.

Citing the 10,903 marijuana cases she says were prosecuted by Anderson's office in 2013 -- all but 261 of which were for amounts under 2 ounces -- Ogg at a press conference outside the Harris County courthouse Wednesday questioned why the DA's office is prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases at five times the rate of burglary cases.

Ogg's new(ish) talking point comes as the DA candidates are locked in a dead heat less than two weeks before election. On Wednesday, the Houston Police Officer's Union held a press conference with Anderson, announcing their endorsement, which comes on the heels of a scathing radio ad claiming Ogg, while in her position leading Crime Stoppers years ago, sent the identity of a juvenile sexual assault victim to a TV station. Ogg called the ad misleading and "offensive," saying that a victim's name was inadvertently included in a draft script for a TV program called "Predator Check"; the error was caught before the program ever went live, and the victim's name wasn't aired.

Ogg Wednesday focused on the number of marijuana prosecutions compared to burglary cases brought by Anderson in 2013. And while the numbers Ogg cites might at first glance look impressively bad for Anderson, there's a bit more to this equation. The DA's office may be prosecuting upward of 10,000 marijuana cases, but they can only really prosecute what cops send them.

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These Cannabis Bills Could Change Toking in Texas for Good


Remember the first time you met that good old bill, who was just sitting on Capitol Hill? Yep, Schoolhouse Rock was the learning bomb, and it knew just how to explain complicated subjects with catchy little songs like "Conjunction Junction" and "Mother Necessity."

Well, those Schoolhouse Rockers may want to add a new cannabis-themed ditty to their repertoire, given all of the recent marijuana bills inundating lawmakers across the nation.
But if we may, we would like to suggest that this time, rather than the little bill sitting on Capitol Hill, the tune should take place in Texas.

After all, three new marijuana reform bills are being drafted under Marijuana Policy Project's multi-year legislative campaign in Texas. The first bill is aimed at decriminalization of marijuana in Texas, but MPP is hardly stopping there.

Rather, the three bills are stepping stones to the full monty, covering not only decriminalization but medical and recreational marijuana as well, which leaves all facets of legalization on the table for lawmakers to decide in the next legislative session.

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Activists Planning to Broadcast Live Abortions Near the Alamo


There is such thing as an "Abortion JumboTron TV," and it will be deployed for some extremely graphic anti-abortion protesting in San Antonio on Wednesday, as the fight over reproductive rights in the State of Texas rages on.

Parents are being warned to keep their children away from the Alamo in San Antonio on Wednesday afternoon, as activists from two anti-choice groups, the Ohio-based group Created Equal and Love of Truth Ministries, will be broadcasting footage of abortions -- complete with what are supposedly fetal body parts -- on that "JumboTron TV" projection screen near the historic building.

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Houston, We Have Other Problems

Photo by Ed Schipul

We all know the story by now: the City of Houston passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which would crack down on LGBT discrimination across the city, and then a group of Christians then sued the city. Last week, news broke that the city then subpoenaed pastors that, while vehemently critical of the ordinance, aren't parties to the current lawsuit against the city.

And then, Twitter exploded.

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Greg Abbott Held a Twitter Townhall, and It Was Hilarious


In his continued quest to win hearts and minds and, you know, the governor's seat, state Attorney General Greg Abbott held a Twitter town hall on Friday. Yes, for one brief, shining moment, Abbott (or someone that does a pretty good Abbott-on-social-media impression) was on the Twitter and people could ask him stuff. There was even a hashtag, #AskAbbott.

The questions lobbed at Abbott ranged from the pointy to the pointless-but-oh-so-hilarious, so we rounded up some of our favorites.

On Abbott's a tort-reformer yet was awarded $10 million after he sued because of that tree that fell on him in River Oaks and left him wheelchair-bound (recently mentioned by opponent state Sen. Wendy Davis in that controversial ad):

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City Removes "Sermons" From Pastor Subpoenas, Blames "Media Circus" and Anti-HERO Lawyers for Stoking Outrage

Natalie Harms
Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman at a press conference Friday.

Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman shifted more blame in the subpoenaing-anti-HERO-pastors debacle that's riled up Christians across the city -- and, thanks to Twitter and the #HoustonWeHaveAProblem campaign, the nation. Parker and Feldman blamed their pro bono lawyers, the media and the opposing lawyers, without shouldering much blame themselves during a press conference Friday.

Parker, visibly frustrated, said that her legal representation could've been more sensitive when it subpoenaed five local pastors last month in the city's legal fight against anti-HERO activists who want to repeal the city's equal rights ordinance. But Parker doesn't "read those kind of legal documents in detail," she said. Feldman, who also said he didn't read the subpoenas before they were sent last month, said the entire controversy could have been avoided had the other side's lawyers brought their issues to him, rather than the media.

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