Big Law's Battle With Christians in Texas

Amongst the least recognized foes of constitutional conservatism are lawyers at giant law firms. Big Law lawyers have served as mercenaries for a wide spectrum of fringe causes. Unlike mercenaries, however, they are doing the left’s bidding for free. In Houston, they're doing it to attack Christian pastors who speak on theological matters.

But it isn’t just attacks on Christians. These “pro bono” efforts by lawyers at large law firms have undermined America’s energy independence, the integrity of our elections, and the security of the nation.

And paying clients of the firms are unwittingly funding this political agenda.

Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker used pro bono lawyers from big law firms to attack religious freedom by issuing subpoenas to them. (Read one here.) One of the attorneys who issued the subpoenas is Kristen Schlemmer at Susman Godfrey, LLP. Her firm page is here.

Kristen Schlemmer Kristen Schlemmer

Mayor Parker had been unapologetic about attempting to bully and intimidate local pastors by subpoenaing their sermons and communications with their church members. She finally has backed down after vigorous criticism, which included a call-to-arms from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Houston has withdrawn its subpoenas after it was “deluged with telephone calls, letters, emails” and hundreds of Bibles and sermons according to Fox News. Texas Attorney General (and now governor-elect) Greg Abbott also criticized the city, calling the subpoenas a “direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor, has displayed both an astonishing ignorance of and an astounding contempt for the First Amendment in her quest.

But just as bad is the help she has received from three Houston law firms -- Susman Godfrey, Fulbright & Jaworski, and Haynes & Boone -- in attempting to subvert the most fundamental principles of religious freedom protected by the Bill of Rights.

This controversy arose after the city government passed an “Equal Rights Ordinance,” which among its effects would allow men who identify as women to use a women’s bathroom and vice versa. Denial of actual gender strikes at the heart of Judeo-Christian theology of God's will. Thus, critics gathered more than 50,000 signatures to put the “bathroom ordinance” on the ballot so the residents of Houston could vote on it. A lawsuit was filed after Parker and her lawyers threw out the petitions claiming there were too many invalid signatures.

The only relevant issue in this type of election lawsuit is the validity of the signatures of the Houston residents who signed the petitions, and what standards the city used to determine their validity. Yet the mayor subpoenaed the sermons and communications of local pastors who weren’t even parties to the lawsuit, seeking anything that discussed the ordinance, the petition, and everything from “restroom access” to “the topics of equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity.”

As Peter Kirsanow, a commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said in a letter to Mayor Parker, “the pastors’ understanding of the ordinance and the petition is irrelevant to the litigation.” Their religious views on civil rights, equal rights, homosexuality, and gender identity also “have nothing to do with whether there are enough valid signatures to place a referendum on the ballot.” According to Kirsanow, these subpoenas were a “blatant attempt to punish these pastors for expressing their religiously-based political views.” It was an “abuse of government power” and Kirsanow found it troubling that “given the number of lawyers involved, someone did not raise the First Amendment implications.”