DEVELOPING: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz pledges to defend religious liberty of Houston pastors

by Will Hall |

(REUTERS/Gary Cameron)U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) champions religious freedom in front of the White House in Washington September 26, 2013, calling for the release of Saeed Abedini, an Iranian American pastor who is serving eight years in an Iranian prison.

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) -- Earlier today, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz met to pray with a group of Houston pastors who had come together for a time of prayer and fellowship at First Baptist Church in Houston.

A press conference began shortly after noon, but Cruz released an advance statement that he stood with the five pastors "who have been wrongfully subpoenaed to release the text of their sermons."

Cruz's show of support follows similar action yesterday by Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott.

Abbott sent a strongly worded letter to Houston City Attorney David Feldman Oct. 15 telling him to withdraw subpoenas served to five Houston pastors. The writs demanded the pastors turn over sermons and notes which mention the mayor or a recently passed city ordinance which secured rights for transgender persons including access to any public restroom regardless of gender issues – biological men in women's restrooms and vice versa.

Opponents had gathered more than three times the minimum signatures to petition for a referendum on the November ballot, but city officials threw out the petitions claiming too many irregularities. A lawsuit followed from petitioners and the subpoenas were in response to the lawsuit as a means of discovery—although none of the pastors is a plaintiff in the litigation.

For his part, Abbott asked Feldman to show a spirit of inclusiveness toward people of faith.

"I urge you to demonstrate the City's commitment to religious liberty and to true diversity of belief by unilaterally withdrawing these subpoenas immediately."

Both Feldman and Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker, an open lesbian, have stated they believe the subpoenas are too broad and promised to narrow the focus of the discovery.