HOUSTON (Christian Examiner)—With early voting less than two weeks away, about 200 pastors gathered at Second Baptist Church in Houston to demonstrate their united opposition to the city's controversial Proposition 1. They called on their congregations and all Houstonians to vote "No" on the ordinance that threatens religious liberties and "the sacredness of a man being a man and a woman being a woman."
"We are not here in judgment. We are not here in condemnation. We are not here with any spirit except, we hope, with the Spirit of our Lord," Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, told the gathering Oct. 7. "We live in a pluralistic America. Yet this [ordinance] crosses a line that is absolutely deadly to the generations that are alive now and that will come."
For over a year pastors and civic leaders have fought to repeal the Equal Rights Ordinance, a law championed by Mayor Annise Parker and passed by the city council in May 2014 that gives civil rights status to LGBT individuals in Houston. Court battles led to a Texas Supreme Court decision in July ordering Parker and city council to place the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Seven pastors of different races and denominations emphasized the biblical, legal and logical reasons for opposing the ordinance. Some reminded the gathering of the darker nature of the struggle.
"A year ago exactly this week I was supposed to turn in all my sermons," said Hernan Castano, who pastors the Spanish-language congregation Rios De Aceite Church, recalling the subpoenaing of sermons by city attorneys in response to a lawsuit filed against the city over the ordinance.
Khanh Huynh, pastor of Vietnamese Baptist Church, recounted his flight from communist Vietnam, noting that today pastors in that country must submit their sermons for review by officials before they can be preached.
Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church, addressed the issue of "gender identity" as it is defined in the ordinance. The law mandates biological males who identify as female must be allowed to use women's bathrooms, locker rooms and other spaces considered private.
Being male or female is not established by choice but predetermined by biology. The two are necessarily unique, he said.
"Because of this distinction we all feel a need for personal privacy," said Matte.
That need for privacy is recognized and protected every time a bathroom with doors and locks is built. The establishment of human rights for transgender individuals is not the goal of Proposition 1. Instead, Matte said, "The goal of Proposition 1 is to normalize gender confusion."
Other SBTC pastors in attendance were Nathan Lino of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, Barry Jeffrie of Humble Area's First Baptist Church and Marcos Ramos of First Baptist Church Gelena Park. Although their churches sit outside the Houston city limits, many of their members live in Houston and the pastors are encouraging them to vote against Proposition 1.
Early voting in Houston runs Oct. 19-30. The election is Nov. 3.
Bonnie Pritchett is a newswriter for the Southern Baptist Texan, the official newspaper of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, online at TexanOnline.net. This article first appeared here and is used with permission.