HOUSTON (Christian Examiner)—Houston-area Pastor Randy White kept his promise Sunday to preach on pulpit freedom. White's vow to "never" surrender his sermons to Houston city attorneys ricocheted around the nation—uniting Americans in support of the First Amendment.
"Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here," Houston-area Pastor Randy White preached passionately from First Baptist Church in Katy, Texas.
Five pastors were issued subpoenas by the City of Houston in September, directing them to submit sermons and other communication related to the collection of citizen petitions protesting a controversial new non-discrimination ordinance promoted as protecting transgender rights.
Houston's Mayor Annise Parker, the city's first openly lesbian chief executive, has championed the new ordinance and defended the subpoenas despite the fact none of the pastors named in the order are a party to the legal action in the case.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a motion on behalf of the pastors to quash the order, calling it a "witch hunt."
Last week, a revised subpoena was issued targeting the pastor's "speeches" instead of sermons, but is otherwise essentially the same.
Echoing the call-to-arms of Cpt. John Parker, who commanded the Lexington military during the American Revolution, White told his congregation Sunday that "pulpit freedom" is essential.
Christians need to "stand by 100 percent the freedom of the pulpit to say whatever it wants to say and whenever it wants to say it," White said.
Preaching to a larger-than-average crowd of nearly 1,000, White told his congregation the country was not founded on principles of religious freedom, but often Baptists and other Christians found themselves on the outs with a state-run church established in early America.
Long before Roger Williams started a colony in Rhode Island establishing free religious expression for anyone—and in 1639 founded the first Baptist church on American soil, White said—the issue of religious freedom was a rallying point.
When James Madison finally sorted out the language in 1789—and the real issues, White said the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights resulted in the First Amendment directing congress to "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Calling the move by Houston's attorney a "very dangerous path to take," White said historically tyrants that want to control the population always end up at the pulpit.
"This is the path that ends in death," White said.
Upfront about his own agenda, White said he wants to influence how people think.
"I want you to think biblically. I want you to have a biblical worldview," he said.
Predicting pastors who preach against homosexuality will be the first to be arrested under new "hate crimes" laws, he said much groundwork already has been done to "silence the pulpit and to hinder the freedom of the pulpit."
For those who say Christians need to obey government, he said that is true unless the government has stepped into the role God has given to someone else.
As for staying in line out of fear of losing a 501(c)3 status, that is largely based on misinformation, the pastor said, and he believes not only does his congregation not need it to avoid being taxed, but that any congregation in America is in the same situation.
"The government cannot come in and say, 'We are going to tax the congregation,'" White said. "The congregation is tax exempt by its very nature. That would be against the First Amendment. ... The government can never come in to a congregation like ours and require it to have a designation."
Interrupted by several rounds of applause, White shared four commitments as a pastor and an individual:
- "Never, never, never will one red cent of your offerings be given to any government entity in the United States of America."
- "I will never give so much as a jot or a tittle of a report to any government entity about what goes on in the ministry of this church," he said, including sermon notes, power point presentations, membership records, Sunday School reports, etc. "We are going to be free from all forms of government intervention from now and forever more, so help me God."
- "I will also say that I will never, ever be a spokesman for the government propaganda."
- "I will never abide by any restraint of the freedom of pulpit by any government agency or individual within the government. If they want to hinder the voice that comes from this place, they will have to do it at the cost of war."
Of those who have ministered under repressive government regimes, and those whose "consciences are hardened," White said, "I have a feeling there is a lot more worry about the subtle spiritual idea of God than the physical contagion of Ebola."
Noting many would like the church to stay inside the walls of its buildings and not "infect society" with its thinking, White vowed to do the opposite.
"I will stand for freedom of the pulpit and freedom of the church and freedom of religion with absolutely no strings attached," he said. "The freedom of this pulpit is not a privilege granted by the U.S. government. The freedom of this pulpit is granted unto God."
ANOTHER SUNDAY SERMON, NOV. 2
White told Christian Examiner he was greatly influenced to pen his blog, "Attention Mayor Parker: Never, Never, Never," and to change his regular sermon, after reading an article on the Houston issue by FOX News reporter Todd Starnes.
Starnes is speaking at First Baptist Church in Katy, Sunday, Nov. 2 at 10:45 a.m., and later will join Tony Perkins and others at "I Stand Sunday" a rally in support of the "Houston Five" at Grace Church in Houston.
"No national journalist has done a more thorough job of presenting the alarming rise of our government's animosity toward the Christian faith than Todd Starnes. Todd's work has consistently brought awareness and provoked action in both the pulpit and the pew," White said. "His informative article on the Houston subpoena was the impetus that caused me to recently change my scheduled sermon and preach a call to action and awareness about pulpit freedom issues."
White recommended Starnes' new book, God Less America. "We ignore the facts at our own peril," he said.