TX court: Churches can't petition government
An attorney considers it unconstitutional that Christians in El Paso, Texas, could be indicted for their role in the recall of the mayor and two city council members.
Citizens fought back with the referendum process when Mayor John Cook and city council Reps. Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega approved domestic partner benefits, including for homosexuals. Going against voter wishes, the city council again voted for them, which prompted the recall election effort and the involvement of Pastor Tom Brown, president of Word of Life Church, and other Christians (see earlier story).
The efforts were successful, but the Texas Eighth Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the petitions be decertified and that "no election thereon may be called or held."
"The appeals court in Texas has stopped the recall election because one of the supporters of the recall election was supposedly a church, and according to the Texas appeals court, a church cannot be involved in a recall election," reports Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Joel Oster.
But he argues that it is unconstitutional to deny churches the right to petition.
"It absolutely is a violation of free speech and a violation of the right to petition your government for the redress of grievances," Oster contends. "The Supreme Court already spoke on this issue and said that even corporations have free speech rights and that states cannot restrict the speech of even corporate entities."
An appeal will be lodged with the Texas Supreme Court. But in the meantime, church officials are concerned that they could be thrown in jail.
"In fact, the district attorney [has] already convened a grand jury for this Wednesday to be called to prosecute and to indict these officials," the ADF attorney reports. "It's outrageous!"
As Pastor Brown and the other defendants work on their case, they claim they did not get a fair hearing from the appeals court, which "made up their mind before the oral arguments."http://www.onenewsnow.com/Legal/Default.aspx?id=1544482