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Houston: First Amendment Does not apply to Christian ministers? Interview with Keith Fournier

The city of Houston passed the infamous “bathroom bill” in June which, among other things, permits anyone to use the restroom of their choice based on their self-chosen “gender identity.” This means that men can use women’s restrooms and vice-versa.

Naturally, the majority of the public was aghast at the measure and opposed the bill. They submitted a petition to city officials seeking a repeal of the ordinance only to have their petition rejected by the city secretary. The petition had three times the number of signatures required for acceptance.

The petition asked the city to either place the measure on the ballot for all to vote on it, or to simply repeal the ordinance. Instead, the city rejected the petition without any valid legal reason.

The response to this rejection was a lawsuit against the city challenging its rejection. The city’s mayor, Annise Parker, who self-identifies as a lesbian and says she is married to another woman, fired back, having the city attorney subpoena the sermons of prominent local pastors.

Allegedly, those pastors could be preaching against her ordinance, and somehow violating the ordinance.

Never mind the First Amendment.

On Wednesday, in response to media criticism, Parker announced she would back down from her request for the sermons, but now she has simply said she will “narrow” the request from the area pastors.

Naturally, Christians, other people of faith, people of good will – and constitutional lawyers – are rallying around the pastors.

BarbWire contributor Keith Fournier, well known to our readers, also serves as Special Counsel for Liberty Counsel, Catholic Online and Your Catholic Voice Foundation. Catholic Online caught up with him after the news broke out of Houston, Texas.

He shared some insights with the staff at Catholic Online which they felt should be passed on to their global readership. They’ve shared the interview with BarbWire. As a deacon of the Catholic Church, a moral theologian, and an attorney with experience before the Supreme Court, Fournier brings a unique perspective.

According to Deacon Fournier, “This action by the City was a shot across the bow.  It should wake us all up to the level of hostility that exists in some circles to the Christian message. We have faced hostility before in our 2,000 year history, this is not new; the Church advances through hostility.”

Fournier said that although Christians in the United States are not shedding their blood like those in the Middle East and other parts of the world, they are undergoing a sort of “soft persecution”,  which we must not ignore.

One expression of this soft persecution and growing hostility toward Christians, and many other people of faith, is the behavior of what he calls the “homosexual equivalency movement”. This movement, though not including all who self identify as homosexual or lesbian, includes those who:

“… not only demand that homosexual and lesbian sexual acts be given a moral equivalency by everyone – but that homosexual and lesbian relationships now be given a legal equivalency to marriage in the civil law. That, in effect, undermines marriage, by changing its very structure.

“Marriage IS between one man and one woman, intended for life, open to life and formative of family. Those who cannot, in good conscience, change the definition of marriage to include these other types of relationships, are increasingly not allowed to speak, assemble, or engage the culture with their values.”

Fournier noted that this kind of hostility toward Christians, “rejects the classical vision of morality and is one more sign that our culture has rejected the Natural Moral Law. It is one more indication that western culture which is actively rejecting the existence of objective moral truth, such as the truth concerning the Right to Life of every human person, including our first neighbors in the womb, and the truth about marriage as solely possible between one man and one woman.”

In effect, Fournier says, “this radical new movement rejects the very idea that there can be any objectively true moral standards to govern human behavior revealed by a Natural Moral Law. The followers of the movement substitute in its place their own version of the world – wherein they attempt to rewrite the Natural Moral Law by substituting a counterfeit.

“They then insist that everyone accept their substitution – or face the brunt of the police power of the State. Now, in Houston, Texas, they are seeking to enforce an unconstitutional prior restraint of speech on Christian priests and ministers who simply insist on preaching moral truth from their pulpits. By calling this preaching of moral truth “political” they seek to impose this prior restraint of speech. This is repugnant to the US Constitution.”

Fournier also noted that “the mayor appears to be a part of this movement. She also seems to have a bias against the classical Christian vision of the human person, marriage and family and the social order. She is willing to use her position to advance a radical agenda that is sadly becoming more mainstream. That includes denying First Amendment protections of Free Speech, Free Assembly and the Free Exercise of Religion to those who disagree with her.”

Fournier pointed out to Catholic Online that “to now oppose this agenda on moral grounds is considered a radical act which must be suppressed! There is a notion that religion and religious expression should be confined within the four walls of a church building. That Religion should not enter one’s public life. This is ridiculous, unconstitutional, and represents a clear anti-Christian bias.It is a form of Religious Cleansing.

“Christians have the freedom to express and live their deeply held convictions,  including in the public square , as part of their natural, God-given, fundamental human rights. Those rights are also recognized – and protected – in the Constitution, specifically in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights! These rights apply to Christians as well as they apply to any other group. We are citizens of this nation!”

Fournier, an ordained clergyman in the Catholic Church, a Deacon, is actively engaged in ecumenical work. He became quite animated in our interview. He says he cannot sit idly by when he sees other Christians facing what he believes is a growing form of soft persecution. He offered this charge to our readers:

“All Christians also have a mission, given by Jesus Christ, to go out and preach the Gospel to all creation. This makes the faith an inherently public expression. Christians who conceal their faith or confine it to the chapel or Church building are at risk of failing that commission. A properly formed Christian conscience, informed by the Love of Jesus Christ, may be personal, but it is not private. It is also is not ashamed or silent – especially when society is imperiled by a dangerous moral decay which threatens the common good.”

Finally, Attorney Fournier issued an impassioned plea to our readers:

“All Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will, should rally around these ministers who are being targeted for suppression by those who now that want to reshape society in their brave new world image and not allow a differing position to even be heard. Let us pray for those who face persecution everywhere – as well as for those who persecute them. However, we cannot- we must not – remain silent.”



 

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