Earlier this month, about 1,800 evangelical Christian pastors across the country participated in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” where they defied the law by endorsing political candidates from the pulpits of their tax-exempt churches. The law basically says that non-profit groups, including churches, don’t have to pay taxes, but in exchange, non-profit leaders (including pastors) can’t tell members how to vote. They can, however, discuss policy issues without the threat of punishment.
The IRS ignored these candidate-endorsing pastors for years due to (what they say were) bureaucratic reasons, but they recently settled a lawsuit brought about by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and promised they would prosecute pastors who violated the law.
Which brings us to what’s happening in Houston, Texas right now.
The city has what’s called the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Recently, an amendment was added onto it that offers protection so that transgender individuals could use a bathroom at a public facility that matches their gender identity.
Conservatives were unhappy with that for the usual reasons; some believe that the law would let men walk into a women’s bathroom (or vice versa) on a whim, some are opposed to LGBT rights in general, Houston’s mayor is a lesbian and some people are still angry about that, etc. They wanted a voter referendum on the ordinance change, so they began to collect the signatures necessary to get the issue on the ballot. According to city officials, many of those signatures were invalid, putting a stop to the challenge.
That’s when conservative groups filed a lawsuit against the city.
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