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Church Groups In San Antonio Fail To Put Non-Discrimination Ordinance On The Ballot

by Jay Morris on October 15, 2013

in Human Rights,News,Politics

Post image for Church Groups In San Antonio Fail To Put Non-Discrimination Ordinance On The Ballot

Images like this were used by Repeal It–San Antonio to frighten voters into repealing a non-discrimination ordinance

After the San Antonio City Council passed a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance last month by a vote of 8-3, proponents of discrimination mobilized a recall effort to force the ordinance to a city-wide vote.  The website for the effort, Repeal It–San Antonio, contains a long list of churches (see below) involved in the effort, including Cornerstone Church, the mega-corporation run by “Pastor” John Hagee.

In order to have been successful, proponents of discrimination needed to turn in 61,046 valid signatures to their petition, equating to 10 percent of eligible city voters, by no later than 5:00 p.m., October 15, 2013. In spite of the numerous churches involved, the proponents of discrimination failed to collect enough signatures to bring the ordinance to a city wide vote.

Many of these same churches are currently leading up the charge for a recall election of Mayor Julian Castro and other council members who supported the non-discrimination ordinance. Although the group gives instruction to churches on their website as to what they can and cannot do legally, information on various church and organizational websites indicates that they are devoting their resources to these recall efforts.  If true, the churches and other organizations are in violation of the Texas Election Code which specifically prohibits exactly the conduct in which these churches are admittedly participating. Under §253.094(b) corporations (including churches) and labor organizations are prohibited from making “a political contribution or political expenditure in connection with a recall election, including the circulation and submission of a petition to call an election.” If confronted and found to be in violation of the law, the churches and other organizations leading the recall efforts may face stiff penalties, including civil liability to any candidate facing recall of twice the value of their unlawful contributions or expenditures and costs of attorney fees.

To put that potential cost into perspective, after the El Paso Texas City Council passed a similar non-discrimination ordinance, churches there led a recall effort against former El Paso Mayor John Cook.  They succeeded in obtaining the required number of signatures, and Cook sued. The County Court Judge Javier Alvarez agreed that the effort violated §253.094(b) of the Texas Election Code, but refused to stop the recall election. On appeal, the 8th Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the state’s law must be enforced and criticized Judge Alvarez.  The effort to recall Mayor Cook died. Mayor Cook later made a claim to the City of El Paso for $700,000 in costs associated with defending the illegal recall effort.

A complete list of churches, as published on the repealitsa website, which participated in the San Antonio referendum effort follows:

  • Abundant Life Christian Church
  • Abundant Life Church (Randolph Blvd.)
  • Abundant Life Church (Vida Abundante)
  • Anchor Baptist Church
  • Believers Christian Center
  • Beth Simcha
  • Bethany Missionary Baptist Church
  • Bethel Church for the Whole Family
  • Castillo Del Ray
  • Castle Hills First Baptist Church
  • Christian Community Church
  • Christian Family Church
  • Church Under the Bridge
  • City of Refuge
  • Communion Chapel
  • Cornerstone
  • Crossbridge Community Church
  • Crownridge Church
  • Destiny Community Church
  • El Sendero Church (AOG)
  • Faith Outreach Center
  • FaithWalk Fellowship
  • Fishers of Men Motorcycle Ministry
  • Freedom Fellowship Church
  • Gateway Worship Center
  • Grace Bible Church
  • HIS Bridge Builders
  • Hope Bible Church
  • Iglesia Familia Cristiana
  • Jubilee Outreach Church
  • Kingdom Life Christian Ministries
  • The King’s Mission Fellowship
  • Life Family Church
  • Lord of the Harvest Church
  • Maranatha
  • Maranatha Bible Church
  • Medical Center Baptist church
  • Mighty Fortress Christian Church
  • Ministrios La Vina
  • My Fathers House Church
  • New Creation Christian Fellowship
  • New Life Christian Fellowship
  • Omega Church
  • The Restoration Centre
  • Town East Baptist Church
  • Restoration Door (La Puerta De Restauracion)
  • San Antonio Christian Church
  • Solid Rock Baptist Church
  • St. Paul Baptist Church
  • True Light christian fellowship
  • True Vine Baptist Church
  • University Baptist Church
  • Victory San Antonio
  • Village Parkway Baptist Church
  • Westlawn Baptist Church
  • Women’s Prayer International

 

Repeal-It-Flier-with-web-address-Oct-14

Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio and blogger at jaysays.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.

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{ 18 comments }

VeryRevLoggins October 15, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Additionally, every one of these Churches are at risk of losing their 501(c)3 status, as Churches are Prohibited under the terms of 501(c)3, of engaging in any form of political activism. If they continue, EVERY ONE OF THEM should have their 501(c)3 status REVOKED. They are doing POLITICS, NOT God's work.

american__mutt October 15, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Unfortunately most places across the nation don't care.

VeryRevLoggins October 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

If the IRS gets reports about this, they tend to take it very seriously, especially if they get multiple complaints against a church.

jaysays October 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm

It is my understanding that some people have made reports to the IRS, particularly when churches were calling for their weekly services to be moved to City Hall, and then speaking out against the ordinance prior to the vote. At this juncture, there is no information available as to whether the IRS is or has investigated the allegations made. I am not privy to any specific information other than hearsay.

Str8Grandmother October 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Jay, I noticed there were no Catholic Churches on the list. I think it would be a good idea to call the Bishop and get a quote. What is their position?

And REALLY happy that they did NOT get the signatures.

jaysays October 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

The San Antonio Archdiocese released a statement prior to the vote asking for a delay for consideration and changes to the "religious exemptions." To my knowledge, they have not publicly participated in the referendum petition or the recall petitions. The statement they released prior to the vote can be found at http://www.archsa.org/UserContent/file/0818_Non-D

Str8Grandmother October 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

Thanks Jay. I read the Bishop's statement. It's pathetic. Basicaly what it says is the "Well okay, we churches ARE allowed to discriminate, however we want this same freedom to CONTINUE to discriminate against sexual minorities available for individuals. Which is basically annulling the proposed ordinance.

This is what the Bishop's statement says. The ordinance protects us as a church organization. However, we want the ordinance to give an exception to Good Catholics also. Good Catholics SHOULD be able to DISCRIMINATE against sexual minorities. Good Catholics SHOULD be able to fire a person for being gay. Good Catholics SHOULD be able to deny renting an apartment to a lesbian couple. It is basically a nullification of the ordinance.

And of course there is the standard Catholic trick of reverting back to Natural Law. They can't claim Catholic ideology because of separation of Church and State, being hindered by this they use the standard "Natural Law." "Oh this is not because of our Catholic ideology, it's because of Natural Law." All Natural Law is, is Philosophy. And then of course it is a battle of which school of Philosophy you adhere to.

Screw Natural Law, I prefer our Secular Laws, and Constitutional Law. I prefer Human Rights and the rights of all people to be treated EQUALLY beats your right to DISCRIMINATE.

The fight we are having now is the fight of the Right to Practice my Religion. Freedom to worship is already agreed to. Worship away (or not) as your heart desires. What the religionsists are fighting for now is not the right to Worship it is the right to Practice their religion.

However the Right to Practice your religion is not unlimited and unregulated.

I do NOT see why the Catholic Church feels that they have any authority in speaking on anything that is outside of their interests. Especially secular law. Can they do so legally? Yes, of course it is legal. But should they? No, especially when we have established a clear separation in Constitutional Law between Freedom to Worship and Freedom to Practice your Religion.

The courts – including the Supreme Court – have specifically ruled as such. For instance, Reynolds v. United States (1878) stated:

"A party's religious belief cannot be accepted as a justification for his committing an overt act, made criminal by the law of the land."

This has yet to be overturned by the Supreme Court and as such still stands. The anti-discrimination law is the law of the land, and as such a person's religious belief is not justification for breaking that law.

The courts have also ruled that anti-discrimination laws are not a violation of either the 1st Amendment or the Constitution. A business that is open to the general public is open to the ENTIRE public and cannot discriminate against protected classes. There are no religious exemptions. Regardless or whether you agree with the law or not, it is the law of the land and has survived the court system in many states.

Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith (No. 88-1213)
494 U.S. 872
Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF OREGON
No. 88-1213 Argued: Nov. 6, 1989 — Decided: April 17, 1990

Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires us to decide whether the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment permits the State of Oregon to include religiously inspired peyote use within the reach of its general criminal prohibition on use of that drug, and thus permits the State to deny unemployment benefits to persons dismissed from their jobs because of such religiously inspired use.

[snip] if a State has prohibited through its criminal laws certain kinds of religiously motivated conduct without violating the First Amendment, it certainly follows that it may impose the lesser burden of denying unemployment compensation benefits to persons who engage in that conduct. [snip]

[snip] Our decisions reveal that the latter reading is the correct one. We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs [p879] excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594-595 (1940):

Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities.[snip]

[snip] Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).

StanJames March 3, 2014 at 2:36 am

I'm surre tha tlist of churches waS mostly so. baptist / evangelical – the people who justifed slavery as per the bible, have signs on the property – Fear god ( I thought god was abou love)

Terroristic bastards teaching hate of gays now, segrregation in th pas etc

white trash of america.

BJLincoln October 15, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Charge each one and take away their tax exemptions. I think all churches should pay taxes. The money the Catholic church generates alone would be a nice chunk of change. I bet they would not have a problem with the anti-discrimination laws as long as the LGBT population was not included. How sad.

jaysays October 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm

You are absolutely right that they didn't have a problem before the addition! In fact, these ordinances already existed in San Antonio but excluded sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status. When Councilman Bernal introduced the ordinance revisions, they were substantially identical to the prior ordinance with the added classes of protection. They were later modified to exclude language that prohibited people from serving on boards and commissions with the city if they were found to have had a prior bias. It's interesting to me that under Federal, State and Local law, I cannot discriminate against a religion (even if it actively attacks me and my family), yet they claim persecution if they are required to "do unto others" as we are required to "do unto them."

VeryRevLoggins October 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

If a Church is actually doing God's work, and staying OUT of the political arena, doing the truly important things like helping the poor and sick, then they are welcome to keep their exemptions. But when a pastor is making MILLIONS PER YEAR just for being a Pastor (Joel Olsteen), then that is profiteering off people's faith.I am an Ordained minister, and I do not even get a paycheck or living stipend. I do it for the love of God and the Faith. As the KJV Bible says in Luke 18:20-25:,
20) "Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
21) And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
22) Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
23) And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
24) And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
25) For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Papagayo2 October 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

Churches are NOT REQUIRED to stay out of the "political arena". The true political arena involves anyone with the right to vote, and no one is going to abolish that, though some will try it and face the consequences.

This article is incomplete in its reading of the El Paso case history, for it went all the way to the texas Supreme court, and the Mayor of El Paso was denied reimbursal of the $700,000 he claimed he lost in the law suit. He later was found breaking with his own City rules, regarding lobbying for pay.

These churches are also the ones not afraid to openly participate in the referendum drive (which is not an election, duh) to place the illegal-discrimination ordinance (what it really should be entitled) on the ballot. Yes, the number of signatures is not achieved, but that is phase 1 of the process. It's a test as to how the City Clerk will proceed (within the law, or not), at this stage. Note City Clerk also got sued by the Mayor of El Paso in the mentioned recall case in this article.

Read the pertinent clauses of the Texas Election Code, instead doing selective reading. Your intention is to present partial information to the readers, and then claim impartiality. You can't do that, and get away with it. Also, by the way, read the Texas Constitution or the US Constitution (more you left out).

This is not over, yet. It's just beginning (ordinary people having to do the governing, because government is corrupt.)

jaysays October 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The El Paso case was representative of potential damages that can be claimed and the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the appeal. Until that happens, the US Constitution and Texas Constitution are considered to have been interpreted by the lower court and the law deemed constitutional, therefore no such analysis is required. The briefings in the Supreme Court case are publicly available at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/ebriefs/fil….

You state: "Read the pertinent clauses of the Texas Election Code, instead doing selective reading." Said code (in its entirety) is available at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/EL/htm…. You will note that Sec. 253.094 does not require participation in an ELECTION (as you imply), but specifically states that it includes "circulation and submission of a petition to call an election."

Papagayo2 October 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Yes, Mr. Jay,
The Texas Election Code is available on-line. That is how I read it. But the question is whether YOU read it. . . or only read the part you like.

Regarding the Supreme Court, you are incorrect. The Texas Supreme Court has declined to hear the EL PASO recall case of the Mayor, if you would simply read completely, instead of reading partially. By that time, the El PASO Mayor had finished his last term. If you want to talk about "potential damages", the EL PASO case is a very good one – damages to the Mayor at that time. His reputation was trashed.

It should be obvious churches which have a 501(3)c letter from the IRS can participate in recall drives (though they might not want to) through their membership. Certainly, their membership, as independent citizens, can organize solely for a recall drive, and if you were to read more of the Texas Election Code you will notice they do not have to form a political committee and go through intense red-tape.

Even then, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) is the controlling case and the Texas Election Code is unenforceable now per our subject matter. The 1st Amendment overrides the obsolete Texas Election Code, just like Lawrence v. Texas overrode some State laws regarding man-to-man 'sodomy', but those are still in some States' code.

The churches you listed are NOT participating as 501(3)c non-profits in the recall drives – their memberships, separately, are. The article above tries to hint otherwise, without a basis. There's no money changing hands. And they are saying: "Go ahead. Sue us. Make our day."

Like you write: "potential" damages. It's your scare tactic, which has been sidestepped by the involved churches, and the referendum drive is not dead, it is in phase2.

Recall efforts can be carried out repeatedly, against the same elected officer, in a timely manner. The City Council majority (and the Mayor) are on record now. It gives us a fantastic opportunity for recall and referendum, and constituents can express their frustration with the City regarding other matters, through these recall drives. We find people very eager to sign :)

Thanks.

jaysays October 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Of course church members can participate in these matters. However, the repealitsa.com website clearly states "Participating Churches" not "Participating Church Members" with respect to the referendum. It's clear, at least through circumstantial evidence such as interviews with local media, that the same groups are leading the recall efforts, being the same churches who used their buses to get people to City Hall, the same churches who posted on their websites that they will be holding "services" at City Hall chambers. Come on… you may arguably be operating on the line between legal and illegal, but it is a very thin line and you are doing a disservice to your church members in not fully advising them that the legal battle isn't absolute.

Citizens United, a relatively new law, may very well be applied to this scenario, but I am not a judge or jury and the facts will speak for themselves. If challenged, all parties will spend countless hours preparing the litigation and incur significant expense that may better serve the community by feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless or otherwise. When/if someone files a lawsuit against these churches or a grand jury indictment for the potentially criminal acts is entered under these provisions, I'm sure we will then see a direct challenge in court to the law and we will see if such significant political contributions are within the requirements of the Tax Code and Citizens United. We can reconvene this conversation at that time.

Papagayo2 October 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm

My church members? Come on yourself… churches have every right to bus their members to a Public Hearing. You might get a hint from the word "Public".

As per the referendum, 501(3)c churches can participate legally. Like you say, you have circumstantial evidence of it being the church members who are helping with the recalls. (I'm starting to think you are actually objective, but partially-informed). Yep. You got it right. What's the problem, again?

Oh, so you are going to now tell churches to go feed the hungry, instead? So, is your stand not one of legality anymore? We are not afraid, we have Citizens United (no pun intended) on our side. Ha!

We are not operating on-the-line. We are operating under the US Constitution. Churches waited this long to start the referendum because they consulted with lawyers. Their memberships organize separately for the recalls.

Recalls are fun! The opposition was dumb enough to go on-record :) Check!

jaysays October 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Listen, I have no standing to sue and no advantage comes my way should anyone with standing seek to challenge these groups. I understand you are sore that you got maybe 20K signatures and needed over 60K, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t pretend you are enlightened and I am “uninformed.” If you truly believe that Citizens United protects you and that is the advice of your lawyers, then so be it. I only have a decade and a half of civil litigation experience to know that, whether Citizens United is later applied to this scenario or not, a legal battle is possible and it will be extremely costly to all parties involved should it arise. There are obvious Chapter 27 issues and you might withstand the suit, but it doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. You are attempting to walk on water and being unrealistic while accusing me of being partial (even though I don’t deny I’m partial to equal access). Here’s a tip to help you and your lawyers – research when circumstantial evidence becomes relevant in a civil cause of action and what elements of that cause of action must be met. You will quickly see that you are not immune from litigation and may have liability exposure. This isn’t a scare tactic, it’s a fact. Can that exposure be overcome? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve seen a dozen cases claiming these “rights” and some get thrown out and some continue for years – all of them costing those involved substantially – in money, time and energy.

James_M_Martin October 19, 2013 at 7:42 am

Hagee, a Dominionist evangelical, distinguished himself a few years ago when he pronounced Hurricane Katrina "God's vengeance on New Orleans" for hosting gay events such as Southern Decadence. No one bothered to tell him that post hoc reasoning was unreasonable. Dominionists believe that a nation's laws must follow biblical injunctions, and we know from that that if they get their way and replace democracy with theocracy, homosexuals will be imprisoned or stoned. But will shrimp and oysters be outlawed too? Will Hagee grow a beard? The trouble with Dominionism is not that its founder's name is Rushdoony (some might come along and claim that the "d" in the name should really be an "l"), but that the future they envision is to them a foregone conclusion. Hagee and other pesters — er, I mean pastors — send congregants' money to radical right wingnut groups in Israel to open up new settlements on formerly Palestinian lands so that biblical "prophecy" can come about. No one bothered to tell them that John of Patmos, in writing his Book of Revelations, had Nero Caesar in mind as "the Great Beast 666": he was writing in isopsephia, a kind of Greek letter-number code because, had his message been intercepted by Romans, the bearer, sender, and recipient would have been crucified. Such people as Hagee are clearly delusional, believing as they do that Adam saddled and rode dinosaurs and that Eve talked to a snake. I don't know about you but I think dinosaurs are a hundred million years old, not 6,000, and I have never met a snake that could talk.

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