Black Pastor: Gay Mayor's Attack on Christian Pastors Is 'Truly the Next Civil Rights Movement'

Penny Starr | October 28, 2014 | 4:53pm EDT
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Rev. Bill Owens. (AP)

( – The Reverend Bill Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African American Pastors, said the attack on Christian pastors by the openly gay mayor of Houston, who subpoenaed their sermons and other communications after they opposed a city ordinance that allows transgender people to use any public restroom, signals the need for “the next civil rights movement.”

Owens, speaking from Houston,  told that he and other pastors in his coalition held a press conference on Tuesday to support the Houston pastors and express their concern about this threat to religious liberty.

“Attacking ministers about what they preach is way over the line,” Owens said, adding that he thinks the action taken by Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian,  and the city attorney is a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion, and church leaders need to fight back.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, right, and her partner Kathy Hubbard. (AP)

“This is truly the next civil rights movement,” said Owens, who operates his coalition in Memphis, Tenn.

Owens said the gay rights movement is trying to make expressing one’s Christian views on homosexuality “hate speech.”

“It’s not hate,” Owens said. “We don’t hate anyone. It’s expressing our religious beliefs.”

After the City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in May, a large group of Christian churches launched a petition campaign to repeal the ordinance through a ballot referendum.

The campaign got more than three times the required 17,269 signatures required and the city secretary certified the petition. But the city attorney claimed many of the pages had irregularities and disqualified the petition.

Duck Dynasty's Alan Robertson, left, and Phil Robertson. (A&E)

Meanwhile, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, which city officials said triggered the subpoenas – even if the pastors are technically not party to the lawsuit.

The pastors -- Steve Riggle, David Welch, Hernan Castaño, Khanh Huynh and Magda Hermida – have gained support from Christians around the country and on Nov. 2 the Family Research Council is hosting a rally in Houston that will be live-streamed on the “I Stand Sunday” website.

Scheduled speakers include FRC President Tony Perkins, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson and his son Alan Robertson, and David and Jason Benham.

Owens said he thinks this new civil rights struggle will require the same investment by churches and church leaders that was made by Martin Luther King Jr. and others who fought to gain equal rights for all Americans regardless of their race.

“Churches need to rise up,” Owens said, adding that all faiths should be concerned about efforts to silent religious speech.

“I may not agree with all religions but I will defend their right to speak,” Owens said.

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