Houston Attacks Religious Freedom Of Pastors; Networks Unconcerned

Houston’s attack on the religious liberty of five pastors created a nationwide uproar among conservatives. And not one second of attention from the broadcast news outlets.

Fox News broke the story on Tuesday about Houston’s extreme reaction to opponents of a new “nondiscrimination law.” “The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa,” according to The Christian Post. Many Christians have opposed it and had collected an estimated 50,000 signatures to bring it to a vote.

The mayor seemed to have moved away from her original position, claiming the subpoenas were too sweeping. “Mayor Annise Parker and City Attorney David Feldman on Wednesday appeared to back off a subpoena request for the sermons of certain ministers opposed to the city's equal rights ordinance, with Parker calling it overly broad,” wrote The Houston Chronicle May 15.

KTRH also said the mayor said the subpoenas would be modified. “It’s not about what did you preach on last Sunday," Parker told KTRH.  "It should have been clarified, it will be clarified," she added.  

The city issued subpoenas that targeted five pastors and demanded an extraordinary amount of information from them. Fox News Todd Starnes reported on Oct. 14, the city wanted all information “dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor.”

No story on two days of ABC, CBS or NBC morning and evening news shows mentioned the controversy, the mayor or the pastors. But ABC and NBC found a combined 4 minutes, 20 seconds to cover (or uncover) a sequel to the male stripper movie “Magic Mike,” and a new “Hunks and Hounds” calendar of half-naked men.

The “Magic Mike” sequel was casting call for a female audience to watch actor Channing Tatum strip and gyrate provocatively at a strip club in the movie. The networks followed that breaking news announcement by promoting a new calendar titled “Hunks and Hounds” which featured, you guessed it, half dressed “hunks” in low riding jeans or form fitting boxers/briefs holding “hounds” against their well-sculpted torsos.

ABC’s Good Morning America spent 59 seconds on the “Magic Mike” casting call and 1 minute, 5 seconds on the “Hunks and Hounds” calendar. NBC’s “Today” likewise allotted 1 minute, 10 seconds to “Magic Mike” and 1 minute, 6 seconds to the half-nude male calendar.

The Washington Post and The Huffington Post at least covered the Houston story, naturally adding their pro-LGBT spin. The Post ran a Religion News Service piece that described the issue this way: “Evangelical leaders are angry after city officials in Houston subpoenaed sermons given by local pastors who oppose an equal rights ordinance that provides protections to the LGBT community.” The story didn’t show the same concern about protections for the Christian community.

The Huffington Post downplayed the subpoenas of the pastors’ writings, saying it was “about the government reading over their shoulders.”

The subpoenas in question listed 16 categories of information demanded, including: “the topics of equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity” and anything related to “Annise Parker or the Mayor's office.”

The subpoenas were hardly subtle. “YOU ARE COMMANDED to appear and produce and permit inspection and copying of the documents identified,” they read.

Dan Gainor
Dan Gainor
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and Vice President for Business and Culture for the Media Research Center