Looking at the largest issues of concern to Lubbock voters, first up: How has Pope represented and reflected the values of Lubbock residents?

Sacredness of Life

Lubbock is unique, even in a state where 90 percent are Christian. Lubbock is known for its strong conservative Christian values and has the largest number of churches per capita of anywhere in the entire country. The first principle of the Lubbock County Republican Party Platform is, “We believe in the sanctity of human life, created in the image of God, which should be protected from fertilization until natural death.” Mayor Pope’s re-election campaign signs say he’s a conservative Republican, and he said he’s pro-life, but what do his words and actions demonstrate?

A letter on August 25 from three Texas legislators to Mayor Pope and the city council called on them to enact an ordinance declaring Lubbock a sanctuary city for the unborn. The proposed ordinance followed those of 14 other Texas cities that have adopted the pro-life sanctuary status. Yet, Pope made no mention of it at the city council meeting.

More than 5,000 Lubbock residents signed a petition and hundreds gathered outside the city council meeting on September 8 in support of the sanctuary ordinance. But, again, no mention was made by the mayor during the meeting.

Finally, Pope was asked about it by radio host Chad Hasty on September 10. Mayor Pope then told the public he’d passed the issue off to the legal department and the City would talk about it in executive session later in the month. Pope went on to explain his hesitancy of the ordinance, equating any City restrictions on the nation’s largest abortion provider wanting to open a center in Lubbock to those against a church or a grocery store.

Comparing a baby to a tomato and an abortion center to a church received instant backlash.

However, it wasn’t what he said, but what he did that was more revealing. He turned the issue over to the law firm Olson & Olson, LLP in Houston. This firm works with various government entities, including the Texas Municipal League, which has a visible pro-abortion stance.

  • Its former associate general counsel, Sheryl Cole, for example, sits on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood.
  • Its Legislator of the Year in 2015 went to Carol Alvarado of Houston, another Planned Parenthood board member known for her activism.
  • Its past president, Nelda Martinez of Corpus Christi, now campaigns for Pete Buttigieg, condemned by Bishop of the Diocese for being an extreme supporter of abortion up to birth. Buttigieg also doubled down on his support of late-term abortion on national television earlier this year.
  • Texas Municipal League and Planned Parenthood also share the same PR firm, Taylor Collective Solutions, whose clients also include Blue Texas PAC, Democratic National Committee, Fire Ted Cruz PAC, Progressive Voters of America, Bernie Sanders, and other progressive entities.

During the 2013 Senate State Affairs committee hearing on the Texas Religious Freedom Amendment, it was the Texas Municipal League with the ACLU that showed up against it.

So, it’s no surprise that Texas Municipal League attorneys would be known by reticent city leaders as the source to turn to provide “legal support” for going against pro-life measures. As in Carthage City last February, Texas Municipal League lawyers advised against the sanctuary ordinance, claiming it could be found unconstitutional, violate First Amendment rights, and risk potential ACLU lawsuits. ACLU and ACLU of Texas have long supported Planned Parenthood and abortion providers.

As an individual member of Texas Municipal League, Mayor Pope would know and support its work. He turned to them for a legal opinion before acting on the ordinance.

What Pope did not do was turn to the renowned experts on Texas and U.S. constitutional issues of religious freedom and abortion rights. These top religious liberty legal scholars had testified in 2013 and supported faith-community leaders, pro-family, and pro-life leaders seeking protections for the unborn. Their opinions found strong legal defense for pro-life measures and no merit to claims of a right to an abortion.

Former Solicitor General of Texas, Jonathan F. Mitchell, represented the seven Texas cities threatened by ALCU lawsuits. Subsequently, on May 27, 2020, the ACLU withdrew every one of its lawsuits against the Sanctuary for the Unborn cities. No city or taxpayer has had to pay any legal fees to fight the lawsuits, and to this day, the ordinance has stood in every city where it’s been enacted.

“Now even the ACLU acknowledges that there is no grounds for challenging these ordinances, and this will embolden other cities and towns to join the movement,” said  Pastor Mark Lee Dickson, founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn initiative. “It is a victory for the sacredness of human life,” said Pastor Keith Hassell of Rusk. Police chief of Tenaha, the fifth Texas city to adopt Sanctuary for the Unborn status, said: “The ordinance stands, and the cruel murder of unborn babies will not prosper in our city.”

The Sanctuary for the Unborn ordinance has now passed in 14 cities across Texas. Dickson poignantly explained the jurisprudences of the ordinance to Lubbock city leaders several weeks ago in the Caprock Patriot. As he documented, any unconstitutional argument is bogus, and the laws of the State of Texas are quite clear in support of cities taking such actions. The ACLU’s threats of lawsuit are just that, “meritless” threats meant to deter and intimidate cities from enacting constitutional ordinances that are consistent with the laws of Texas, he wrote. Or are they just being used as an excuse?

The ordinance proposed to Mayor Pope and Lubbock City Council has even stronger legal language to protect it from frivolous lawsuits, said Senator Charles Perry.

Yet, Pope stalled and turned to known abortion legal advocates for assistance.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.

Sandy Szwarc

Sandy Szwarc, BSN, RN is a graduate of U.T. Austin and a researcher and writer on health and science issues for more than 30 years.