On Pratt on Texas, I’ve covered the ongoing story in El Paso in which the mayor and council members are facing recall. It stems from El Pasoans overwhelmingly voting against their city providing spousal benefits to homosexual partners of city employees. The mayor and council went forward to provide such benefits anyway.
In response to the El Paso mayor’s attack on a local pastor who has led the recall effort, Alliance Defense Fund attorneys, representing an El Paso church and its pastor, filed suit in federal court Thursday to have a Texas election law struck down as unconstitutional.
The group says that El Paso Mayor John Cook has been using the law to prevent churches from circulating petitions that seek to recall him from office. “Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished by the government for exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “No law or government official can rob a faith group of its constitutionally protected rights just because that official would prefer not to be removed from office.”
Cook has sued several other churches, ministries, and ministry leaders in state court for distributing recall petitions against him. ADF attorneys are defending those parties as well.
The new federal lawsuit challenges a problematic section of the Texas Election Code that prohibits churches from participating in “the circulation and submission of a petition to call an election.” The law, if violated, is punishable as a third-degree felony.
I agree that the Texas law too strongly restricts corporate speech when such comes from a church body (this is a separate issue from Federal tax exempt status.) Many, who have been long involved in local grassroots campaigning, well know that the Texas law has never as much as slowed Democrat politicking in certain Texas churches.