Mayor Annise D. Parker
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX 77251
October 22, 2014
Dear Mayor Parker:
I write as one member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and not on behalf
of the Commission as a whole.
I write to express my concern regarding subpoenas
requesting extensive information from pastors who are involved in the Equal Rights
Ordinance Referendum. These discovery requests threaten to have a chilling effect on religious and political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
Although non-parties to a lawsuit can be required to provide information that is
reasonably likely to be relevant and admissible, these subpoenas are plainly overbroad.
They require that the pastors turn over “All documents or communications to, from,
CCing, BCCing, or forwarded to you, or otherwise in your possession, relating or
referring to any of the following in connection in any way with HERO, the Petition,”
followed by a lengthy list that includes public officials, “restroom access,” and “the
topics of equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity”.
A subpoena that requires a pastor to turn over an e-mail to his neighbor about the
details of the Equal Rights Ordinance, or a draft book chapter on the Bible and
homosexuality that discusses the Equal Rights Ordinance, is clearly overbroad. Yet both of these documents come within the ambit of the discovery request in the subpoena. Both the e-mail and the draft come within the definition of “documents,”
and the subjectmatter would come within at least one item on the lengthy list.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was established, among other things, to “make appraisals of the laws and policies of the Federal Government with respect to . . . discrimination or denials of equal protection under the laws of the Constitution of the United States because of color, race, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or in the administration of justice.” 42 U.S.C. § 1975(a).
Exhibit A to Subpoena on Pastor Steve Riggle, Woodfill v. Parker, Cause No. 2014-44974 (152ndJ. Dist. Ct. Harris County, Tex.) (2014).
“Document” and “documents,” mean all documents and tangible things, in the broadest sense allowed by Rule 192.3(b) and comment 2 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and include, but are not limited to, any writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, phonograph records, tape recordings, notes, diaries, calendars, checkbooks, books,papers, accounts, electronic or videotape recordings, and any computer-generated, computer-stored, or electronically-stored matter that constitute or contain matters relevant to the subject matter of this lawsuit. The terms include, but are not limited to, emails,