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Texas House OKs ‘Sermon Safeguard’ Bill Inspired By HERO Fight In Houston

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From staff and wire reports

AUSTIN — The Texas House has approved prohibiting government entities from compelling pastors and other religious leaders to divulge the contents of their sermons in civil legal cases.

The chamber used a simple voice vote Friday to pass a measure that cleared the state Senate in March. Final approval can come with a largely formulaic House vote Saturday.

A similar 2015 bill passed the Senate, but didn’t become law.

In 2014, the city of Houston sought to subpoena sermons and speeches by five Houston pastors who opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. The subpoenas were dropped, though, amid outcry over freedom of speech and religion.

The “sermon safeguard” bill prohibits seeking written copies or audio recordings of religious orations “in any civil proceeding to which the governmental entity is a party.”

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick identified the “sermon safeguard” bill as one of his priorities for the 2017 session, and anti-LGBT groups—including the Houston Area Pastor Council—have lauded the measure. But Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, did not oppose the largely symbolic bill.

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