Darrow Miller and Friends

A Secularist Inquisition: Houston and Freedom of Religion

Does freedom of religion no longer apply in Houston? Is a secularist inquisition underway in America?

Recently Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church was served a subpoena from Susman Godfrey, the lead counsel of the city of Houston. The subpoena demanded the surrender of “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

freedom of religion threatened by Houston subpoena

I read this news and wondered, “HELLO! Is anybody there? Is anyone noticing what’s happening?” The mayor of one of the largest cities in the United States has shown her arrogance and disdain for the Constitution of the United States by ordering pastors to turn over their sermons, lectures, or papers to the city government for review and approval, or face contempt of court charges and possibly jail sentences.

Riggles was one of five Houston pastors to be served subpoenas in relation to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance – HERO, signed into law on May 28, 2014, by openly lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker. The Houston Chronicle described the ordinance this way:

The measure bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

Known, in shorthand as the “Bathroom Bill,” the ordinance would allow, among other things, people who are sexually confused or who cross-dress for sport to use the bathrooms of the opposite sex.

Many pastors spoke out against HERO and circulated petitions calling for a vote by Houston citizens on repealing the law. It seems that their public support of traditional marriage is no longer allowed in the city of Houston. The attempt by cultural elites to redefine marriage is a “settled issue” and no longer open for discussion.

Here is one more example of the New Atheists attempting to stifle opposing ideas and moral vision.

Old Atheists were champions of free speech, often accusing Christians of wanting to burn books and stifle free thought and expression.

While this caricature of Christians has, unfortunately, had some justification, it was the Judeo-Christian worldview that gave the world freedom of thought and speech. This freedom was granted at creation, when God gave the first human beings liberty to choose against the Creator himself and against their own interest (Genesis 2:16-17). It was affirmed by Christ when he connected knowing truth with freedom (John 8:31-32) and repeatedly confirmed by the Apostle Paul (e.g. Rom. 12: 1-2; 2Cor. 10:3-5).

The Bill of Rights of the United States enshrines a number freedoms not enumerated in the Constitution; among these are freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly.

When the biblical paradigm and virtues enliven a society, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of the press will grow and flourish. In this framework, Old Atheists simply wanted to compete with their ideas and vision on a level playing field.

However, the evolutionism ideology naturally grows the will to power. New Atheists do not want open debate. They do not want a level playing field. They want to dominate the playing field. Their nature is toward controlling the debate with intimidation and manipulation.

The New Atheists support a secular (read atheistic) religion that seeks to stifle opposition, to limit free speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. We see that in the suing of a florist in Washington state, and the challenge of farmers Cynthia and Robert Gifford in New York. Across the country in Oregon Sweet Cakes by Melissa was forced to shut its doors; New Mexico photographers Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin were held liable for refusing to photograph a so-called same sex “marriage.”

These are all examples of atheistic fundamentalism seeking to sweep opposition from the playing field of ideas and, at the same time, trampling on the Bill of Rights.

Even irreligious people can recognize the danger of this. Avowed secularist Robert Tracinski is editor of The Tracinski Letter and a contributor to RealClearMarkets. He describes what is taking place as a “Secular Inquisition” and expressed concerned that this inquisition will discredit him as a secularist: “As an advocate of secularism—including secular morality and a secular basis for liberty—I don’t want my own views similarly discredited by association with the oppressive acts of a new Secular Inquisition.”

We see the same pressure in the IRS discrimination or prosecution of mostly conservative political-action organizations as well as the Obamacare attempt to force Christian business owners and ministries to violate conscience regarding use of abortifacients for family planning purposes. Tyranny is on the march in opposition to the freedoms enshrined in the US Bill of Rights.

The New Atheists can be termed fundamentalist atheists in that they suppress freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. While proclaiming tolerance as their virtue, they are the most intolerant of people seeking to intimidate and crush any who would disagree with their views.

The church has a choice. Christians and their shepherds may roll over and play dead or they may stand up for the natural family, decency and modesty. Pastors are mobilizing in Texas with a “Don’t Mess with Texas Pulpit Sunday.” A good sign for the church in the United States is that pastors and churches around the country are signing up to stand with the Houston Pastors.

At this writing Mayor Parker appears to have backed down. There is no indication that she thinks her impulse and direction were wrong, but that perhaps she went too far too fast for the cultural climate.

If Mayor Parker and the City Council back off, it will be because citizens have pushed back with such pressure as to put a stay on this kind of action. I said a stay, because the war is far from over. This skirmish may have been won by the forces of decency and reason, but the militant atheists will not give up. The battle for the future of the nation is yet to be decided. Will the few intellectual elites rule the people, or will a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” reassert the rights and corresponding responsibilities of a free nation?

– Darrow Miller

P.S. As this is playing out in Houston, Texas, a new story is unfolding in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. City officials have told pastors Donald and Evelyn Knapp that they must performs marriage ceremonies for same sex couples or face fines and jail time. Here, again, is a direct assault on our Bill of Rights that shows the arrogance of a militantly atheistic state.

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. George Alan Duke III

    October 23, 2014 - 10:56 am

    This is when the wheat will be separated from the chaff.

    Ideas have consequences and it is just a matter of time until the consequences of free love will be felt throughout all of America. It is so incredible how the government can attack a person’s value and demonize the person all in one fell swoop! Just because ideas are accepted by the majority does not make those ideas right.

    Our students in Kenya at the CaCHE campus love you Darrow. Keep fighting the good fight. God bless you!

    • admin

      December 11, 2014 - 5:21 am

      Thank you George.
      We are excited for the growth and impact of CaCHE