Sunday evening, some of the most prominent organizations that work against LGBT equality joined together in Houston, Texas to rally in defense of “religious freedom.” The event, called “I Stand Sunday,” was hosted by Grace Community Church, whose pastor, Steve Riggle, was one of the five pastors originally subpoenaed for his role in challenging the LGBT-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
The subpoenas, which Mayor Annise Parker (D) withdrew last week, were the catalyst for the rally, which largely functioned as a star-studded Christian worship service. Guests like Mike Huckabee, Todd Starnes from FOX News, and Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty preached that religious liberty is under attack from LGBT equality.
The full event can be watched here:
The Houston pastors and other anti-LGBT groups are still fighting to overturn HERO, despite the invented controversy over the subpoenas. They oppose the ordinance because it includes sexual orientation and gender identity among the classes that are protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Robertson opened his remarks with a joke alluding to the anti-transgender “bathroom bill” rhetoric used to oppose the bill: “For all you ladies, in Texas,” he said, “trust me when I tell you this. When you’re seated in your restroom, putting on your Maybelline, when I need to take a leak I’m not going there.”
Many speakers focused on church revival, but some spoke explicitly in opposition to LGBT protections. Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Erik Stanley was on hand to highlight cases like the bakeries, florists, photographers, and for-profit wedding chapels, who he portrayed as victims for refusing to provide the same services for same-sex weddings that they provide for different-sex weddings. The Benham Brothers were also on hand to discuss how HGTV refused to produce their house-flipping television show because of their anti-LGBT positions.
Brad Pritchett, who has helped defend HERO by managing the HOUequality website, noticed several of the attendees wearing t-shirts that read, “We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Homosexuals,” including some children. The shirts included the URL for the website for No Unequal Rights, the pastors’ campaign to oppose HERO.
An introductory video about the campaign against HERO (complete with scary lightning strikes) included Pastor Willie Davis, one of the Houston-area religious leaders who assisted with the petition to challenge the ordinance at the ballot. He explained that LGBT nondiscrimination protections are “special rights.” “The Civil Rights Act of 1964,” he explained, “is about equal rights, not special rights.” During his remarks at the event, he added, “How can you call something equal when it divides? How can you call something right when it’s all wrong?”
The event also included excerpts from One Generation Away, the Rick Santorum-produced “docudrama” about “religious liberty,” including a clip of author Eric Metaxas claiming that American Christians are facing a threat just like Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced with the rise of the Nazis.
LGBT activists countered “I Stand Sunday” with a Positive Impact Day. Instead of spending two hours preaching against equality, they spend the afternoon collecting winter clothes for the less fortunate.