The court battles between the mayor of El Paso, Texas, and local
pastors continue over a recall election petition drive.
The situation began when the El Paso city council approved
domestic-partner benefits for the partners of homosexual city
employees. Voters were upset at the decision and successfully
conducted a petition drive to put it on the ballot and then, via
the ballot, reversed the city's actions.
The city council responded by reinstating the benefits, which
prompted several churches to participate in a petition drive to
recall the mayor and two city council members. The mayor then made
the next move, taking church leadership to court and to a grand
jury for violating a state law that bars churches from
participating in recall petition drives.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Joel
Oster filed suit in federal court.
"The odd thing about this case is the federal court looked over
the situation and said there's absolutely nothing illegal or wrong
with a church circulating and distributing recall petitions," says
Oster. "So in essence, the court upheld our theory of the case and
we think it's going to be great for us in the state court
The ruling does give El Paso church leaders hope in a challenge
before the Texas Supreme Court.
"A federal court has agreed that churches do have a First
Amendment right to speak out on important matters of the day and
they cannot be silenced simply because they are the church," Oster
Meanwhile, the El Paso district attorney convinced a grand jury
to look into criminal charges against the church leaders