Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law last weekend that prevents Texas pastors’ sermons from being subpoenaed. Abbott signed Senate Bill 24, also known the Sermon Safeguard Bill, during a special ceremony at Grace Community Church in The Woodlands, Texas.
“Freedom of religion is the most sacred of our rights – it is what makes us America and is what gave our nation its start,” said Abbott. “Efforts to erode religious liberty are a threat to all liberty, and our religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that religious freedom is beyond the reach of government.”
The bill was sparked by a 2014 controversy over a non-discrimination ordinance in Houston, Texas. During the battle surrounding the ordinance, Houston Mayor Annise Parker subpoenaed the sermons of five Houston pastors who opposed it. The Sermon Safeguard bill was sponsored by State Senator Joan Huffman, who represents Houston, and was pushed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
Under the new law, which went into effect Friday, Texas state and local governments cannot issue subpoenas for religious sermons. Religious leaders such as pastors also cannot be forced to testify about the content of their sermons.
“Texas law now will be your strength and your sword and your shield,” Abbott said during the bill signing ceremony. “You will be shielded by any effort by any other government official in any other part of the state of Texas from having subpoenas to try to pry into what you’re doing here in your churches.”