Did a popular Texas pastor flip-flop and come out in support of a controversial "gay ordinance" that would penalize those who may have spoken out against homosexuality in past? That's what a local news outlet claimed recently -- but now the pastor's camp tells TheBlaze it isn't true.
Recently, questions emerged after the San Antonio News-Express reported that Pastor John Hagee, a prominent Christian preacher who has spoken out openly against San Antonio's proposed non-discrimination amendments, flip-flopped from the pulpit and changed his stance. But the outlet has been forced to amend its story.
As TheBlaze previously reported, furor erupted over the city's proposed non-discrimination ordinance -- which would have essentially banned any citizen who has shown a bias in "word or deed" in the areas of sexual orientation and sexual identity from serving on local government commissions would seemingly prevent traditional marriage supporters from serving in public roles. It sparked questions about how the local government there will treat Christians and others who reject same-sex marriage.
If you're looking for a refresher on the non-discrimination clause, here's more on the initial debate:
The most recent development surrounding the ordinance began on Sunday, when the San Antonio Express-News issued a surprising claim that Hagee, who previously voiced opposition to the ordinance, is now endorsing the measure -- and that he announced his change-of-heart during church services over the weekend. A statement from the pastor that was issued to TheBlaze on Monday seemingly contradicts the claim.
In it, Hagee noted that he has not endorsed the measure and that he merely told his congregation that he is encouraged by the changes that were made to the contentious language. His comments, he charged, were simply not meant to be seen as an endorsement.
"The San Antonio Express News has corrected their misleading headline and the erroneous assertion that I supported this city ordinance," Hagee said in his statement.
Initially, the outlet reported that Hagee confirmed to his church that the controversial language that was making waves has been removed from the proposed changes to the non-discrimination clause. The preacher apparently also told parishioners that he had met with Councilman Diego Bernal, who proposed the non-discrimination protections in the first place, to dialogue about the text amendments before issuing his ideological reversal.
In his press release, though, Hagee clarified what unfolded.
"After speaking with San Antonio City Councilman Bernal, it was explained to me that the portions of the proposed ordinance that were most offensive to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, with respect to people of faith being able to serve on the San Antonio City Council, were deleted," he said. "This is a significant victory for people of faith who oppose the ordinance. I understand other concerns remain, and I encourage those who share these concerns to continue their efforts to ensure that this ordinance will in no way discriminate against people of faith."
So, rather than an endorsement, it seems Hagee was simply dropping his overtly vocal opposition. As a result, the San Antonio Express-News amended its story and changed the headline from one alleging that Hagee endorsed the measure to another simply saying, "Pastor Hagee No Longer Opposes Gay Ordinance."
Hagee has, indeed, been a vocal opponent, making his views known in recent weeks through an e-mail chain to his church and on Glenn Beck's television program earlier this month.
The San Antonio News-Express is also under fire for another piece of information that is being dismissed as inaccurate. The outlet also reported the following in its initial article:
Hagee said he had denounced the earlier draft through his church's email network “weeks ago” and sent a letter to the council and mayor asking to discuss it. He spoke against it from the pulpit Aug. 4 and again on the nationally syndicated Glenn Beck talk show Aug. 5.
Hagee said he changed course the next day, after meeting with Bernal and reviewing the changes with his attorney and the Justice Foundation, a conservative legal defense firm.
But TheBlaze spoke with Alan Parker of the Justice Foundation and he flatly denied advising Hagee on the matter and said that a board member may have spoken with the pastor, but that the organization has not done so in an official capacity. In a press release, the organization spoke out about what Parker calls "incorrect" coverage:
We are contacting you in regard to an important development in San Antonio. The San Antonio Express News incorrectly reported today, August 12, that Pastor John Hagee relied on The Justice Foundation to reach his conclusion that the gender disorientation ordinance is okay. We do not know whether Pastor Hagee or the reporter was confused, but The Justice Foundation does not support the ordinance. In fact, The Justice Foundation President, Allan Parker, testified against the ordinance last Wednesday, August 9. No one at The Justice Foundation has spoken to Pastor Hagee about this ordinance. The slight revision does not make the ordinance acceptable.
The he-said-she-said is certainly worth noting, especially when there's a discrepancy in media coverage. But the larger issue is whether the new proposals temper fears over the potential hampering of religious freedom.
The Justice Foundation believes that the new changes that have been made to the ordinance are still not viable. In his news release, Parker noted that the new version of the ordinance would still crack down on people who show a bias while sitting on a government committee. TheBlaze was able to examine a more recent version of the document this week to explore this claim.
A draft version that is dated Aug. 7, 2013 has amended the original language. While the first portion that proclaims that no person can be appointed to a position if it is found that the individual in question has “engaged in discrimination of demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability," another potentially contentious section remains.
The document still reads, "No appointed official or member of a board or commission shall engage in discrimination of demonstrate a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group of persons or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability while acting in their official capacity while in such public position."
Debate will likely be had surrounding what an "official capacity" involves, as this would, to a degree, silence gay marriage opponents on the job. Some will support this notion and others clearly won't.
A screen shot from the most recent draft proposal of San Antonio, Texas's non-discrimination ordinance
Not everyone will be jumping on board to support the new language. As noted, the initial debate started when pastors and others who hold the view that same-sex marriage and homosexuality run counter to the Bible would be cut out from government posts -- something that critics called a move to impose reverse discrimination.
Even though the new language wouldn't preclude traditional marriage supporters from serving on committees, it still presents some problems, critics argue. The Justice Foundation put out a list of remaining concerns. Here are just two of them:
- This will impact and criminalize the behavior of every traditional values businessmen in the City of San Antonio. Christian city contractors will be required to violate their own Christian beliefs to do business with the City.
- It inadequately protects churches since the religious exemption is extremely narrow, only limiting it to they can hire people of the same religion as them and there is no definition of religion. A Christian church that believes homosexuality disqualifies someone from a position in the church may not be allowed to refuse to hire that person since other Christian churches don't believe the same thing.
The debate continues.
TheBlaze did not receive a copy of the latest version, despite requesting one, until we saw it posted on the San Antonio News-Express website on Monday. We were told by the city attorney's office last week that draft versions of the document would not be provided, but that we would receive a call to discuss the issue.
After repeated phone inquiries to obtain clarifications, we did not receive additional information or answers to our questions surrounding the character of the proposed changes (and we were never called back). It is unclear whether the Aug. 7 document is the most recent, however its contents do show amendments that address some of the issues initially presented by religious freedom advocates.
You can read more about the initial language and the associated debate in TheBlaze's previous coverage of the issue.
Featured Image Credit: John Hagee Ministries