After Dr. Ed Young walked up to the microphone at Grace Community Church in Houston, Texas, Sunday night, the pastor of First Baptist Church had a stern message for the mayor of the city: "Don't mess with the pulpits of America."
Those gathered in the sanctuary for "I Stand Sunday" — a spirited event in reaction to the now-withdrawn subpoena of pastors’ homosexuality-themed speeches and sermons that caused a nationwide uproar over freedom of speech and religion — cheered and clapped loudly in response.
But that was far from the sole tone of the evening.
At one point attendees packed themselves in the front of the sanctuary and knelt down to pray, mostly for repentance and revival.
Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told listeners that "it is time for us to wake up from our slumber!" Floyd went on to declare that "our greatest problem is not in the White House" but in the heart of the church itself.
"We must get our lives right with the Lord," Floyd said. "It is time we repent."
The five preachers who were targeted by the subpoenas — Pastors Hernan Castano, Dave Welch, Magda Hermide, Khanh Huynh and Steve Riggle — took a united tone during their short addresses to the crowd, warning that government has become increasingly tyrannical and less tolerant of religious freedom but declaring that they would stand together to the end.
Huynh, senior pastor the Vietnamese Baptist Church, shared that freedom of speech and religion were the first freedoms lost in Vietnam — and now he sees the "same marching boot of tyranny" afoot in America today.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the controversial subpoenas, which were issued in September, sought, “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.”
The subpoenas were issued in the midst of an ongoing court battle between conservative activists opposed to a recently adopted equal rights ordinance and the Houston government.
The debate heated up when, after the ordinance’s passage earlier this year, faith leaders decided to collect signatures to get a referendum on a November ballot; they ended up with more than the 17,269 required names.
But after the city examined the documentation to see if signatories were Houston residents and had signed relevant pages — requirements for petitioning — they subsequently rejected a substantial number of the signatures, derailing activists’ and pastors’ attempts to bring the ordinance to a public vote.
Activists and faith leaders responded by suing the city, which is what, in turn, led officials to subpoena documents — including sermons — from some of the houses of worship linked to activists who have vocally opposed and worked against the ordinance.
But the public reacted strongly to the subpoenaing of pastoral speeches and between 500 and 1,000 Bibles were recently sent in protest to Parker’s office; as a result, the mayor withdrew the subpoena.
To that end former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called on the "I Stand Sunday" audience to plant "new seeds of citizenship" in America and urged listeners to vote.
Holding aloft a Bible as he approached the microphone, Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty" pulled no punches with his rousing address.
Seemingly in reaction to same-sex bathrooms as part of the equal rights ordinance, Robertson uttered this first sentence: "For all you ladies in Texas, 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."
"America, America, it cannot be said too strongly or too often that this great nation was not founded by religionists but by Christians," he continued. "Not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Check out Robertson's address: