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More proof that the Houston subpoena thing was a concocted campaign of faux-rage

by Jeremy Hooper

On September 25 of this year, the "No Unequal Rights" campaign that has been attempting to overturn an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in Houston, TX, issued a powerpoint presentation that strategized ways they could keep fighting this fight. One slide read like so:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 At 12.34.54 Pm-1
SOURCE: No Unequal Rights Powerpoint—9/25/14

The subpoenas in question are the very same ones that the anti-LGBT Alliance Defending Freedom, conservative journo-activists like Todd Starnes, and groups like the Family Research Council have attempted to turn into a national scandal for their mention of any potential sermons that might contain pertinent referendum instructions. But note that this Powerpoint, issued by the campaign a full fifteen days after those much discussed subpoenas were issued on September 10, never mentions the word "sermons" or even directs its attention exclusively to the five pastors (who the anti-LGBT movement has since branded "the Houston Five.") In fact, this Powerpoint presentation never again mentions the subpoenas in any of its fourteen other slides. They seemed to have found the request burdensome and even frivolous, but certainly not outrageous. Nor did they seem to see the subpoenas as being the "anti-Christian bigotry" that they would later be portrayed as being.

What is clear by this 9/25 Powerpoint presentation (which you can download in full here) is that this "No Unequal Rights" coalition was looking for some way—ANY way—to score points against Mayor Parker and the attorneys working on the matter. That is the overall gist of the presentation: to find a way to undermine those who had both championed the underlying nondiscrimination ordinance and who had invalidated the "No Unequal Rights" camp's attempt to squash it. So my theory is that this presentation and related chatter from around the same time set up a chain of events where they began looking for something—anything—that they could shape into a national fear narrative, playing right into their overall self-victimization game. They honed in on the subpoenas, saw the word "sermons," and knew this was something they could exploit as part of their larger "WAR ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!" scheming.

But the rage didn't come locally. It never does. It took the involvement of national groups like ADF and FRC, and of national outrage purveyors like Todd Starnes, before the "burdensome level of documentation" (which is what subpoenas most always are) was suddenly turned into some sort of targeted, anti-Christian, persecutory witchhunt. And this didn't happen until a full two-and-a-half weeks later, when ADF issued its first press release (Oct. 13) on the subject and Starnes penned his first column (Oct. 15). It took them all that time to realize how offended they were, I guess. But once they found their own anger ("oh there it is!"), they then demanded their supporters be angry—and very much so. They told them they should be, and they knew from history that the could quite easily get them to follow suit. It's sadly easy to do so in the day and age.

Had the "No Unequal Rights" coalition found the "sermons" mention outrageous from the get-go, then they certainly would have said that in this 9/25 Powerpoint presentation. Heck, in the days since the national outrage machine got involved, they were supposedly so stinking mad that they went so far as to hold a star-studded webcast all about the subpoenas and the word "sermons" that was included within. But yet even though the "No Unequal Rights" folks had already seen the subpoenas a full fifteen days prior, and even though they had read them enough to know that the solicited documentation was, in their eyes, both burdensome and irrelevant, their initial and organic instinct was not to be angry about the word "sermons." This is a very telling point. Not a surprising point, since these sorts of national rage machine campaigns are always farces that fall more under the category of performance art than instinct. But telling nonetheless.

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