Approximately 250 Christians affiliated with various ministries in El Paso, Texas, have asked the state Supreme Court to step in immediately to prevent them from being sent to jail.
Their crime? Circulating petitions seeking the recall of Mayor John Cook and two city council members in 2010.
That year, El Paso residents passed a ballot initiative banning unmarried domestic-partner benefits. But the city council — with the mayor’s approval — voted to rescind the ordinance, prompting the recall election.
But last month, a state appeals court halted the recall and decertified the petition signatures. Immediately afterward, the city’s district attorney subpoenaed the petitions and assembled a grand jury to look into having the petition organizers prosecuted criminally. According to Texas election law, churches can’t circulate petitions; the constitutionality of that law is currently the subject of a separate federal lawsuit.
“We have more than 250 signed affidavits from local citizens there in El Paso who are terrified that they may go to jail simply for engaging in legitimate political and free speech efforts,” said Alliance Defense Fund attorney Joel Oster. “This is the United States of America, and the mayor can’t be allowed to put his opponents in jail just because he doesn’t like that they participated in a valid effort that he doesn’t favor.”
Bob Unruh has more background on this story.