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ADF Challenges Texas Law Tied To Recall Election

Attorneys for the Alliance Defense Fund say that a law that prohibits churches from participating in “the circulation and submission of a petition to call an election,” is unconstitutional.

Attorneys representing H. Warren Hoyt and his church, Jesus Chapel, filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday seeking an injunction that bars El Paso Mayor John Cook from citing the law to stop the church from circulating recall petitions against him. The suit also requests a declaration that the law itself is unconstitutional.

Cook is facing a recall election after he and the two city representatives overturned a voter-approved ordinance that would take away the benefits from the gay and unmarried partners of city employees.

“Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished by the government for exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster said in a news release issued Thursday. “No law or government official can rob a faith group of its constitutionally protected rights just because that official would prefer not to be removed from office.”

Cook has sued several other churches, ministries, and ministry leaders in state court for distributing recall petitions against him. ADF attorneys are defending those parties as well.

The lawsuit challenges section of the Texas Election Code that prohibits churches from participating in “the circulation and submission of a petition to call an election.” The law, if violated, is punishable as a third-degree felony.

The lawsuit states Hoyt and the church, “want to be able to fully participate as citizens within the community, including circulating petitions to hold recall elections, without fear of punishment arising from the enforcement of an unconstitutional state election law against them.”

El Paso attorney Troy C. Brown is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit, Hoyt v. City of El Paso, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

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