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The Brief: Oct. 17, 2014

A lingering fight over a failed petition drive aimed at the city of Houston's equal rights ordinance boiled over this week as subpoenas issued against area pastors allied with the petition effort drew the ire of conservative leaders.

U.S. Sen Ted Cruz of Texas talks to the Capitol press about his upcoming to the Ukraine on May 16, 2014.

The Big Conversation

A lingering fight over a failed petition drive aimed at the city of Houston's equal rights ordinance boiled over this week as subpoenas issued to area pastors allied with the petition effort drew the ire of conservative leaders.

Among those registering displeasure was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who was in Houston on Thursday to appear at a press conference to condemn the city's action in person. Attorney General and GOP nominee for governor Greg Abbott sent a letter on Wednesday urging the city to withdraw the subpoenas. GOP nominee for attorney general Ken Paxton also issued a statement on the matter.

In recent days, the city's leadership has tried to portray the matter as more of a misunderstanding than a real conflict. The specific request for sermons in the subpoenas was a mistake, they said — as reported by the Houston Chronicle's Katherine Driessen. The city would rework the subpoenas to take out mention of sermons, even as City Attorney David Feldman defended the request for communications from the pastors that might be relevant to the legal fight over the petition.

It did not appear, though, that the conflict would de-escalate anytime soon as those fighting the subpoenas are portraying the city's efforts in general as an unacceptable intrusion into the pastors' freedom of religion. Conservative leaders seemed confident that in the court of the public opinion, the city will find itself on the losing side.

"In most of the country, certainly in the South, this kind of subpoena is viewed by the public as an overreach," University of Akron professor John Green told the Chronicle. "It would generally be an unpopular move across the religious and political spectrum."

The Day Ahead

•    Gov. Rick Perry holds an 11 a.m. press conference at the Texas Capitol to give an update on Ebola prevention efforts in the state and to give an initial report on the newly created state task force on infectious disease preparedness.

Trib Must-Reads

UT Looking to Make More of Massive Online Courses, by Reeve Hamilton

Austin Plan for Renewable Energy at Odds With Utility, by Neena Satija

Analysis: Campaigning for a Seat That's Not Yet in Play, by Ross Ramsey

Supreme Court to Decide What a Billboard is Worth, by Aman Batheja

Dallas Hospital Apologizes for "Mistakes" in Ebola Care, by Alexa Ura

CD-23 Rivals Gallego and Hurd Tout Fundraising Totals, by Julián Aguilar

Elsewhere

Editorial: We recommend Greg Abbott for Texas governor, The Dallas Morning News

Capital Tonight: Just Who is Jim Hogan?, Time Warner Cable

Obama assures Gov. Perry that Texas will get whatever help it needs, The Dallas Morning News

Health officials seek to reassure skeptical lawmakers on Ebola, Houston Chronicle

Obama May Name ‘Czar’ to Oversee Ebola Response, The New York Times

Rick Perry’s PAC gives $50,000 to GOP candidates in Iowa, Austin American-Statesman

What the 2014 Oil Crash Means, Politico

Quote to Note

“Caesar has no jurisdiction over the pulpit.”

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a press conference in Houston protesting subpoenas requesting sermons and other documents from area pastors allied against the city's equal rights ordinance

Today in TribTalk

A gross overreach in Houston, by Matt Krause

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, on Oct. 22 at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commission Candidates Steve Brown and Ryan Sitton, on Oct. 30 at The Austin Club in Austin

•    A One-Day Symposium on the Impact of the Shale Boom on Oct. 31 at the University of Texas San Antonio

•    A Live Post-Election TribCast, featuring Tribune editors and reporters on the election results, on Nov. 5 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick on Nov. 6 at The Austin Club

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