3 pastors petition state Supreme Court to declare Harris County stay-at-home order unconstitutional

A group of pastors and an outspoken conservative activist filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court on Monday arguing that Harris County’s stay-at-home order, which closed churches and limited worship services to video or teleconference calls, violates the First Amendment, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

The petition was filed by Steven Hotze, a Republican activist known for his backing of anti-LGBT causes, and pastors Juan Bustamante, George Garcia and David Valdez, according to the Chronicle. The group also argues that Judge Lina Hidalgo’s order violates the Second Amendment by not listing gun shops among “essential” businesses.

The March 24 order requires residents to stay home and closed most businesses except those deemed essential, such as grocery stores and hospitals. On Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said gun stores are essential business and should be allowed to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court has given the county until Tuesday to respond to the emergency petition, according to Jared Woodfill, the attorney representing Hotze and the pastors. Woodfill said he also plans to file a similar petition targeting Montgomery County’s stay-at-home order. — Sami Sparber