(The Center Square) – Texas pastors are encouraging Texans, and especially those in Harris County, the most violent county in the state, to vote for leaders who will better represent them.
“Innocent citizens in Harris County are being victimized by an explosion of violent crime in great part due to the appalling policy of Democrat judges of putting repeat felons immediately back on to the streets, while waiting years for trial,” Rev. David Welch, president of Texas Pastor’s Council, told The Center Square.
“As natural as night follows day, they continue to prey on the innocent and create more victims. These judges must be replaced by the voters this election and replaced with those who will actually fulfill their oath of office.”
In addition to blasting local officials for worsening crime and “woke ideology” in his sermons, Houston Second Baptist Pastor Ed Young has been encouraging Texans to vote to restore law and order. Houston, the seat of Texas’ largest county, has increasingly been plagued by violent crime since 2016.
In a recent video message urging Texans to vote, he said, “we need to vote, and to vote for people who will simply be at the service of the people. If there ever were a time in history, it is today, in which the church must speak the word of truth and challenge everybody to get involved in the process. If we don’t, I think it will be too late for the redemption of America. We will cease to be a nation under God. We’ll become a nation under the state. Vote. Make sure you vote. It’s the only chance I think we have to turn things around and to salvage this moment of culture in which we live.”
At an Oct. 25 Harris County Commissioners’ Court meeting, a group of pastors from the Houston Area Pastor Council attended and testified before Democratic commissioners, pleading that they restore funding for law enforcement and prosecutors, which they had cut.
Dr. Hernan Castano, senior pastor at Iglesia Rios De Aceite, said the pastors were standing “next to the men and women who protect us from the crime wave in our city.” Houston police officers were “being attacked by a liberal agenda that is obsessed with defunding them, disrespecting their importance to keep law and order in our society,” he said.
He also said the commissioners continued “to disregard the reality of crime in our community” and wanted “to deceive the citizens with their own lies of saying we are safer than before.”
At the meeting, Harris County Administrator David Berry presented a report stating violent crime was down by 12% from last year and monthly averages of homicides were down by 10% year-over-year. Several officials took issue with the report, Fox News 26 reported.
However, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, in 2016 when there were 19 Republican judges and three Democratic judges, 7,452 offenders were charged with new criminal cases while on bond; 117 violent offenders were given personal recognizance bonds, 33 offenders were on more than five bonds, and an average 21,723 felony cases were pending.
By 2021, under one Republican judge and 22 Democratic judges, 22,610 offenders were charged with new cases while on bond; 1,283 violent offenders were given personal recognizance bonds, 1,120 offenders were on more than five bonds, and an average [of] 50,777 felony cases were pending.
According to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, there were 431 homicides in 2018, 489 in 2019, 658 in 2020, and 720 in 2021.
Ray Hunt, executive director of the Board of the Houston Police Officer’s Union, said that violent repeat felony offenders are continuing to commit violent crimes, including murder, after criminal district court judges release them on small bonds.
“The best thing” voters can do to reverse this trend “is to kick out every single one of these Democratic judges that are sitting in Harris County, Texas. I don’t say that across the board,” Hunt told The Center Square.
The union published a list of state and local officials, including all judges up for reelection, that it’s endorsed who it believes could reverse the county’s and city’s crime trend, including candidates from both parties.
Houston began 2022 leading the U.S. in homicides. In 2021, 473 people were homicide victims in Houston, an 18% increase from 2020 and a 71% increase from 2019, according to the HPD.
While pastors have been speaking out about crime, the Texas Tribune and Pro Publica have been investigating pastors. In a recent report, they “found 20 apparent violations in the past two years of a law that prohibits church leaders from intervening in political campaigns,” referring to the Johnson Amendment. Two of them, they claim, “occurred in the last two weeks as candidates across Texas vie for votes.”
The report appears to only focus on pastors, not imams, rabbis, or other religious leaders, and only appears to focus on Christian churches, not mosques or synagogues. The Tribune disclosed that some of the sources it cited were from institutions that have donated to it.
The Tribune also asked Texans to report offenders, tweeting, “Federal law bars churches and other nonprofit groups from endorsing candidates or helping to fundraise, but we know they regularly sidestep – or flat-out ignore – these rules. Help us and Pro Publica identify examples.”
Welch said pastors are protected by the First Amendment “to speak freely as an individual from their pulpits.” He also points to an apparent bias of the report, saying, “Selectively raising this issue with churches taking biblical positions that could be defined as ‘conservative’ while again giving a pass to the constant flow of liberal Democrat candidates through pulpits of left-leaning churches illustrates the decades-old attempt to silence pastors and churches who stand for the sanctify (sic) of life, God’s definition of marriage, sex, morality and justice.”