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Steven Hotze’s death wish

I have three things to say about this.

A hardline conservative power broker and three area pastors filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court Monday arguing that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s stay-at-home order violates the Constitution by ordering the closure of churches and failing to define gun shops as “essential” businesses.

The emergency petition for a writ of mandamus, filed by anti-LGBTQ Republican activist Steven Hotze and pastors Juan Bustamante, George Garcia and David Valdez, contends Hidalgo’s order undercuts the First Amendment by limiting religious and worship services to video or teleconference calls. Pastors also may minister to congregants individually.

Hotze and the pastors argue the order also “severely infringes” on Second Amendment rights by closing gun stores. The order does not define gun shops as essential businesses, though Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion Friday that stay-at-home orders cannot force gun stores to close or otherwise restrict sales or transfers.

Hidalgo’s order, issued March 24, requires most businesses to close and directs residents to stay home unless they are getting groceries, running crucial errands, exercising or going to work at a business deemed essential. The directive is aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, and it came a day after chief executives at the Texas Medical Center unanimously called for the county to implement a shelter-in-place order.

[…]

Hidalgo spokesman Rafael Lemaitre declined to address “the specifics of the litigation,” but said: “Public health and science must drive our response, and the science is clear: If we fail to take adequate steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, people will die. We continue to urge folks to take this seriously.”

First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said county officials view the order as “necessary to deal with the extraordinary crisis that Harris County, Texas and the country are facing as a result of the coronavirus.”

Soard said the order does not intend to close gun stores and “we’ve not advised any gun stores to close, as far as I’m aware.” He also said Paxton’s opinion makes clear that gun shops in Texas will remain open.

As for the First Amendment challenge, Soard said there is “nothing in the order that prevents churches from broadcasting” services. He said Hidalgo crafted the order “as precisely or narrowly as she could to allow people to worship as they choose.”

1. If Hotze and his band of idiots were only putting their own health and lives at risk, I wouldn’t care. Hell, I’d cheer them on, from a sufficiently safe distance. But as we’ve said many times, that’s not how viruses work. They would be putting many other people in jeopardy. They may not care about that, but they don’t get to make that kind of decision unilaterally.

2. Even if the courts stop them, Hotze is still working to put other people in danger:

In a video posted to YouTube late last month, Hotze advised that people take multivitamins and not worry about the virus, which he said is “all media hype” and “fake news.”

Hotze then compared the virus to the flu or dysentery, and accused democrats of having “weaponized the coronavirus” to hurt President Donald Trump.

Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist, called the lawsuit “disheartening” and “reckless,” and said it is “potentially endangering lives.”

I’m old enough to remember when behavior like that was considered to be un-Christian.

3. I’ll leave the last word to this guy:

‘Nuff said. A copy of the lawsuit is embedded in the story. The county should be filing its response today.

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13 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    I agree with Peter Linzer and I appreciate that you quoted a U. of H. Law Professor. Dr. Hotze my call himself a Republican but I can tell you that a lot of elected City officials don’t like him. He viciously attacked a lot of the candidates that received the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans. He was totally outrageous. The Log Cabin Republicans are conservatives and the Republican party should have them out front. Not because they are Gay but because they are a strong Conservative Group. His hatred/anger was over the top and was not Christian. I made it a point after the last election that I will call it out every time I have an opportunity to do it.

    Now this doesn’t mean that I embrace the political positions of the local LGBTQ group not because they are Gay but because they tend to embrace far left positions which I routinely disagree with.

  2. mollusk says:

    Even though I realize that earning an MD doesn’t confer deity or even omniscience, I’m gobsmacked by the dross that Hotze and the Pauls are putting out there. Dangit, they KNOW better unless they were comatose throughout med school.

  3. brad says:

    Let’s be honest here.

    It just isn’t Hotze being a buffoon. The GOP establishment actively embraces and spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories from many levels of government to its base.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    Another interesting debate to pass the time. So Peter Linzer says that the order is constitutional because it doesn’t stop churches from having broadcast or one on one services. Yet, the litigants acknowledge this, but state that it limits churches, which it does. It also limits the right to assembly. Linzer is probably one of these who thinks that having a Christmas tree at city hall violates the constitution. Linzer is certainly wrong. This order does “prohibit the FREE exercise of religion.” It also “abridges the right to peaceably assemble.”

    The question is when does the Bill of Rights take a backseat to public safety. And why would a religious group want to increase the public risk. Constitutional rights have been restricted before, this may be an exceptional time when such action is needed. I am still shocked at how people don’t understand the importance of limiting personal contact as much as possible.

    Now as for Mark Boom, mentioned in the post, why doesn’t someone with more power than I call him out? Every day I go in and Methodist is proceeding with its Centennial Tower project. I complain, but of course, nothing is going to come of it. They have a crew out there dismantling the Mary Gibbs Jones building, and this is a high risk task. I think a few workers were killed at MD Anderson doing this type of work. Does the hospital need to further tax its resources for construction injuries? Are the workers maintaining adequate distance during the workday? Why doesn’t Mark Boom care about this?

  5. Flypusher says:

    “And why would a religious group want to increase the public risk?”

    A big part of the cultural identity that the ring wing has nurtured is contempt for expertise. They don’t want to listen to those nerdy educated elitist types with those advanced degrees and allegedly no common sense. To share a sentiment already expressed in this blog, I have zero sympathy for any fool who hastens their own demise because they chose to ignore the warnings. I’d say leave them to the fate they picked, except for the fact that the virus isn’t going to infect and kill just the fools. We’re all in this together, fools and non-fools.

  6. Wolfgang says:

    I have only glanced at the mandamus petition so far, and I am not an expert on the matter, but I wonder about the following; (1) how Hotze et al have standing to make the constitutional violation claim if they have not been indicted/prosecuted, (2) how the Texas Supreme Court, which is the court of last resort in CIVIL cases (incl. juvenile matters under the Texas Family Code), has jurisdiction. It appears that at issue here is a local order with criminal sanctions.
    Additionally, the general rule is that you have to file your mandamus in the court of appeals before you go to the supreme court, though there may be exceptions (or perhaps the SCOTX creates one ad hoc).
    Finally, if they want injunctive relief, don’t they have to sue in district court (trial court) first, and allege either a Section 1983 claim under federal law, or a ultra-vires act under state constitutional decisional law? The other potential problem I see here is that Lina Hidalgo, though being county “judge” did not act in an adjudicatory capacity in a controversy or case, by essentially engaged in county-level public policy-making and issued an order of general applicability. As such, she exercised discretion as a policymaker, i.e. in an executive role at the local level.
    The SCOTX promptly asked for a response regarding jurisdiction, but there were not specifics: Both standing (of the petitioners) and civil vs. criminal jurisdiction — implicate the court’s jurisdiction over the matter.
    See docket here: http://www.search.txcourts.gov/Case.aspx?cn=20-0249&coa=cossup
    Case style: IN RE STEVEN HOTZE, M.D., HOTZE HEALTH & WELLNESS CENTER, PASTOR JUAN BUSTAMANTE, CITY ON A HILL CHURCH, PASTOR GEORGE GARCIA, POWER OF LOVE CHURCH, AND PASTOR DAVID VALDEZ, WORLD FAITH CENTER OF HOUSTON CHURCH, docketed under Tex. docket no.
    20-0249, Petition for Writ of Mandmus filed March 30, 2020

  7. Mainstream says:

    Wolfgang—the choice to start at the Texas Supreme Court does seem like forum shopping. All local courts but one have a Democrat judge, and the courts of appeals in this area area mostly Democrats. A former GOP county chair like Woodfill used to be happy to file his lawsuits in state district court, once even in a friendly family court, but the tide has turned.

  8. Marco says:

    As Paul Kubosh notes above, Hotze is not much a Republican or conservative, whatever he calls himself. He actively campaigned against all conservatives in the city council race last year, because they all received the Log Cabin Republicans of Houston’s endorsements, and they all refused his demand to renounce that endorsement. Since then, he has added even prominent conservative Republicans like Dan Crenshaw to his hit list for similar reasons, preferring their defeat to a Democrat in 2020. Hotze is not for Republicans, he is not for conservatives, and he is not even for all Christians. Hotze us just for himself. The good news: A growing number of Republicans, conservatives, and Christians are seeing this, and telling him to go take a hike.

  9. C.L. says:

    “The question is when does the Bill of Rights take a backseat to public safety.”

    It (most recently) started to take a backseat on Sept 12th, 20011, when we started midnight renditions of suspected terrorists and then spent a couple months waterboarding them…in the name of public safety.

  10. Joel says:

    ““The question is when does the Bill of Rights take a backseat to public safety.”

    It (most recently) started to take a backseat on Sept 12th, 20011, when we started midnight renditions of suspected terrorists and then spent a couple months waterboarding them…in the name of public safety.”

    Actually, this is an ongoing exercise and the nature of rights in general. They tend to run up against each other and often conflict with other of society’s priorities. This is basically one of the most important jobs of the court system – to sort out those competing claims. Dating to the existence of courts.

  11. Wolfgang says:

    UPDATE on Steven Hotze, M.D. et at v. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

    This is the constitutional challenge by Hotze/Jared R. Woodfill [the et-als are various pastors] to the Harris County stay-at-home order filed directly in the Texas Supreme Court, using the highly unusual vehicle of a petition for writ of mandamus WITHOUT A PRIOR TRIAL COURT CASE as a predicate, or a prior court-of-appeals mandamus denial, for that matter.

    The relevant facts are based on unauthenticated documents (attached to Hotze’s petition) and affidavits (attached to response filed on behalf of Respondent Lina Hidalgo by the County Attorney). Neither side has expressly and exhaustively addressed the jurisdictional issues.

    The Court is now pondering an additional jurisdictional issue, and basis for dismissing the case for want of jurisdiction: The proposition that Hotze’s challenge to the Harris County order is moot (at least with respect to the specific constitutional arguments made by the petitioners) because the Governor’s more recent order purports to trump (preempt) the local order with respect to churches to the extent it is inconsistent.

    The Court, through its Clerk, today (4/2/2020) requested letter briefing on whether Governor Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-14 moots the petition for writ of mandamus filed under SCOTX No. 20-0249, and has distributed an e-letter to the parties to that effect. It’s not yet on the electronic docket, but should appear some time after midnight, when all the docket information is updated globally, with hyperlinks to PDFs added a few hours later.
    http://www.search.txcourts.gov/Case.aspx?cn=20-0249&coa=cossup

    Briefing deadline is Monday, April 6, 2020 at noon.

  12. Mainstream says:

    Of course the lawsuit is now moot.

    I have to wonder if the preachers bringing this claim are concerned that their income will drop drastically if their congregations do not meet in person every week.

  13. […] story. As noted before, this order explicitly exempts churches from the restrictions, to appease sociopathic nihilists like Steven Hotze. Who, by the way, in addition to filing that writ of mandamus with the Supreme Court is also […]