Texas House Speaker Becomes Target For Not Being Christian

Religious Right activists in Texas are targeting Joe Straus, speaker of the state House of Representatives, saying he should be replaced because he’s not Christian.

Straus, a Republican who represents San Antonio, has been the subject of a Web-based campaign and series of e-mails, some anonymous, attacking his Jewish faith.

“Straus is going down in Jesus’ name,” read one unsigned e-mail. Another e-mail, written by a conservative activist named Peter Morrison, asserted that Straus “clearly lacks the moral compass to be speaker.”

Two Religious Right conservatives are challenging Straus for the spot – Reps. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) and Ken Paxton (R-McKinney). In a newsletter, Morrison noted that both men “are Christians and true conservatives,” reported The Dallas Morning News.

The Texas House will vote on the matter this month. Straus insists he has the votes to retain the leadership slot.

“At its core, America believes in the freedom of every individual to worship as his or her conscience dictates, and it would be most unfortunate for anyone to suggest someone is more or less qualified for public office based on his or her faith,” Straus told the Morning News.

David Barton, a “Christian nation” activist and former state GOP vice chair, produced a video attacking Straus. The Barton foray came to the attention of Rebecca Williamson, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, who was offended by some of the attacks on Straus. 

“We all need to work together at the end of the day, so we really do need to take that step back for a reality check – as Republicans we base our decisions on logic and facts, not emotion,” Williamson asserted in an e-mail to other members of the committee.

But John Cook, also a committee member, returned fire, defending Barton.

“We elected a house with Christian conservative values,” Cook wrote. “We now want a true Christian, conservative running it. This is not about Straus, this is about getting what the people want.”

Williamson told the Texas Observer that she considered Cook’s reply “deplorable” and “way over the top.”

“It’s important that we show respect for everybody,” Williamson said. “Everybody should be able to speak openly with feeling, number one, that a reporter is going to call us because we’ve dared to go up against this ultra-conservative machine.”