Religious-right groups are taking the highly unusual step of calling a public rally next month at the state Capitol in Austin to demand the removal of Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, as Speaker of the Texas House. This newest intimidation tactic comes after a weeks-long religious campaign against Straus in which Straus opponents have noted that other candidates for Speaker are Christians. Straus is Jewish. Nonpartisan organizations such as PolitiFact have also flagged the anti-Straus campaign for distortions and outright lies.
The public rally, set for Jan. 11, is just one more step in the far right’s efforts to elect an obedient House Speaker who is willing to put extremist policies ahead of the Legislature’s most important work in the coming session — closing a massive budget deficit, tackling election redistricting, strengthening public education and helping working families who are struggling in a difficult economy. Two years ago Straus replaced the last Speaker who was beholden to the far right, Tom Craddick. Under Craddick’s six-year, autocratic tenure, legislators regularly faced intimidation and pressure tactics to force them to vote for policies like draining money from neighborhood public schools to subsidize private and religious schools, gutting the Children’s Health Insurance Program and tearing down the wall separating church and state.