We suspect Barry Smitherman might find that headline a bit unfair. But maybe the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission should spend a little time researching the organizations he almost reflexively chooses to defend.
The Texas Observer is reporting that Smitherman, who is seeking the Republican nomination next year to replace Greg Abbott as Texas attorney general, is upset that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has identified various “patriot, mormon and judeo-christian religious groups” as hate groups.
Apparently, last year Smitherman sent a letter to his daughter’s school, complaining about materials from the SPLC used in a classroom lesson about the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The SPLC “has a more radical view of racism, hate, and intolerance,” Smitherman wrote.
“I identify myself as a Christian and find it intolerant for the SPLC to label me as intolerant. Same with many of the patriot groups that have organized in Texas over the last several years. I personally know members of these groups and they are focused not on racism, but on balancing the federal budget and reducing or eliminating our $16 trillion national debt.”
In his patriotic fervor, Smitherman goes on to name a number of groups, including an organization called “Crusaders for Yahweh,” that he thinks the SPLC unfairly places on its list of hate groups.
Well, perhaps Smitherman should have done a little checking into what those groups, especially “Crusaders for Yahweh,” actually do and say. The folks at the Texas Observer (God bless them) actually did:
Turns out Crusaders for Yahweh is a white supremacist organization founded by neo-Nazi Paul Mullet, who’s been in and out of prison and believes Obama is the anti-Christ. The group registered to lobby in Washington, D.C., last year, explaining on its application that it would lobby on “any activities that adversly afect [sic] the White Race.”
The group claims that its “cause is… the advancement and survival of our Racial People’s the true children of Israel [sic].”
Maybe we should give Smitherman the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t know about Crusaders for Yahweh’s repugnant, hateful record (or the real agenda of other groups on SPLC’s list that he was defending). But he says he “personally knows” members of those groups, so…
In any case, the mindless, knee-jerk defense of groups that misleadingly slap a “patriot” or religious label on themselves is typical of too many Texas politicians and activists (especially the tea party variety).
The Texas Observer has more on this story here. Read it — especially since Smitherman wants to be the state’s chief law enforcement officer.