David Barton for Minn. Rep. Bachmann, not Texas Speaker Straus

Posted on: November 16th, 2010 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

Today our sister publication The Minnesota Independent featured a story by reporter Andy Birkey on tea party favorite U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s relationship with David Barton, founder of Texas-based WallBuilders organization and a vocal opponent of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

“Barton came to Minnesota in 2005 to help Bachmann shape the state’s “history standards.” Bachmann wanted to make sure that references to religion in historical documents were taught in Minnesota’s public schools. Barton came to the Minnesota Senate to give a presentation at Bachmann’s invitation,” Birkey reports.

Recently, Bachmann announced she wants to hold weekly “Constitution Classes” for new members of Congress, with Barton as a key figure. Additionally, Birkey reports,”[Bachmann]’s appeared on his radio show numerous times and she and Barton have conducted tours in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate to tea partiers how religious the Founding Fathers were.”

In Texas, Barton and other members of the religious right have been vehement in their opposition to San Antonio Republican Straus, who at last count had pledged support from at least 120 of 150 House members. The House Republican Caucus reportedly held a straw poll Monday regarding the speaker contest, but those results have not been made public yet. Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka has more on the inside game on BurkaBlog.

GOP state Reps. Warren Chisum and Ken Paxton have also declared their candidacy for speaker.

Texas Freedom Network’s TFN Insider blog has been following Christian conservatives’ arguments against Straus, who is Jewish. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg called foul on opponents, such as right-wing newsletter writer Peter Morrison, for distorting Straus’ record and invoking religion against him. Kronberg said, “Now, the so-called grassroots effort has crossed over the line with coordinated email and robocall programs calling for a true Christian speaker.” (via News 8 Austin)

TFN Insider refers to emails posted by Kronberg on The Quorum Report and also has written in the past about Morrison. (Texas Freedom Network and TFN Insider have been harsh critics of Barton and his involvement in State Board of Education social studies standards.)

The Houston-area Jewish Herald-Voice published the following response from Straus: “Our country was founded on the rock of religious freedom and the Judeo-Christian values of the dignity and worth of every individual. 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.”

In June, Texas political columnist Dave McNeely reported that Barton and his conservative Christian WallBuilders group “distributed thousands of flyers at the [Texas GOP] convention [in Dallas], charging Straus poses a greater danger to conservative Republicans than do the Democrats.” (via the San Angelo Standard-Times)

One beef Barton had with Straus is his choosing of former Democratic state Rep. Clyde Alexander to be his first chief of staff, McNeely said. (The situation isn’t unusual: Gov. Rick Perry’s director of legislative affairs is former Democratic state Sen. Kem Armbrister, for example.)

PolitiFact Texas has evaluated the accuracy of several recent statements by Barton regarding Straus (none completely false or completely true).

Using the same line of arguments, Barton and others such as Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams actively opposed Straus’ initial bid for Speaker, too. In January 2009, TFN Insider said Barton wrote that Straus “has developed a clear voting record that demonstrates overt hostility toward unborn life and traditional family values.”

Around the same time, conservative blog My Call to Rise posted two emails attributed to Barton. One email says, “Given Rep. Straus’ voting record over the past two sessions, it is unlikely that pro-life and pro-family measures will move through the Texas House of Representatives should he become the Texas House Speaker.”

Barton’s prediction came to pass, Straus opponents argue this time around, pointing to a pro-life bill by state Sen. Dan Patrick involving ultrasounds before abortions, which did not pass in 2009, along with many other bills as a result of Democrats’ filibustering of photo voter ID.

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