Texas State Board of Education member Terri Leo, R-Spring, apparently has decided that she is the arbiter when it comes to deciding who is a good conservative. In telling the Christian-right Web site OneNewsNow.com that she opposes legislative efforts to rein in the state board’s authority, she says:
[B]ack in 2003, conservatives on the State Board of Education lost most of the battles — and we didn’t go over and whine and seek legislative go-a-rounds or end-a-rounds. You know, we just went to work and elected three more conservatives and [now] the Board is almost evenly balanced. There’s [sic] seven conservatives out of 15 board members. We do not have a majority.
Of course, Ms. Leo doesn’t acknowledge that one of those seven is the board chairman, who sets the agenda and controls the debate. Moreover, those seven have often succeeded in gathering at least one or two votes from other board members on key issues the last two years. How they have succeeded in doing so is an open question — for now.
But this sentence in Ms. Leo’s response really stands out: “There’s [sic] seven conservatives out of 15 board members.” Just seven conservatives? Really?
Ms. Leo clearly doesn’t see fellow Republicans Bob Craig of Lubbock, Pat Hardy of Fort Worth or Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas as sufficiently conservative. After all, they wouldn’t vote to force students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution in their public school science classrooms. So it means nothing to Ms. Leo that all three are longtime Republican officeholders.
Mr. Craig? Last we checked, Lubbock voters weren’t in the habit of electing liberals. He has had a solidly conservative voting record. So has Ms. Hardy, who still brags about her Barry Goldwater pin, which she got back when voting Republican in Texas was a very lonely affair.
And Ms. Miller? The same Ms. Miller who, with her husband Vance, has donated for decades to conservative Republican candidates? Who Republican Gov. Rick Perry appointed twice to serve as state board chair? Who Anne Newman of the hard-right Justice Foundation in San Antonio has praised as helping “build conservative leadership in Texas”? Who William Lutz of the far-right Lone Star Report has also proudly called a “conservative Republican”? Yes, that Ms. Miller.
All three are conservatives — but they are not extremists who want to use public schools to promote their own religious views over everybody else’s.
Ms. Leo’s words echo those of the current board chairman, Don McLeroy, who told a Sunday school class that he was one of only “four really conservative, orthodox Christians” who in 2003 opposed the adoption of new biology textbooks that didn’t attack evolution. And board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, has said he is praying for Craig, Hardy and Miller because they have come under the influence of “prominent atheists and secular humanists.” Fellow board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has called on Republicans to vote Craig, Hardy and Miller out of office because of their votes on the science standards.
The reality here is that people like Leo and her creationist compadres on the state board are extremists who seek to destroy anyone who doesn’t share their narrow religious views and ideological agenda. That faction began its rise to power in the early 1990s by viciously attacking the faith and morals of their Democratic opponents. Then they turned their guns on Republicans who resisted their efforts to drag public schools into the culture wars. Now they want to destroy Craig, Hardy and Miller.
Yet we have Republican state legislators who look the other way while this faction undermines the education of millions of Texas schoolchildren. Well, how long do those lawmakers think it will take the forces that back the Leo-McLeroy faction to turn on them? Will they pass the “conservative” test in the eyes of extremists? We’ll see.