The religious right portrays itself as a champion for biblical values, but the movement’s political leaders often have no problem breaking one of the Ten Commandments — “thou shalt not bear false witness” — in the pursuit of power. Texas State Board of Education member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, is now doing his best to demonstrate that basic truth.
As a 2008 Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report pointed out, the religious right rose to power on the state board with vicious smear-and-lie campaigns against opponents. As early as 1994, for example, religious-right candidates attacked board incumbents as allegedly promoting masturbation for kindergartners, anal and vaginal sex for older students and homosexuality for just about everybody. They included those lies on campaign fliers that featured pictures of half-naked men kissing — and for good measure, one man was black and the other white.
Now Mercer appears to be employing a new smear-and-lie campaign in a desperate attempt to hold on to his District 5 board seat.
The Austin American-Statesman reports today that a supporter of Mercer has circulated an e-mail to the news media and voters claiming that his opponent in the Republican Primary, Tim Tuggey of Austin, is “unfit” to serve on the state board because his former law firm once represented Saudi Arabia. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail sent out by right-wing gadfly Donna Garner:
In the September SBOE hearings on U. S. History books, Ken Mercer argued that the new textbooks’ coverage of the events of 9-11 must call terrorists — just that – terrorists! He also strongly believes that students should know which countries financially supported the 9-11 terrorists.
Could Tim Tuggey, who has made tens of thousands of dollars by helping the Saudis to scrub their image, be trusted to stand up to the Far Left to make sure our history books do not undergo Revisionism?
Tim Tuggey, with his lawyer-lobbyist connections to the Saudis, should not be elected to the SBOE.
While Tuggey may claim his activities are technically legal, we must ask, “Are they appropriate for an elected SBOE official who has the authority to establish policy and provide leadership for the entire Texas public school system?”
The Statesman article points out that Tuggey’s former firm, led by prominent Republican Tom Loeffler, represented Saudi Arabia in trade agreement negotiations some years back.
“Whatever,” Garrner would say. Remember, she’s the extremist who during last year’s debate over new science curriculum standards circulated an e-mail charging that teaching about evolution leads to serial murder and cannibalism, pointing to Jeffrey Dahmer as an example. During the same curriculum debate, Mercer attacked the religious faith of people who accept the science of evolution and even compared them to slave traders and Nazis.
Mercer seems to have considered Garner a prime conduit for spreading a smear campaign against Tuggey. And according to the Statesman, he also pitched the same smear to a conservative Web site earlier this month.
Now, let’s set aside the sheer nuttiness of this charge by a sitting State Board of Education member against an opponent. We think most Texans will easily see that claim for the desperation it represents. We’ll ask this: does Mercer really want to get into a debate over which candidate cares more about protecting America? Tuggey served as an officer in the U.S. Army. Mercer was an Eagle Scout who in January voted to end a public hearing on proposed new social studies curriculum standards while military veterans — in uniform — were still waiting patiently to address the state board about their concerns. Mercer then left for the evening while a handful of board members stayed behind to listen to testimony from those veterans and others who had waited all day to address their elected officials.
The Texas Freedom Network has not — and will not — endorse candidates in the March 2 Republican and Democratic primaries. But we will, as we have since our founding 15 years ago, continue to point out the outrageously dishonest and vicious tactics the religious right has used on its road to power in Texas. And Ken Mercer has now shown that he, too, will use those tactics and lower himself to any level to win an election.
Garner’s e-mail pleads with voters to support Mercer “and allow him to continue to represent strong conservative values in public education all across our great state!” “Conservative values”? We think most Texans — conservative or not — would now laugh at the suggestion that Mercer is interested in anything other than winning re-election at any cost, including his own honor.