The Right Lies Again in the TX Speaker Battle

by Dan Quinn

TFN Insider has already reported about the religious campaign the far right has been waging against Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Now PolitiFact offers a clear example of how the religious right is also spreading distortions and falsehoods in the effort to replace Straus with another speaker far more likely to obey their commands on radical social policies.

PolitiFact notes today that Texas Eagle Forum has claimed that Straus “was co-author of a bill that would have allowed Planned Parenthood to control public school sex education.” But after looking at the public record, PolitiFact rates that claim as a “Pants on Fire” lie.

You can read the PolitiFact article for all the details, but here’s the summary. During the 2007 legislative session, Straus was a co-author of the Prevention First Act. As PolitiFact explains, that legislation, which didn’t pass, “directed the state to promote family-planning services for low-income women and required school districts that provide sex education — including instruction on contraceptives — to explain the difference in effectiveness between correct and incorrect use of contraceptives.”

Planned Parenthood supported that common-sense bill, as did the Texas Freedom Network. After all, Texas has one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation while more than 9 in 10 school districts in the state have been teaching abstinence-only or nothing at all about sex education. Yet PolitiFact rightly reports that nowhere did the Prevention First Act allow Planned Parenthood to “control” sex education in public schools. Texas Eagle Forum was simply spreading a bald-faced lie.

In defense, Texas Eagle Forum’s Pat Carlson said her group got the claim about Straus from Donna Garner. Seriously? Garner, you will recall, is a right-wing gadfly from the Waco area who has played a prominent role in helping the State Board of Education politicize public school classrooms the last four years. During the state board’s debate over science curriculum standards two years ago, for example, Garner promoted the claim that Jeffrey Dahmer had been a serial murderer because he “believed in evolution.” Yet Texas Eagle Forum seems to think an extremist like Garner is a reliable source of information.

Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, doubled-down on the lie by telling PolitiFact that simply by seeking to “influence” state law on sex education, Planned Parenthood was seeking to control it. If that’s the case, then Liberty Institute — which lobbies at the state Capitol — is seeking to “control” a lot of policy in Texas.

Of course, control is the real issue here. Liberty Institute, Texas Eagle Forum and other far-right pressure groups don’t like Straus because he is too independent to obey their every command. So those groups want someone more obedient in the Speaker’s chair — someone who will promote their radical and divisive social policies. Never mind that lawmakers have far more important things to do during the next legislative session, like closing a massive budget deficit, redistricting and promoting policies that actually help working families during difficult economic times. All of that makes little difference to religious-right groups like Texas Eagle Forum and Liberty Institute. No, they would rather see Texas burn in the fires of the never-ending culture wars. And if it takes lying to do fan those flames, well, they have no problem with that.