Texas Eagle Forum, a chapter of the national far-right organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, has released its “Legislative Scorecards” for the recent legislative session in Austin. TEF’s scorecards rate the conservativism of state lawmakers based on their votes on selected issues. Most of the issue areas are standard right-wing stuff, such as allowing concealed handguns on college campuses (failed), requiring a woman to submit to an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion (failed), enacting restrictive voter ID requirements (failed), and opposing the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (succeeded).
But we found two issues particularly interesting (although not really surprising). Labeling the issues “Judeo-Christian Beliefs on Trial,” TEF dinged any state senator who didn’t vote to confirm the nominations of Shanda G. Perkins to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education.
They can’t be serious. To rate someone’s conservatism based even partly on those two votes is simply a joke.
Perkins gained notoriety in 2004 because of her alleged involvement in the arrest of a Burleson businesswoman for hosting “Passion Parties” in her home. Guests were able to buy sex toys and erotic clothing at the private parties. Perkins apparently thought that was naughty and violated a state law (later thrown out as unconstitutional), so the businesswoman and her supporters said Perkins pushed the issue on local prosecutors. (More about that here.)
Senators, however, noted that Gov. Rick Perry had simply appointed someone completely unqualified for a spot on the Parole Board (a position that comes with an annual public salary of $95,000). They said Perkins lacked a college degree and any criminal justice experience. Nearly all senators apparently agreed, with Democrats and Republicans voting 27-4 to reject her nomination.
McLeroy’s nomination for a second term as chairman of the State Board of Education was also controversial. Since his appointment as chair in July 2007, McLeroy had presided over one divisive “culture war” battle after another on issues like sanitized and politicized reading lists in language arts classes and teaching about evolution in science classes. Senators opposed to McLeroy’s nomination said they were tired of seeing him promote “culture war” battles over the education of Texas schoolchildren. Although some Republican senators privately expressed their opposition to McLeroy’s confirmation, none ultimately voted that way. Still, the nomination failed to get the required two-thirds approval.
TEF claims that the votes against Perkins and McLeroy were based on religious discrimination. “Some senators questioned her experience with Prison Fellowship Ministries,” the group’s scorecard reads. Regarding McLeroy: “Some senators found his Christian beliefs reasons to oppose his appointment.”
Those are baseless smears. Perkins was absurdly unqualified and McLeroy’s tenure as chair was a self-inflicted black eye for public education in Texas. Texas Eagle Forum thinks supporting such nominations defines someone as “conservative.” We think, on the other hand, voting against both simply defines someone as responsible.