Texas Speaker of the House, Joe Strauss (R) is a member of Reform Synagogue Temple Beth-El in San Antonio.
— Marc. R Stanley and David A. Harris
It is appalling and shocking that in this day and age, leaders of Texas’ Republican Party have injected charged religious rhetoric into the race for Speaker of the House. Just a few weeks ago, emails appeared calling for current Speaker Joe Strauss, a Jewish Republican from San Antonio, to be ousted in favor of ‘conservative Christian leadership.’ Now another email chain has surfaced, this time between two members of the State Republican Executive Committee, Rebecca Williamson and John Cook, echoing that sentiment. Adding insult to injury, we now have a member of the State Republican Executive Committee insisting that Christians ‘do the best jobs over all,’ and invoking the dreaded ‘some of my best friends are Jews’ line.
“When I got involved in politics, I told people I wanted to put Christian conservatives in leadership positions,” he [John Cook] told me [Abby Rapoport of the Texas Observer], explaining that he only supports Christian conservative candidates in Republican primary races.
“I want to make sure that a person I’m supporting is going to have my values. It’s not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right. … I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all.” …
Cook said his opposition was not about Straus’ religion, although he prefers Christian candidates.
“They’re some of my best friends,” he said of Jews, naming two friends of his. “I’m not bigoted at all; I’m not racist” … Cook was absolute that his position was not bigoted.
“My favorite person that’s ever been on this earth is a Jew,” he said. “How can they possibly think that if Jesus Christ is a Jew, and he’s my favorite person that’s ever been on this earth.
This invocation of religion and dialogue asserting that ‘Jews and other non-Christians need not apply for GOP leadership positions in Texas’ is completely unacceptable and has no place in our public discourse. It is detrimental to our political process and, among so many other things, erodes community and interfaith relations. Unfortunately, this type of extremist rhetoric is nothing new; we have seen certain leaders and members of the Republican Party bring religion into the conversation repeatedly in previous election cycles. It’s repugnant, and it has to stop.
Republican leaders cannot continue to sit idly by while the extremist factions of their Party continue to grow and grow. National Republican leaders, including incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, must immediately condemn the actions of their fellow Party leaders and members and call on them to apologize for this well-documented, egregious behavior.
This is yet another example of how the agenda of the increasingly extremist and growing right wing simply does not reflect the values of the American Jewish community. The GOP claims to be engaging in a significant outreach effort to the American Jewish community, but given that this is how Republican leaders continue to go about it, it is not surprising that the dramatic majority of American Jews continue to support the Democratic Party.”
Marc R. Stanley of Dallas, Texas is the Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and David A. Harris is the President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.