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Oh, Texas Republicans. There really is no bottom to your ignorance, is there?

Barry Smitherman, the current Texas Railroad Commission Chairman and Republican candidate to replace Greg Abbott as Attorney General, demonstrates once again why the fight to turn Texas blue is so important. The man who wants to be the state's top lawyer apparently can't even read, much less understand why an organization founded by a neo-Nazi on white supremacist principles is labeled an extremist hate group. In a state in which our current Attorney General has squandered millions of dollars on futile lawsuits and in which there is an active effort to disenfranchise entire communities of people, Smitherman's major concern is that the Southern Poverty Law Center is labeling racist organizations as "hate groups." Because the real victims in Texas aren't the thousands of poor and minority voters who will have one more major obstacle preventing them from voting, but rather the Crusaders for Yahweh. Because that's a corner a Republican contender for Attorney General wants to stand in, apparently.

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It all started when Smitherman's daughter was working on a project related to To Kill a Mockingbird a year ago. The SPLC provided study material, which really got under his skin, considering the SPLC is a radical, racist, communist organization of Christian-haters...or something like that. He then wrote a letter to his daughter's teacher, which was recently posted on the Facebook page of the Tea Party group Voices Empower. From the letter:

This is Barry Smitherman, [name omitted]’s dad. I am presently helping [name omitted] with this project. While I’m incredibly supportive of reading and analyzing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” an American Classic set in the early part of the 20th century in the rural south, I’m troubled by the “Us and Them” study material provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “To Kill a Mockingbird” not only shows us the tragedy of the Jim Crow south of 60 years ago, played out horribly in the conviction of Tom Robinson for a rape that he didn’t commit, the book also highlights the strength and integrity of Atticus Finch, some of the townspeople of Maycomb, and even apparently a few of the jury members who struggled with their verdict. At the conclusion of the book, Harper Lee has given us hope that the South is moving away from discrimination based upon skin color and toward judging a man (or woman), as Dr. King would say, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, however, has a more radical view of racism, hate, and intolerance. A quick review of their website shows that the SPLC considers many patriot, mormon, and judeo-christian religious groups across America, including some in Texas, to be hate groups. For example, the group “Crusaders for Yahweh” is labeled by the SPLC to be a “Christian identity” group and is placed on the SPLC’s national “hate map.” The same with the “Evangelical Latter Day Saints” (mormons), the Jewish Defense League, which SPLC calls “anti-Arab”, and the Border Guardians, which is labeled by the SPLC as “anti-immigration.” Equally disturbing, the SPLC calls out groups like “We the People”, “patriots”, The “Constitution Party,” and “oath keepers” as groups which subscribe to unfounded conspiracy theories and are “opposed to one world order”.

Okay. Either Smitherman doesn't know what Google is, or he can't read. Or both. Or he's just an idiot. Because if you clicked the link above, you can see just from the first few Google search results that the Crusaders for Yahweh--to pick just one of his examples--is not a benign Christian organization. From the Texas Observer:
Turns out Crusaders for Yahweh is a white supremacist organization founded by neo-Nazi Paul Mullet, who’s been in and out of prison and believes Obama is the anti-Christ. The group registered to lobby in Washington, D.C., last year, explaining on its application that it would lobby on “any activities that adversly afect [sic] the White Race.”

The group claims that its “cause is… the advancement and survival of our Racial People’s the true children of Israel [sic].”

It gets better:
The Jewish Defense League is a militant extremist organization linked to beatings, bombings and assassination attempts, including Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, in the name of repelling anti-Semitism. In 2001, the FBI classified the JDL as a “right-wing terrorist group.”

[...]

In 2006, the founder of the Livingston, Texas-based Border Guardians, Laine Lawless, urged a leader in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement to undertake a campaign of harassment and violence against undocumented immigrants. Lawless also continued to defend fellow border vigilante Shawna Forde after she was arrested for murdering an Arizona man and his 9-year-old daughter in Arizona.

Not to mention that the "Evangelical Latter Day Saints" don't even exist. He most likely meant the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), whose leader, Warren Jeffs, is currently serving a life sentence right here in Texas for two child sex assault convictions. Which you'd think a contender for Texas Attorney General would know. But whatever, right?

Smitherman's letter gets even better:

I identify myself as a Christian and find it intolerant for the SPLC to label me as intolerant. Same with many of the patriot groups that have organized in Texas over the last several years. I personally know members of these groups and they are focused not on racism, but on balancing the federal budget and reducing or eliminating our $16 trillion national debt.
Because calling white supremacist Christian Identity groups "hate groups" is an attack on all good Christians without Google. But who woulda thunk it?--the Crusaders for Yahweh, the Jewish Defense League, and the FLDS are simply concerned about the national debt. Phew! Thanks for the clarification, Barry!

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC, has this response for Smitherman:

Mr. Smitherman needs to relearn how to read, maybe return for a comprehensive reading course. The idea that criticizing a Christian Identity group is somehow calling him, as a Christian, intolerant is entirely ludicrous. Christian Identity believers believe the bible is the story of white people. … They think that the people who call themselves Jews today are preparing for the return of their biological father, Satan.
Seriously. Is this the kind of ignoramus we want as our top lawyer? That's about as rhetorical as any question can get.

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Originally posted to Chrislove on Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 05:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Houston Area Kossacks, TexKos-Messing with Texas with Nothing but Love for Texans, and Turning Texas: Election Digest.

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