The race to lead the Texas House of Representatives has taken a religious turn, with some conservatives in the state suggesting that the speaker of the House, who is a Jewish Republican, should be replaced by a "Christian conservative."
Over the past month, in a spate of e-mails and political pitches, conservative opponents of incumbent Speaker Joe Straus have said they want him replaced not because of his Jewish religion, but because of his betrayal of Republican principles.
But several of Straus' critics have noted how important it is that a Christian be named to take his place. These discussions have been made public by a series of media reports, drawing condemnation from some corners and making others in the GOP more than a bit uncomfortable.
In one email conversation between two members of the State Republican Executive Committee, official John Cook stressed the need for a Christian to lead other Christians in the legislature.
"We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it," Cook said in the Nov. 30 e-mail, first published by the Texas Observer.
The contest was never really in doubt, but did spark some national attention when some marginal Straus opponents mounted a campaign for a Christian speaker. Straus is Jewish.
The Daily Show presented the whole thing as a kind of miracle on the prairie, sort of Lone Star history meets Hanukkah. Catch the interview with David Welch of the Texas Pastors Council insisting that his group isn't against having a Jew as speaker. Welch says a person's faith shouldn't disqualify them from holding office in Texas. Unless they're a Muslim. The final scene is in a classroom where school children (one wearing a cowhide prayer shawl) sing as if it were a Hebrew folk song about how the Jewish speaker won a second term.