Apparently it’s easier than I thought to get a conspiracy theory started. I’m referring, of course, to the idea that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is in cahoots with the Church of Scientology, which was picked up by the national press, in the guise of Newsweek, earlier today.
This rumor arose in relation to Abbott’s veto of Senate Bill 359, which would have given hospital staff—doctors and whatnot—the ability to detain patients for several hours, if personnel deemed them a threat to the public safety. For emphasis, let me say that again: as far as I can tell the rumor arose in relation to Abbott’s veto, not as a result of it; the veto statement was issued on June 2nd. The proximate cause of the conspiracy came on July 14th, about six weeks later, with a curious story in the Texas Tribune that heavily implied it was the opposition of the Church of Scientology, via a shell group masquerading as a human-rights outfit, that spurred Abbott to veto the legislation, which had sailed through the Lege without difficulty. On July 23rd, the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News chimed in, and now here we are.
My take is as follows: Come on. Abbott is a Catholic. If I had to guess he probably thinks less of Scientologists than of LULAC (another group that opposed the bill). He’s also an attorney who spent twelve years as attorney general of Texas prior to becoming governor and, as such, is probably familiar with the intermittently discouraging reality that even if someone is mentally ill, their civil rights can’t be arbitrarily abridged, despite the fact that their concerned loved ones might wish the opposite could be allowed, and despite the fact that many doctors would be glad to appropriate as much authority over other peoples’ affairs as the state would grant them. Occam’s razor, people.
Further, it doesn’t matter why Abbott vetoed the bill; he’s the governor, and the Texas Constitution gives him the authority to veto bills for any reason at all, whether it be constitutional principle, sheer malice, or that his hand slipped on the rubber veto stamp. The line-item veto, though: that’s another story. A story for tomorrow. Stay tuned.