by Herb Strentz
Halloween came early this year.
The scary people recently gathered at a Waukee
church under the hypocritical title of Iowans
for Freedom and under the auspices of an Iowa
terror group that masks its agenda under the
name Family Leader.
What could possibly be amiss with people who
are for Freedom and Family?
Not much except it’s only their Freedom and
their Family they are interested in. The rest
of us can and, in their eyes, will deservedly
go to Hell.
The executive director of Family Leader is Iowa’s
Cotton Mather — a.k.a. Robert Vander Plaats.
He again promotes his version of the 17th century
Salem Witch Trials — just as he did in 2010
in ousting three Iowa Supreme Court justices
for their 2009 ruling that the Iowa Constitution
makes it illegal for the legislature to ban
The 2012 target of the Hawkeye Witch Trials
is Justice David Wiggins, who was part of the
7-0 decision in Varnum v. Brien.
In news coverage, Vander Plaats is routinely
called a “social conservative,” even though
there’s not a hint of being “social” in his
approach to public policy. Better to call him
an “asocial” conservative. He’s not interested
in the lifestyles and values of those who don’t
rigidly follow his version of Christian doctrine
— when a truly social person would be. And he
says those who are lukewarm on issues and open
to compromise make Jesus Christ want to vomit.
So a close-minded person with contempt for others
is better labeled as “asocial,” unless the press
wants to call him “the leader of the Iowa Taliban,”
which is more to the point than “social conservative.”
Perhaps some might think it a stretch to call
the asocial Vander Plaats and Family Leader
a “terror group.” But, after all, they are relatively
lawless when it comes to following the Iowa
They put more faith in the brutality of Old
Testament laws than they do in the due process
clause of the Iowa Constitution. They ignore
how fortunate Iowans are to have a state supreme
court that has blazed a trail of landmark civil
rights decisions in the nation, or in the world
for that matter.
Yet, the scary folks won in a virtual landslide
in the 2010 ouster of the Supreme Court Justices.
The press helped turn that vote into an issue
of same-sex marriage and not whether Iowans
wanted a government of law, not mob rule. The
Iowa Bar Association appeared not to give a
damn about the outcome of the vote; and a pro-Constitution
group, Justice Not Politics, got started too
late and did too little.
This time around Justice Not Politics — http://justicenotpolitics.org
— is off to a better start in organizing support
for constitutional law and opposing mob rule.
But the Iowa Republican Party is all for Halloween
and judge burning. Not heavy-handed in the 2010
retention vote, this time around the chair of
the Iowa GOP, A.J. Spiker, has called for burning
Republican governor Terry Branstad, although
he appointed justices that his party now puts
to the stake, won’t lose any votes by keeping
silent, so he does.
As for the bar association, Art Cullen in the
Storm Lake Times observed:
“The Iowa State Bar Association is supposed
to be defending the independence of the judiciary
and the rule of law. It issued three paragraphs
of pablum about the campaign against Wiggins.
There was nothing on the main page of the association’s
website about this latest assault on justice.
The ISBA sat on the sidelines as three high
court defenders of the Iowa Constitution were
put down in flames.
“It would appear that the bar association learned
nothing from the last judicial retention vote.”
A Des Moines Register editorial denounced Spiker’s
call to oust Wiggins, calling for sane Republicans
to speak out. But there is little remaining
in the way of rational GOP folks in party leadership
positions. The asocial Vander Plaats and his
Taliban have seen to that.
Halloween came early and will be with us for
a while now. Let’s hope for a Happy Thanksgiving.
Herb Strentz is a retired administrator
and professor in the Drake School of Journalism
and Mass Communication and writes occasional
columns for Cityview.