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Guest Commentary

August 30, 2012
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If these folks don’t scare you, they should!

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 same-sex marriages.

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 Constitution.

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 — — 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 Wiggins.

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. CV

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.

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