Bob Vander Plaats calls for border ‘justice and mercy’ in NYTimes

The FAMiLY LEADER President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats wrote an op-ed published by The New York Times, calling upon American authorities to enforce immigration policy with both “justice and mercy.”

The news media has inundated the American public with heartbreaking stories of children being separated from their parents after crossing the U.S./Mexico border illegally. Some stories report federal agents acting with outright cruelty.

The Trump administration, however, asserts it is only enforcing the law, and parents who break the law will naturally be separated from their children before being sent to jail.

Vander Plaats argues the government can secure the American border and honor American values at the same time: “We can have justice with mercy. It is possible to be ‘tough on illegal immigration’ without being cruel to illegal immigrants.”

And while many voices in Washington, D.C., and on the news point fingers and assign blame, Vander Plaats insists all parties should set aside the partisan game to do what’s right.

“Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the Department of Justice’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy of border enforcement, we can all call on our government to do better. We can demand that the government deliver justice consistent with our values,” Vander Plaats writes. “President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Congress: Fix this.”

Citing the Bible’s Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” – Vander Plaats asserts, “That means we should execute justice, yes. But not with the kind of cruelty we’re reading about from the border with Mexico. … We’re a better country than that.”

Read Bob Vander Plaats’ full column, “Cruelty at the Border Is Not Justice,” on The New York Times website by clicking here.

Bob previously wrote a USA Today column about solutions to America’s immigration woes in February 2018. Click here to read the USA Today column.




STATEMENT: Judge rules taxpayers must pay for sex-change surgeries

A judge today ruled against state regulations that ban Medicaid dollars from paying for transgender-related transition services and sex-reassignment surgery.

The presumed result will be that Iowa taxpayers will soon begin paying for “sex-change” surgeries that the Department of Human Services had previously ruled “cosmetic” and medically unnecessary.

But according to the Iowa District Court for Polk County judge’s ruling, DHS attorneys did not even argue whether such services are a justified taxpayer expense. The ruling repeats that attorneys “offered no dispute” to claims the procedures are medically necessary and left their opponents’ arguments “unrefuted by any evidence.”

According to the ruling, “[Plaintiffs argue that] a person’s gender identity is developed early in childhood, has a strong biological basis, cannot be altered, and is not subject to change through outside influence, [and the] DHS does not refute this issue.”

In the end, the judge ruled the DHS could not deny a supposedly “medically necessary” procedure.

In response to the case and its ruling, The FAMiLY LEADER has issued the following statement:

“The real issues – whether transgenderism is biologically fixed and immutable and whether sex-reassignment surgery is medically necessary – weren’t even debated in this case, but conceded by the DHS. Therefore, our disagreement isn’t with the judge, but with the defense. For we believe God designed human biology and that embracing Christ and His design for our lives is the surest path to healing and happiness.”




The Timeless Voice: We have a higher hope than U.S. law

Every day we see the problems facing our country – drug abuse, violence, crime, education woes, and so on. And though we often point the finger at external circumstances, the root of each of these problems is the sinful heart of man. No one is immune from sin, and we can see its fruit all around us.

Throughout history, people have tried to control and contain this sin through laws. A just society must. Yet laws alone fail to resolve the root problem. Laws can provide guidelines and restrictions, but they cannot change the heart of man. Man-made laws will continue to fall short of the solutions we really need as long as we continue to fall short of holiness.

We can see the shortcomings of the law most especially as we look at ancient Israel. The Israelites were blessed by perfect law from the Holy God. Yet, Israel still faced enormous problems in their own nation. Their hearts were still wicked, and so the problems persisted.

The perfect law was unable to do what only God can accomplish, to give God’s people new hearts. God promised this inner transformation to Israel through the Prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Only after this transformation would Israel have the power to obey the law.

If God’s perfect law could not sanctify Israel, then certainly, our laws cannot sanctify America.

That is not to say we should ignore the legislative process entirely. As Paul explained, the law is a guide and a moral teacher (Galatians 3:24). Without the law we would not know we need a Savior (Romans 7).

The problem arises, however, when we put our hope for cultural transformation into worldly solutions. We cannot put our focus, our passion, or our hope into changing laws. It cannot become our “gospel.” Rather, we must focus on the only true and lasting change, a transformed life through the salvation of Jesus Christ.

True transformation will only come by witnessing the gospel and one-on-one discipleship. America will be transformed one person at time. Yes, it is more work than just passing a law, but it is the example that Christ set for us. When we all do our part as the body of Christ, we will be amazed at how much impact we can have in our communities, state, and nation.

If we are to engage in legislation, let us use it as a tool to witness the gospel. Let us use law to point to people’s need for a Savior and a deeper transformation that can only come through Christ. Let us lead people to the One who has power to bring hope, life, and love — the power to make all things new.

As the famous hymn says: “My hope rests on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”




Victory for religious liberty in Supreme Court cake case

In a 7-2 ruling handed down today, the U.S. Supreme Court defended religious liberty from blatant, government hostility in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

The case surrounded Jack Phillips, a custom cake baker and devout Christian, who ran afoul of the State of Colorado after he declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony, citing his religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings and decided in favor of Jack.

“This is a victory for the Constitution and for the free exercise rights of all Americans,” commented The FAMiLY LEADER’s Chief Legal Counsel Chuck Hurley. “The ruling clearly states the government cannot decide what is and isn’t ‘acceptable’ for you to believe or think. And the government can’t be hostile toward your faith.”

Hurley called the ruling a “landmark decision” that is “rescuing freedom of religion from hostile activists in government across America. It helps ensure people of all faiths – or no faith – will get a fair hearing in court.”

Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion is limited in scope, as it specifically addresses the deliberately slanted and even hostile way the Colorado Civil Rights Commission handled Jack Phillip’s case, without necessarily answering how all Christian bakers, florists, and other businesspeople should handle same-sex weddings.

“This ruling didn’t determine what happens in every conflict in the marketplace,” Hurley continued. “But it did ensure that when those conflicts arise, the government must give people of faith, or no faith, a fair hearing and can’t be hostile towards you because of your religious beliefs.”

Click here to read Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

Click here to read more from our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Jack.

Jack Phillips released the following statement after the ruling was announced:

“I serve all who walk through my doors, people from all walks of life. I’ve spent many years honing my craft as a cake artist, combining baking with my love of sculpting, painting, and sketching. And I love my work because a cake is a canvas on which I express ideas, celebrate events, and bring joy to people’s lives.

“It was shocking to me that the government would try to take away my freedoms and force me to create something that went against my faith. The government’s hostility directly impacted my family’s shop. We faced death threats and harassment, all for choosing not to design a cake that celebrates one particular event.

“I’m profoundly thankful that the Court saw the injustice that the government inflicted on me. This is a great day for our family, our shop, and for people of all faiths who should not fear government hostility or unjust punishment.

“Today’s decision makes clear that tolerance is a two-way street. If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we have to extend it to others with whom we disagree about important issues like the meaning of marriage.”

Thoughts from Iowa’s Dick and Betty Odgaard:

Dick and Betty Odgaard, former owners of the Gortz Haus Gallery in Grimes, Iowa, faced a similar crisis of conscience when a same-sex couple wanted to use their facility for their wedding ceremony. The Odgaards stood on their faith, and consequently faced a lawsuit and were subjected to harassment and threats. Eventually, they were forced out of business.

Dick and Betty spoke to The FAMiLY LEADER about the Masterpiece Cakeshop victory at the Supreme Court.

“We are trilled and delighted for Jack & Debi Phillips! We were privileged to be in the chambers of the SCOTUS in December when this case was argued, and the decision is far beyond our expectations,” the Odgaards told The FAMiLY LEADER.

“This is truly a big step in the right direction for our society, but it is only a one step,” they continued. “While those who oppose this decision are predictably prophecying rampant discrimination, those in favor should be reminded there will still be false accusations to battle. Hopefully this decision will change the legal process for the better.”




TFL’s Capitol Connection: Iowa’s Heartbeat Law faces injunction

TFL’s Drew Zahn, Chuck Hurley, and Bob Vander Plaats were on hand at the Polk County Courthouse on June 1 to witness the injunction hearing in Iowa’s Heartbeat Law case. From the Courthouse itself, they report what happened, why it happened, and what YOU need to know:

For more, including a statement from the pro-life attorneys and the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, click here.

Get YOUR NAME entered into the official court records, telling America’s judges to stand for life! Click here today!




STATEMENT: Temporary injunction in Heartbeat Law case

Attorneys representing the State of Iowa in the lawsuit over the “Heartbeat Law” have today agreed – or “stipulated” – to a temporary injunction prohibiting the law from going into effect on July 1 as scheduled until the full case can be heard in court.

Martin Cannon of the Thomas More Society will represent the State and defend the Heartbeat Law at the anticipated full hearing some months away. He explained in a statement why attorneys consented to the temporary halt in the law’s enforcement:

“I very much appreciate your prayers and support in this challenge before us. After much discussion, considerable thought, and a lot of our own prayers, we have agreed … to place the heartbeat bill on hold until the challenge to it can be heard on its merits instead of in the shortened hearing that precedes a temporary injunction,” Cannon said.

Choosing this path, Cannon explained, “We’ll get to a proper hearing sooner, and our prospects for ultimate success are better.”

The Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, of which The FAMiLY LEADER is a founding member, further issued the following statement:

The Heartbeat Law will save babies’ lives when enforced, and while it’s delayed, those babies will tragically die. That’s horrible.

But the process gave pro-life attorneys too little time to build their best case. And we’re not going to play into that game. Babies’ lives are too precious to put up a rushed legal defense.

Remember, we have to take the long view. This case was never going to be concluded this week. And we’re confident that when the process plays out, and when the American people have the chance to hear all the facts, they’ll see that the child in the womb … she’s a baby. And neither a just government, nor a just society, can tolerate the killing of innocent babies.

Acceptance of the stipulation precluded the need for the full, preliminary injunction hearing. The judge consented to the injunction, which he stated would likely go into effect later in the day. The date of the full hearing, scheduled before Iowa District Court Judge Michael Huppert, has not yet been announced.

TFL’s Drew Zahn, Chuck Hurley, and Bob Vander Plaats were on hand at the Polk County Courthouse on June 1 to witness the injunction hearing in Iowa’s Heartbeat Law case. From the Courthouse itself, they report what happened, why it happened, and what YOU need to know:

Get YOUR NAME entered into the official court records, telling America’s judges to stand for life! Click here today!




TFL’s Capitol Connection, Ep. 16: Life battle leads session recap

The FAMiLY LEADER’s Bob Vander Plaats, Chuck Hurley, and Danny Carroll sat down to discuss what was supposed to be the final recap of the 2018 Iowa Legislative Session.

But with the nation-leading Heartbeat Law facing a court battle, “TFL’s Capitol Connection” commits to keep going, to keep YOU informed:

Sign the petition for life that will be entered into official court records!

In the video, Bob and Chuck mention a historic petition, which very well may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have YOUR name entered into the court’s official docket record, calling on America’s judges to defend life!

History remembers the 56 brave men who signed their names to the Declaration of Independence. Will YOUR name be counted among those who signed this “Declaration of Life”?

180516 petition2




Watch Gov. Reynolds sign Heartbeat into law

With dozens of legislators, families, reporters, and The FAMiLY LEADER in the room, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law the most pro-life abortion restriction in the nation!

Now watch the governor’s comments and exclusive interviews with the bill’s floor manager, Rep. Shannon Lundgren, and other pro-life champions of the Heartbeat bill:

The Heartbeat law bans abortions in Iowa – with some exceptions – after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected. But the law, which could save an estimated 3,000 or more babies’ lives in the state each year, doesn’t go into effect until July 1.

Looking ahead, the bill is certain to face legal challenge, and The FAMiLY LEADER plans to be a part of fighting for babies’ lives in court.

And YOU TOO may have the opportunity to have your name submitted in the official record, telling the judges you want the courts to defend unborn babies by upholding the Heartbeat law!

Sign up for TFL’s text alerts today, so we can let you know when the window opens to have YOUR NAME added to the fight for life:




The spiritual groundwork for “Heartbeat”

Passing a major piece of pro-life legislation like the “Heartbeat bill” doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen at all without God breaking down major spiritual strongholds.

Bob Vander Plaats and Greg Baker talk about the years of work at the heart-and-soul level that have led up to one of the most significant pro-life victories in American history:




TFL’s Capitol Connection, Ep. 15: Heartbeat passes!

“I believe a great thing is happening,” says The FAMiLY LEADER Capitol Team member Chuck Hurley. “In our lifetime, the sanctity of human life is on the front page of newspapers.”

Indeed, newspapers and news networks around the country are reporting the stunning, late-night development: The Iowa Legislature has passed the Heartbeat bill!

Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER, says the news is nothing short of a “sign of revival.”

In this week’s TFL’s Capitol Connection, Bob sits down with Chuck Hurley and Danny Carroll to share what’s happened and what’s next in Iowa’s nation-leading charge to defend life in the womb.

Along the way, Danny also shares a story from behind the scenes about the precursor to the Heartbeat bill and the first moment this session when he came to believe the Heartbeat bill was possible:

In the video, Bob mentioned an opportunity to thank the legislators who voted for the Heartbeat bill. The FAMiLY LEADER has developed a convenient tool that enables you to email every “yes” vote in a single, easy step.

Click here to thank Iowa’s legislators today!




THANK Iowa’s lawmakers for standing for life!

Celebrate passage of the “Heartbeat bill” – a law that could save thousands of babies’ lives in Iowa every year – by thanking the legislators who voted for it!

The FAMiLY LEADER has created a quick, easy online tool that will enable you to thank every legislator who voted for the “Heartbeat bill” at once (51 in the House, 30 in the Senate). All 81 legislators with one click.

Click here now to send a hearty THANK YOU to the legislators who voted for Heartbeat!

You know how important it is to feel appreciated and how encouraging today’s “thank you” can be when you’re on the spot again tomorrow.

Let’s encourage our lawmakers to keep standing for life by thanking them today!




Iowa Legislature passes “Heartbeat” bill!

Late Tuesday evening, the Iowa House passed a bill that would ban abortions in Iowa after an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected, with some exceptions. The State Senate then burned the midnight oil to reconcile the language between the legislative chambers and complete the bill’s passage.

“This vote represents a remarkable step forward in the defense of human life,” commented Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER. “The heartbeat bill could save thousands of babies every year from the horror of abortion, and its passage today demonstrates that many in our culture recognize that the little girl, with her heart beating in her mother’s womb – she’s a baby.”

Indeed, if the governor were to sign the bill into law, it would have the power to prevent an estimated 3,000 or more abortions in Iowa every year. The final version of the bill, however, also included an amendment that would allow exceptions to the law in the cases of an unborn child conceived in rape or incest and children suffering from fetal abnormalities deemed incompatible with life.

While The FAMiLY LEADER has been a consistent champion of Iowa’s proposed Heartbeat legislation, TFL has also been a consistent opponent of language that deems certain classes of people as “exceptions” who can be legally aborted in the womb.

“This bill doesn’t protect every baby,” Vander Plaats acknowledged, “and we will not stop working until every baby’s life is treasured and protected by law, from the moment of fertilization to natural death.

“Nonetheless we’re grateful today for the hard work of many pro-life champions in the Iowa Legislature,” he continued. “We’re grateful for another state taking a stand against the injustice of Roe v. Wade. And we look forward to the day when life wins and we all recognize that the child in her mother’s womb – she’s a baby.”