Election 2020: What about the judges on the ballot?

In 2010, The FAMiLY Leader (then known as the Iowa Family Policy Center) vigorously opposed retention of three State Supreme Court justices who exceeded and abused their judicial power to foist same-sex marriage upon Iowa in the 2009 Varnum v. Brien case.

At TFL, we believe it is our responsibility as Christians to speak out for biblical values and our duty as American voters to defend the constitutional separation of powers and limited powers of the judiciary. We cannot be silent when our values – or the Constitution, the only contract by which Americans have agreed to be governed – are violated by judicial overreach.

In 2010 Iowans like you agreed and shocked the world when you voted against retaining all three of the State Supreme Court justices on the ballot.

Of the seven judges who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009, three left office after the retention vote in 2010, one has since retired, two have passed away, and the final justice will soon reach mandatory retirement age.

In the upcoming 2020 election, therefore, there will be no justices on the ballot remaining from the Varnum decision. The following State Supreme Court justices, however, will be up for retention vote:

Susan Christensen
– Appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and sworn in on Sept. 4, 2018.
– Christensen is the current chief justice.

Edward Mansfield
– Appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad in 2011.
Mansfield sided with Planned Parenthood in 2015, overturning Iowa’s ban on “telemed” abortions, effectively allowing a woman to get an abortion without an in-person doctor’s visit.
Mansfield, however, also voted against the abhorrent 2018 Planned Parenthood ruling that concocted a “right to abortion” in the Iowa Constitution. His dissent, joined by Waterman, has been a significant aid in arguing against that so-called “right.”

Christopher McDonald
– Appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and sworn in on April 5, 2019.

Thomas Waterman
– Appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad in 2011.
Waterman sided with Planned Parenthood in 2015, overturning Iowa’s ban on “telemed” abortions, effectively allowing a woman to get an abortion without an in-person doctor’s visit
Waterman, however, also voted against the abhorrent 2018 Planned Parenthood ruling that concocted a “right to abortion” in the Iowa Constitution. He joined the dissent, written by Mansfield, which has been a significant aid in arguing against abortion as a so-called “right.”

Unfortunately, the justices on the ballot this year have either too little or too mixed a record to reach a definitive conclusion on whether or not they should be retained. The FAMiLY Leader, therefore, cannot make an unequivocal recommendation on how to vote.

We can, however, celebrate the judicial nomination reform signed into law by Gov. Reynolds in 2019, a measure TFL has been advocating for years. Under this reform, the people of Iowa – rather than a small group of left-leaning attorneys – will now be given a greater voice through their elected governor in choosing Iowa’s Supreme Court justices, hopefully making the Court more representative of the people of Iowa and their values.

We can also make available what information we currently have available on judges up for retention. The FAMiLY Leader and pro-life allies researched the records of the judges on life. While most judges have little record to be found, click the link below to see what we discovered:

Click here for a list of judges up for retention in YOUR district and what is known about their record on life.

As always, TFL recommends Christians research the candidates and issues that appear on the November ballot and take seriously the calling to vote. The voice we have at the ballot box is a gift from God (that not all Christians around the world enjoy), and it’s a gift to be carefully and prayerfully stewarded for His glory!

To help with researching candidates:
TFL is also partnering this year with iVoterGuide.com, an extensively researched tool for making sense of who’s running and what they stand for. Check it out today!




White House responds to TFL-signed letter on girls’ sports

The U.S. Department of Education has responded to a letter sent by dozens of pro-family organizations, including The FAMiLY Leader, with assurances that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on “gender identity” will not prevent the Trump administration from working to protect girls’ sports.

In June 2020, Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader, joined national allies and dozens of peers from the Family Policy Alliance in writing a letter to President Trump and the Department of Education.

“In 2017, the Department of Education, along with the Department of Justice, reinforced the obvious need for sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms under Title IX for boys and girls,” the letter pointed out. “[But] many activists now claim that the recent Bostock v. Clayton opinion from the Supreme Court means that schools must permit biological males to compete on girls’ teams.”

“The continued success of our women and girls under Title IX depends upon your strong stand against a political agenda that frankly doesn’t care about preserving women’s opportunities in sports,” the letter continued. “Female athletes need the Trump Administration to lead the way in preserving the heart of Title IX and ensuring women and girls have access to exclusively female sports teams and a fair playing field.”

In addition to Vander Plaats, the original letter was signed by representatives from the Family Policy Alliance, Concerned Women for America, Heritage Action for America, Focus on the Family, Alliance Defending Freedom, Eagle Forum, Save Women’s Sports, Truth and Liberty Coalition, Hands Across the Aisle Women’s Coalition, American Principles Project, and dozens of pro-family state organizations.

On Sept. 1, 2020, Kimberly M. Richey, acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, penned an official response, agreeing to preserve womens’ sports for women athletes.

The letter asserts Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education “share your commitment to ensuring that Title IX is vigorously enforced at every level of education.”

“Title IX regulations authorize single-sex sports teams,” the letter states unequivocally. “The Supreme Court’s opinion in Bostock does not affect the Department’s position that its Title IX regulations authorize single-sex teams based only on biological sex at birth—male or female—as opposed to a person’s gender identity.”

“The Bostock decision was narrowly decided under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and by its own terms, does not control Title IX,” the response concludes. “The Department will continue to vigorously support and protect female student athletes under Title IX.”

Before Congress passed Title IX in 1972, girls in America were offered fewer opportunities in sports and represented a far smaller share of student athletes. Few colleges participated in any championship-level women’s sports, and American Olympic gold medal winner Donna De Varona famously could not even obtain a college athletic scholarship.

According to statistics reported by the Washington Post, before Title IX, 160,000 men participated in NCAA sports compared to just 30,000 women. Female athletic participation at the high school level was even worse. Only 295,000 girls participated in high school sports compared to 3.67 million boys.

Today, however, there are 2.6 million girls playing high school sports and over 216,000 women competing in the NCAA.

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bostock decision asserted employers, under Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964, could not discriminate based on “gender identity.” Activists and court cases have since arisen, attempting to assert Title IX must also include “gender identity,” compelling schools to include biological males who “identify” as female to participate in women’s sports.




Iowans display attitude of Christ in storm and crisis

by Greg Baker

Iowa’s recent “derecho” storm – and, more specifically, the way Iowans have responded to it – reminds me of what makes this coastless state in the Heartland an incredible witness to the nation and an incredible place to live for the over 3 million people who are blessed to call it home.

Even before the pavement could dry from the derecho’s downpour, Iowans fully displayed an incredible heart of service and love of neighbor that remind me of the verse in Philippians, where the Apostle Paul challenged Christians to make their attitude that of Christ Jesus, who emptied Himself of everything. Iowans have and must continue to strive to make their attitude that of Christ Jesus.

I had the opportunity to join my church from Des Moines in serving a fellow church in Marshalltown, as they worked to clean up from storm, which leveled a wide swath of Iowa’s crops, trees, and buildings with the force of a rare, inland hurricane. The path of destruction stretched over 100 miles long.

Upon entering Marshalltown my heart was just broken, as it seemed not a single tree survived the storm, and so many dwellings sustained serious damage. It took a full day’s work from dozens of volunteers to clear just two people’s yards.

This might seem a discouraging pace, but I left the day encouraged instead. During our time removing trees, neighbors who had just finished up their own yards joined us. Their addition of chainsaws doubled our production and allowed us to finish in an afternoon what would have otherwise taken several days.

This incredible story of churches from outside communities and neighbors working together was not unique to us, neither was it unique to this storm. It has been the story across Iowa since COVID’s persistent time of crisis began in March. From serving food, offering childcare, giving blood, standing with a neighbor, and now clearing debris and offering shelter, Iowans have stepped it up to serve one another.

This incredible example we are seeing in neighborhoods across our state is exactly what Christ had in mind for His Church in neighborhoods all around the world. Christ not only commanded this, He also modeled it. Christ modeled it when He looked after the orphan and the widow. Christ modeled it when He fed the poor and healed the sick. Christ modeled it when He dined with the sinner. Christ modeled it when He died on the Cross for those who would never show their gratitude.

Christ, who was fully God, full of more wealth and power then anyone could ever imagine, gave it all up for us.

The Bible says, “He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7) and, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to their point of death, even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Jesus served us, taught us about the Kingdom of Heaven, and died for us on the Cross, satisfying the payment of our sins and giving us the hope of eternal life. Jesus did this not for Himself, but for us.

This is the incredible example Christ has set before us. He has called us to not only look out for our interests, but to also consider the interests of others. This is exactly what Iowans are doing across the state and will continue to do. It is in our history. It is who we are. It is who Christ has called us to be.

Greg Baker is The FAMiLY Leader’s vice president of church engagement.




Join national leaders in weekly prayer for America

Each Wednesday morning between August 12 and November 4, which is the morning after the 2020 Election, our friends at the Colson Center will host a national prayer time, via webinar.

We invite you to join in, each week, to pray first and foremost for God’s mercy, that He would revive His church, that He would bring about renewal of righteousness, that He would empower us to courageously offer protection for the most vulnerable, to champion reconciliation across our deepest divides, and that He would allow us to be instruments in the sustaining of religious freedom and the national recovery of the family.

Each prayer time will feature a devotional challenge and prayer by Christian leaders such as Os Guinness, Joni Eareckson Tada, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, and more.

Due to Zoom capacity, there will be limited live spots each week available to all who register. However, each week’s recording will be sent to anyone who signs up.

Register today to join the prayer webinar!

Or, you can simply join the prayer time live at the Colson Center’s Facebook page at 9:30 a.m. central each Wednesday morning.

In Ephesians, Paul tells us, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

When people see us as their enemies, it’s difficult to remember they aren’t our enemies. But through prayer, by God’s grace, our hearts and eyes can be turned to see where the real battles are – not in politics or news or social media, but in the spiritual realm.

The great Jonathan Edwards urged his fellow pastors to “be much in prayer and fasting, both in secret and with one another. … [I]t is God’s will that the prayers of His saints shall be great and the principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s Kingdom in the world. When God has something to accomplish for His church, it is with His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayer of His people.”

Similarly, Paul tell us to pray for all things at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and specifically to pray for our leaders, both spiritual and secular. This is what the world needs from the Church right now, instead of the outrage we are too often known for. So that’s what we will do, together, each Wednesday until the election. I hope you will join us.

Prayer Leader Schedule:

Aug 12 – Rick Warren
Aug 19 – Os Guinness
Aug 26 – Pastor Garland Hunt
Sept 2 – Kay Cole James
Sept 9 – Jim Daly
Sept 16 – Kelvin Cochran
Sept 23 – David and Jason Benham
Sept 30 – Bob Fu
Oct 7 – Felix Orji
Oct 14 – Todd Wagner
Oct 21 – Joni Eareckson Tada
Oct 28 – Steve Green
Nov 4 – Ed Stetzer

Register to join the Church in prayer today!




VIDEO: A conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo

At a private dinner following the 2020 FAMiLY Leadership Summit on Friday, July 17, U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo sat down for an interview with The FAMiLY Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats.

The intimate setting opened up opportunities to discuss faith, family, and a behind-the-scenes look at Pompeo’s time as director of the CIA, Secretary of State, and even life inside the Oval Office.

For the first time, TFL is now making video of that conversation available to the public. Watch here:

Earlier in the day, Pompeo joined a stellar lineup of speakers for the Summit, including Dr. Del Tackett, Mike Lindell of My Pillow, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Rick Santorum, former NFL player Jack Brewer, New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, and more.

Get exclusive access to all of the 2020 FAMiLY Leadership Summit speeches for a donation of just $10. Click here now!

Pompeo’s address at the Summit specifically highlighted how the State Department is currently implementing a foreign policy that is pro-national security, pro-religious freedom, and pro-life.

Watch video of U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo addressing the 2020 FAMiLY Leadership Summit below:

Attendance at the Summit was limited by COVID-19 capacity restrictions, so available tickets for the event sold out weeks beforehand. Nonetheless, The FAMiLY Leader also made livestream access available so hundreds more from across the country could join the Summit online.

“It was so encouraging to see the passion and the enthusiasm of so many at the Summit and so many watching online,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader. “TFL is blessed to bring together everyday Americans committed to seeing meaningful and positive change in America. Together our heart beats for a revived America that honors God and blesses people, and on Friday, we all left the Summit with new life and a new spring in our step to see that revival come.”




U.S. Sec. of State Pompeo addresses sold-out Summit

On Friday, July 17, U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo joined a stellar lineup of speakers for the 2020 FAMiLY Leadership Summit at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Pompeo began with the kind words, “The FAMiLY Leader is making a real difference all across the country.”

He also shared why his work at the State Department is making a difference to Iowans: “I know American families are busy; the first thing on their minds isn’t the work of the State Department every day. But it matters. It matters what we do. We have a responsibility to keep you all safe. We advocate, too, for American businesses abroad, helping create jobs in every state in the union. And we represent your principles.”

Among those principles, the Secretary of State highlighted how the State Department advocates a foreign policy that is pro-national security, pro-religious freedom, and pro-life.

“We’ve executed a foreign policy that American families in Des Moines and Dubuque and Davenport can believe in,” he said.

Watch video of U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo addressing the 2020 FAMiLY Leadership Summit below:

Attendance at the Summit was limited by COVID-19 capacity restrictions, so available tickets for the event sold out weeks beforehand. Nonetheless, The FAMiLY Leader also made livestream access available so hundreds more from across the country could join the Summit online.

“It was so encouraging to see the passion and the enthusiasm of so many at the Summit and so many watching online,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader. “TFL is blessed to bring together everyday Americans committed to seeing meaningful and positive change in America. Together our heart beats for a revived America that honors God and blesses people, and on Friday, we all left the Summit with new life and a new spring in our step to see that revival come.”

At the Summit, Vander Plaats also spoke of God’s hand of abundant blessing over TFL’s last 10 years; shared updates on how TFL’s model of Church engagement is spreading across the country; and offered an inspiring vision of God’s hand at work in America, with the power to overshadow even national elections in terms of impact and cultural transformation.

Watch the inspiring video of God’s favor on TFL over the last 10 years and His direction for tomorrow:

Vander Plaats and Sec. Pompeo shared the stage with over a dozen other speakers, including Mike Lindell of My Pillow, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Rick Santorum, former NFL player Jack Brewer, New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, and more.

Dr. Del Tackett of The Truth Project and, now, The Engagement Project, kicked off the Summit with an acknowledgement of America’s social unrest and pandemic fears.

“From looking at the trends of what is going on, the Body of Christ is going to go through a refining fire,” Tackett said. “But you and I are not to be surprised by that, and we are not to be taken with fear, with hopelessness, but to recognize this is our day.”

The opportunity, Tackett explained, is not in a public square that is increasingly shunning biblical voices, but in the power of being salt and light, one-on-one to our neighbor.

“How is this going to change?” Tackett asked. “This is going to change through one person engaging with another person in a meaningful relationship.”

Mike Lindell of My Pillow echoed the tone of hope. In an interview with Vander Plaats, Lindell described how the Lindell Recovery Network – scheduled for launch this September – is being designed to provide addiction sufferers across the country with videos, testimonies, and resources that they can relate to and that can make a real difference in their lives. What’s more, the Network is designed to point them toward the truest source of hope: Jesus Christ and His Church.

“Everybody’s looking for hope,” Lindell said. “I see this COVID as an opportunity for hope. This is the time for the biggest revival in history.”

The Summit also spotlighted the executive and Church Ambassador Network directors from nearly a dozen state organizations similar to TFL. These directors are partnering with TFL in “The Daniel Impact,” an effort to export TFL’s model of inspiring the Church to engage government – not for political ends, but to advance the kingdom of God.

Shannon McGinley serves as executive director of New Hampshire Cornerstone, one of the The Daniel Impact states spotlighted on stage.

“So many people around the country have written off New England as a lost cause,” McGinley told the Summit, “but New Hampshire is so critically important, because we are the first-in-the-nation primary and we set the agenda for the nation, along with Iowa.”

The challenge, she explained, is that the voice of the Church in New England has been marginalized, even “neglected.”

“There are so many faith-filled individuals who are hungering for a way to engage in the political sphere, but they don’t know how to go about it,” she said. “But [through the work of The Daniel Impact], I feel confident there really is the possibility to have great success in New Hampshire.”

“It brings chills to me when I think of what we’ve seen in Des Moines,” testified Greg Baker, vice president and Church Ambassador Network director for The FAMiLY Leader in Iowa. “I can’t imagine how God’s going to go bigger than He has, but He will. To hear New Hampshire, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the other states – it’s remarkable.”

What’s more, Baker said, “God’s institution of the Church is an international institution. … Every single place God is moving, and we get to be a part of that.”

The annual FAMiLY Leadership Summit brings national leaders to the Midwest to address Christian audiences with the theme of “Principle over Politics.” Since its inception in 2012, the FAMiLY Leadership Summit remains one of the most encouraging and inspiring events of the summer, challenging and equipping attendees toward Christ-like leadership in the home, Church, and government.




Chief Justice Roberts, judicial injustice, and 5 things you can do about it

Commentary by Dr. Nathan Oppman

Chief Justice John Roberts’ concurrence in the judgment of June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which struck down a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, is a shocking example of judicial overreach.

In the decision Roberts states: “I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. The question today, however, is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.”

Roberts openly admits that even though the conclusion he will reach is wrong, he feels that he must reach it to uphold precedent. This is a poor judicial reasoning at best … and utter dereliction of justice at worst.

Roberts seems to have overlooked that the primary role of a judge is to do justice, not to preserve the Court’s past rulings. Yet Roberts is so committed to precedent that he is willing to come to a conclusion even he believes is wrong to preserve it. In Roberts’ mind the precedent of the Court is even more powerful than his commitment to right and wrong.

When your legal doctrine demands that you allow injustice, it is time for your legal doctrine to change.

Yet Roberts is hardly alone in creating and following bad precedent. The Iowa Supreme Court has committed massive judicial overreach as well.

In 2018 the Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds that was one of the most egregious examples of bad jurisprudence in the history of our country. That opinion concocted a “fundamental right” to abortion out of nothing and put even the most basic pro-life laws in jeopardy.

Iowa’s newly constituted Supreme Court may get a chance to reconsider that opinion, as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a new law implementing a short waiting period of 24 hours before a woman can obtain an abortion. That law is now being challenged in court. Let’s hope Iowa’s Supreme Court is not as committed to bad precedent as Chief Justice Roberts.

But is there anything that can be done beyond hoping for courts to change? Yes, there is! Courts only have as much power as the legislature, governor, and We the People give them. And in Iowa one of the most direct ways to correct a bad interpretation is to tell the Court our opinion on the issue.

This year the Iowa Legislature narrowly failed to pass a constitutional proposal called the Protect Life Amendment, which would have given We the People the right to give our opinion on the issue of abortion. I would encourage you to sign up for The FAMiLY Leader’s text and email alerts to stay informed on the Amendment’s progress.

Below are five other things you can do to make sure your opinion is heard on the abortion issue.

  1. Pray for your leaders, including Chief Justice Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice Susan Christensen of the Iowa Supreme Court. Pray that they will do justice to those who come before them.
  2. Ask your state legislator where he or she stands on the Protect Life Amendment and encourage them to support the amendment during the next legislative cycle.
  3. Commit to voting, and consider running for elected office.
  4. Volunteer, donate, or help at a local women’s health center that helps women considering abortion to have the resources they need to choose life. Changing hearts and minds one at a time is invaluable in the fight for life.
  5. Share all of these action steps with 5 friends and encourage them to follow you in taking action.

We must never lose hope. Though decisions like Justice Roberts’ are discouraging, we must remember the abortionists are the ones playing defense, fighting off a passed law they knew would protect unborn children. And the 24-hour law put those who support abortion on defense once again.

Perhaps our Iowa Supreme Court will ignore bad precedent and speak boldly for life. Or perhaps they won’t. But we must never lose sight of the fact that each battle gives us an opportunity to move one step closer to a place where all innocent life is cherished and protected, from the moment of conception to natural death.

Nathan Oppman is a member of The FAMiLY Leader staff and Capitol Team.




Feds funnel $2 million to Planned Parenthood in Iowa

The Office of Population Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, June 30, awarded Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Des Moines, Iowa, a three-year grant totaling over $2 million to ostensibly “replicate effective teenage pregnancy prevention programs.”

This, despite federal studies that show Planned Parenthood’s sex education programs not only fail to reduce teenage pregnancy, but in five states even increased the number of pregnancies among those subjected to Planned Parenthood’s “education.”

As The FAMiLY Leader documented in a Des Moines Register column in 2019, three federal studies show Planned Parenthood-led programs failed or even hurt students.

From 2011 through 2014, Planned Parenthood received $4 million to teach sex education across five northwestern states. According to the report, titled “Evaluation of the Teen Outreach Program® in The Pacific Northwest,” six different Planned Parenthood affiliate partners taught over 3,500 students in 87 schools. Both the short-term and final impact analysis concluded that the program “had an impact in the undesirable direction on females becoming pregnant.” Or more bluntly, Planned Parenthood’s program resulted in more students getting pregnant!

Researchers stated that in the short-term sample, “Among males, females, and non-Hispanics, TOP® [the program taught by Planned Parenthood] students were significantly more likely than controls to have ever been pregnant or to have caused a pregnancy.”

The equally revealing Safer Sex Intervention: Final Impact Report demonstrates Planned Parenthood failing where another contractor at least had a little success. Buried in Appendix B, you can compare the results for yourself. The Hennepin County Department of Public Health, teaching the same curriculum over the same period in the same evaluation, created short-term, positive changes in three sexual behaviors. In contrast, Planned Parenthood failed to impact a single sexual behavior after receiving nearly $500,000 in taxpayer funding.

The third federal study involving Planned Parenthood took place in Chicago, where they were one of three contractors. Here again, the program did not positively impact any student behavior — a clear pattern of wasted time and money.

In fact, the only study TFL could find showing positive effects from a Planned Parenthood-led sex ed program was commissioned and paid for by the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

Planned Parenthood sex education, paid for with tax dollars, repeatedly failed to help students. Studies in Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska all confirm their ineffectiveness.

“We should recognize the obvious pattern,” says TFL Capitol Team member Daniel Sunne. “The last organization government should pay to prevent teen pregnancies is Planned Parenthood.”




Tony Evans on racial unrest: ‘This is a divine moment for ecclesiological reset’

On Thursday, June 18, The FAMiLY Leader welcomed leaders of sister state organizations from around the country to a Zoom meeting on racial reconciliation with Dr. Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas.

Organizational and Church Ambassador Network leaders from several states partnering in TFL’s The Daniel Initiative joined the meeting, representing Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with likeminded organizations in states across the country and honored to welcome Dr. Evans to the discussion,” says Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader. “Especially at a time of such division and brokenness, our hope is that Pastor Evans’ perspective can open up new understandings and paths for healing in the Church and in America.”

Watch Evans’ presentation during the meeting below:

During the meeting, Evans described both the COVID crisis and the racial unrest sweeping America as “disturbances” God is using to capture the Church’s attention.

“God is disturbing through a virus and through our strife the natural order of things in order to advance His Kingdom,” Evans said. “The bigger the disturbance, the bigger the message. And the reason why He disturbs the natural order of things is to shake up things on earth to reveal things from heaven.”

And what is God revealing?

“This is a divine moment for an ecclesiological reset,” Evans said.

Beginning with some historical context, Evans argued the racial divide in America today is being driven by the failure of the Church to teach at the outset of the nation God’s declaration that kidnapping and selling a man into slavery is a capital crime (Exodus 21:16).

“The Church failed in the initiation of our nation to address this issue biblically,” Evans said. “That set in motion things that would unveil a Civil War, peonage [the practice of incarcerating people to use them as slave labor, permitted under the 13th Amendment], Jim Crow – all of this endorsed actively or passively by the Church. Theological systems were set up … formal and informal embedding of systems that would keep people of color behind the 8-ball.

“All of this is to say there was a great failure of the Church,” Evans said. “The reason you have a black church and white church today is because the Church was not being the Church.”

But just as the Church bears responsibility for the sin, Evans said, it also holds the keys to healing.

“There are two answers to every question: God’s answer and everybody else’s. And everybody else is wrong when they disagree with Him,” Evans said. “If God is your problem, politics is not your solution. If God is your problem, social action is not your solution.

What is the solution?

For Evans, it’s the Church listening to God’s “divine moment,” correcting its practical theology, and leading the healing by example.

“Since the Church was the theological engine to injustice,” Evans says, “it needs to be the theological solution for it.”

“In the Bible, justice and righteousness … are joined at the hip,” Evans continued, citing Psalms 89:14 and Genesis 18:19. “But while the Anglo church has been emphasizing righteousness, the African-American church has been emphasizing justice. You are splitting a baby that God doesn’t split. … He wants both. Because we have not treated both with same tenacity, the same fire, and with the same insistence in the Church and in society, the society does not have the pattern to follow that should have been established by the Church.”

Evans’ ministry, The Urban Alternative, he relayed, is working to establish just such a pattern, through a three-point plan it’s implemented in several communities, including racial tension hotspot Ferguson, Missouri.

The first point of the plan, Evan said, is to gather the churches of a local community together for a “solemn assembly.”

“There must be a coming together, for the purpose of establishing unity … which invites God’s glory,” Evans said.

From that gathering, The Urban Alternative encourages pastors to stay in contact monthly, for prayer and for discussion, and for corporate impact.

The second point is for the churches of a community to “speak with one voice, so that there is no uncertain sound about the key issues that your communities face – not just a unity of fellowship, but a unity of communication.

“There ought not be any uncertain sound on the issue of racism, on the issue of injustice, on the issue of righteousness,” Evans explained. “We complain about [these issues] in our own circles, but what we don’t do is speak collectively about them. And that ‘one voice’ is critical.”

The third point, Evans said, is to “serve together to impact the environment in our communities. We let the Church be visibly seen as salt and light. Let men see your good works, not hear your good words alone.”

The Urban Alternative has focused on encouraging churches to adopt their public schools – to provide mentoring to students, many of whom come from broken homes.

“But that’s not the only thing you can do,” Evans said. “We’re also going to adopt a police precinct … to influence how community and police relationships go. You get to set the stage. We’re going to provide counseling for their officers. Invite them into what the Church is doing, so the people can see them. … We’re going to bring them into the Church, inviting the community, and we become repairers of the breach.”

And there’s one more secret to unlocking the Church’s power of healing, Evans outlined during the Q&A session: Bring black churches and white churches to work alongside one another.

“Because here’s the key to reconciliation: It happens through service, not seminars. When you serve someone worse off than you, you get to know the one you serve with,” Evans said. “When you join forces to help the hurting, and you do that in a tangible way, the hearing and the openness will go up. … Out of the connectivity and shared experiences, when those emanate from common faith, we can let [reconciliation] grow organically rather than trying to force it, because we are ministering together.”

“If the Church would do this or something like this, it would go a long way to bring healing,” Evans said.

“Dr. Evans has given me all kinds of ideas,” said Greg Baker, vice president of church engagement for The FAMiLY Leader. “The church networks these state leaders represent are all about the transformative power of building relationships between pastors, community leaders, and elected officials – and the common goal they share of bringing blessing and healing to hurting people. What better place to start the healing than with the Church being tangible salt and light?”

“This does just scream ‘The Daniel Initiative,'” agreed Vander Plaats. “A model of building relationships between local pastors and local officials, impacting their local communities, spreading state by state – it’s how you change a nation!”

The leaders on the call with Evans participate in The FAMiLY Leader’s The Daniel Initiative, which mentors independent state organizations in a strategy of inspiring the Church to engage with government for the advance of God’s Kingdom. Part of that strategy includes developing Church Ambassador Networks, which bring ministers of God’s Church (pastors) into non-partisan, discipleship relationships with ministers of God’s government (elected officials). Together, The Daniel Initiative organizations represent networks of thousands of churches across a dozen states in the U.S., with the goal of seeing culture-transforming Church Ambassador Networks in all 50 U.S. states and beyond.




Family Leadership Summit 2020 adds livestream!

Due to overflow demand, the 2020 Family Leadership Summit is now offering livestream tickets for those who can’t attend in person!

This year’s stellar lineup of speakers – including U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, former NFL player Jack Brewer, New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, Mike Lindell of MyPillow, Dr. Del Tackett of The Truth Project, U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Rick Santorum, and more – has generated unprecedented interest from the public.

So many tickets have been sold, in fact, that the Summit has reached its maximum capacity under current COVID-19 restrictions. Unless those restrictions are eased, no more tickets can be made available to attend in person at the Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines on July 17.

But if you don’t have YOUR tickets yet, don’t fret. You can still purchase a livestream ticket, at a reduced price, to watch from the comfort of your own living room!

Register here to watch The Family Leadership Summit livestream on July 17!

Best of all, this means you no longer have to be in Des Moines on the 17th to join us at the Summit … and neither do your friends! Make sure to share this livestream opportunity to join the Summit of a lifetime with your friends and family, no matter where they live!




States find unexpected partner in COVID response: Churches

Overburdened government agencies in several states found an unexpected partner in formulating their COVID-19 response, thanks in part to a unique model of church-government cooperation that began only a few years ago in Iowa.

In 2017, Iowa’s The FAMiLY Leader launched “The Daniel Initiative,” or TDI, which partners with Christian organizations in other states to create independent, statewide, church networks. These “Church Ambassador Networks,” in turn, work to build personal relationships with and minister to local government officials. Today, the Daniel Initiative is in more than 10 states, from New Hampshire to Texas.

These networks have already blessed many government officials and churches, but when COVID hit, the networks became an unexpected and crucial part of several states’ response to the virus crisis.

“We just got thrown into COVID crisis mode,” muses Kurt Weaver of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “Who knew the Church Ambassador Network would be connecting the Church with elected officials for just such a time as this?”

In Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, and more, TDI-linked Christian policy organizations suddenly found themselves a conduit between churches looking for COVID guidelines for the thousands of people in their congregations and state governments needing to spread guidelines to thousands of people quickly. In some states, government agencies also discovered that the thousands of ready volunteers in the churches could become part of providing tangible assistance to communities in need.

Minnesota

“The Church might be the largest untapped volunteer base in Minnesota,” explains Jeff Evans, the Church Ambassador Network director for the Minnesota Family Council.

Evans is the only faith leader serving on the Minnesota Food Insecurity Task Force. Evans was invited to join the task force by the Democrat state administration because he offers something CEOs and government officials lack: connection with Christian churches across the entire state.

These connections continue to grow and deepen as Jeff hosts video calls between pastors and legislators around the state, including phone calls with non-Christian legislators.

After offering to pray for a legislator last week, Evans recalls, “She got real quiet and said, ‘No one’s ever asked to pray for me before.’”

Evans has hosted over 30 such video calls with hundreds of pastors since the pandemic started.

Pennsylvania

Minnesota is not the only place where engagement with the Church has provided unexpected entrée. The Pennsylvania Family Institute, or PFI, organized three calls with Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, a key figure in an administration generally hostile to PFI’s policy goals.

“We overwhelmed their conference call system,” laughs Weaver. “We had to do two calls back-to-back.”

Their first call with Sec. Levine had over 1300 pastors participate, and their most recent had around 850.

Weaver estimates the Pennsylvania Family Institute has served thousands of Pennsylvania churches by offering legal advice, weekly webinars with hundreds of church leaders, and bi-weekly denominational leader calls with about 15 participating denominations.

“The Lord is using it, I think, to bring the Church together and to grow the Church Ambassador Network,” Weaver said.

Indiana

The Daniel Initiative in Indiana turned one year old this February, but Josh Hershberger of the Indiana Family Institute describes tremendous growth.

Hershberger connected churches with others to organize blood drives, childcare for emergency workers, and to support clinics in low-income communities.

“A lot of churches want to help, but aren’t sure what to do,” he said. “We wanted to connect them with frontline ministries and organizations, and I’ve really been grateful for how churches have responded, really being the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Ohio

Citizens for Community Values in Ohio, or CCV, was the first organization to partner with The FAMiLY Leader in The Daniel Initiative.

“We had a great opportunity to pivot to support God’s Church,” explains Ruth McNeil, the church network director for CCV. “It was very timely, having the Church Ambassador Network already established.”

The first thing CCV did after COVID broke out was convened a conference call with the Governor’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives, giving pastors an opportunity to ask questions. After 500 churches participated in the first call, CCV now host a regular “Faith Friday” call between pastors and the Governor’s Office. Between 230-350 churches participate weekly.

McNeil also describes organizing the Joseph Council with Christian ministry leaders from around the state. The Joseph Council meets weekly to discuss how churches can serve and to promote best practices. Recently, they created recommendations for churches to safely reopen.

Additionally, McNeil is partnering with Ohio Pray to host the “Holy of Hour of Prayer” on Facebook Live every Friday. She says this hour averages 1200 people, many hosting Facebook Watch parties.

Especially during a pandemic, McNeil notes, “The Church has to continue to pray, fast, and serve.”

Conclusion

The Daniel Initiative seems providentially prepared to serve the Church and our country in this difficult season. A public health and economic disaster like COVID-19 is a special opportunity for the Christian Church to share the love of Christ with her neighbor – and supported by The Daniel Initiative, churches across the country have risen to the challenge.

“We’ve made huge headway,” summarizes Minnesota’s Jeff Evans, “and that bodes well for the future.”




Statement: SCOTUS had no right to rewrite Civil Rights Act

On Monday, June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision, redefining the term “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – to now also include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Supreme Court’s rewrite of the Civil Rights Act in Bostock v. Clayton County, however, has sweeping consequences not only for the constitutional balance of powers, but also for individual rights.

“Judges are tasked with interpreting the law that is, not what they think it ought to be,” says The FAMiLY Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats. “And by once again stepping over their constitutional boundaries, a small group of unelected judges have rewritten laws and trampled the freedoms of all Americans.”

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made the same assertion in his dissenting opinion.

“There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation,” wrote Alito. “A more brazen abuse of our authority to interpret statues is hard to recall.”

Despite its best intentions, Alito concluded, the Court’s job is to interpret law, not make it.

“The updating desire to which the Court succumbs no doubt arises from humane and generous impulses. Today, many Americans know individuals who are gay, lesbian, or transgender and want them to be treated with the dignity, consideration, and fairness that everyone deserves,” he writes. “But the authority of this Court is limited to saying what the law is. The Court itself recognizes this: ‘The place to make new legislation . . . lies in Congress. When it comes to statutory interpretation, our role is limited to applying the law’s demands as faithfully as we can in the cases that come before us.’ It is easy to utter such words. If only the Court would live by them.”

What’s more, Alito warned – despite Justice Gorsuch’s assurances in the majority opinion that First Amendment religious liberties “can” override employment discrimination laws and that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA) “might” supersede Title VII – Monday’s court ruling jeopardizes several constitutional freedoms.

“As the briefing in these cases has warned, the position that the Court now adopts will threaten freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and personal privacy and safety,” Alito writes. “No one should think that the Court’s decision represents an unalloyed victory for individual liberty.”

Alito specifically warns Monday’s ruling has the potential to:

  • Force women to endure biological males in bathrooms and locker rooms,
  • Pit female student athletes and even professional athletes against male competitors,
  • Require faith-based schools to hire teachers or employees in open defiance of the schools’ professed doctrines on sexuality,
  • Compel employers to pay for sex-reassignment surgeries,
  • Threaten employers or schools that don’t conform to preferred-pronoun usage,
  • And pressure employers to suppress any statements by employees expressing disapproval of same-sex relationships and sex-reassignment procedures.

While Gorsuch’s majority opinion offered some weak assurances against these kinds of cases, Alito forcefully disagreed.

“What the Court has done today – interpreting discrimination because of ‘sex’ to encompass discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity – is virtually certain to have far-reaching consequences,” Alito concluded. “The Court’s brusque refusal to consider the consequences of its reasoning is irresponsible.”

What does this ruling mean for Ministries? Read this 3-point analysis by Josh Hershberger of TFL’s The Daniel Initiative ally in Indiana.