TFL’s Capitol Connection, Ep. 1: Governor speaks, session begins, with reason for hope

In the video below, The FAMiLY Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats, Chuck Hurley, and Danny Carroll introduce the 2021 legislative session, responding both to the tragic events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and to the inspiring speeches delivered in Des Moines by Iowa House and Senate leaders, as well as Gov. Kim Reynolds.

See why Chuck and Danny say this session holds great hope for the Protect Life Amendment and for increased parental choice in education!

Click here to read The FAMiLY Leader’s statement on the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Join with us and thousands of others who are praying twice daily for revival in America, prompted by the FREE If 7:14 phone app, based on the urgent call to prayer from 2 Chronicles 7:14. Download YOUR free app today!




The tragedy, and the hope, of Jan. 6

The following is a statement from Bob Vander Plaats and The FAMiLY Leader on the protests, turned riots, at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021:

The real tragedy of Jan. 6, 2021, was that the outrage was never going to change anything. The electoral votes were cast, they were going to be certified, and Joe Biden was always going to be our next president. Even Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, admitted in their formal objection that the election would be certified. And yet violence erupted, lives were lost, and our Capitol was besieged by people whose actions were never going to change a thing.

Moving forward, however, we must ask, “What will change anything?”

For Americans who know our culture is sprinting away from the heart of God and who are rightly concerned about our country’s future, what can we do?

First and foremost, we must put our hope where our hope belongs. Let’s get real, ugly honest here for a moment: It’s idolatrous to invest all our hope and fears in any elected official, candidate, or even government itself. It’s idolatry to think all will be well if our party is in power or all is lost when our candidate loses.

Even when all the world tempts us to worship our kings, to put our hopes in government programs or political parties, there is only one King worthy of that hope, only one Messiah – the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Yes, elections do matter, and we should earnestly seek righteous laws that are just and bless those governed by them. And yes, our elected leaders wield great authority – but there is a higher authority. And just as pastors are shepherds of their congregations, elected officials are shepherds of their constituents – and both shepherds answer to God.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,” noted the Bible’s King David in Psalm 20:7, “but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

“Where does my help come from?” David asked in Psalm 121. “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

David’s words challenge us to think bigger, look higher, and expect more. Let’s think bigger than merely winning the next election, as if every election were the fulfillment or end of all our hopes. Let’s look higher, because America has God-sized problems that no politician can solve (but God can!). Let’s stop expecting miraculous deliverance from our earthly leaders … and expect more from God!

For God is our help, and He has provided the nations with a powerful engine for changing, moving, and healing the hearts of broken humanity. And that engine isn’t the White House; it’s the Church.

So what will change anything?

If God is our hope, the gospel His power, and the Church His vehicle of change, then we must start with the Church.

At The FAMiLY Leader, we believe our calling is to inspire the Church to be the Church, not just within its doors, but in every sphere of life, private and public. We encourage the Church to be salt and light, even to our government – not for political ends, but to advance the kingdom of God. We bring pastors to state capitols to pray with our elected leaders, to build intentional relationships with them, to share the transforming power of the gospel, and to encourage them in their role as shepherds under the ultimate Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We’re rebuilding the biblical and constitutional relationship between shepherds of the Church and shepherds of government to bless our communities.

Engaging the Church is the key that will change anything. In fact, it can change everything. For revival begins, not in the House of Representatives, but in the House of the Lord:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The revival we seek is an inside-out, versus an outside-in, proposition. Let it begin with me. With you. With us.

Join with us and thousands of others who are praying twice daily for revival in America, prompted by the FREE If 7:14 phone app, based on the urgent call to prayer from 2 Chronicles 7:14. Download YOUR free app today!




Restoring civility: The legacy of an unlikely friendship

“I will be forever grateful that Donna invited me for coffee,” recalls The FAMiLY LEADER President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats.

Bob and Donna Red Wing were often quoted in the news media on opposite sides of contentious issues. Bob leads a Christian organization that advocates for public policy consistent with biblical values. Donna was a longtime LGBTQ activist and, in her own words, “a sometimes agitator.” They were natural “enemies” who became the most unlikely of friends.

Watch the moving video made by Mutual of Omaha about Bob and Donna’s “unlikely friendship” below:

Though Donna Red Wing has since passed away, Bob continues to tell others of how her simple, but counter-cultural act of reaching out changed him and began a friendship that leaves behind a legacy of restoring civility.

“Donna often told the story of how a friend inspired her to reach out to the one person she was most naturally inclined to dislike. I’m not sure it’s really an honor, but she chose me,” Bob recalls. “She invited me to meet for coffee, and to both of our surprise, we both showed up! Then, over a number of coffee meetings, something even more surprising happened: We became honest, real, and true friends.

“Donna’s friendship did not change my convictions about God’s design for marriage or biblical sexuality, and neither did my friendship change her position,” Bob continues. “But that was never the point. We met to get to know one another as real people beyond the headlines.”

“We were often opponents on policy, but instead of lobbing rhetorical grenades at one another from the relative safety of our own echo chambers, we met face to face,” Bob recalls. “It changed us both. I know it changed the language and the tone we employ at The FAMiLY LEADER. Getting to know Donna taught our whole staff to stop and think, ‘How can we advocate for our position while still being conscious of and honoring the real people (like Donna) who disagree with us?'”

The answer, The FAMiLY LEADER has learned, was spelled out for us years ago in Scripture, an answer summed up in one phrase: “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Bob and Donna’s unlikely friendship became the subject of astonished columns and articles in both local and national newspapers. Colleges and civic groups invited Bob and Donna to speak to students and communities about relearning how to speak to one another. In an age where deep cultural and partisan divides are the norm, their example of civility inspired many:

Bob tells others the love he and Donna shared as friends was real. He could imagine one day attending her funeral or she attending his. But never did he anticipate that day would come so soon.

Nor did he anticipate the honor he would receive from Donna’s partner, Sumitra. After Donna’s passing in 2018, Sumitra asked Bob – considered by many in Donna’s circles to be an “enemy” to the cause – if he would speak at Donna’s funeral.

“The request was one of the greatest honors of my life,” Bob says.

Watch video from Donna Red Wing’s memorial service in which Bob spoke of their friendship and Donna’s legacy of civility:

“I’m deeply grieved that my friend is now gone from this world,” Bob says, “but I hope her example of reaching out will challenge others to do the same. I hope it challenges me. I want our commitment to restoring civil dialogue in America to continue as the lasting legacy of the day Donna Red Wing invited me for coffee.”

Photo credit: Des Moines Register




Help pass the Protect Life Amendment

Iowa’s unborn children urgently need to know they can count on you!

Our courts are working to legalize ALL abortions, at any time – even up to the day of a baby’s birth – and make YOU pay for it!

Read how a radical Iowa Supreme Court decision threatens to make Iowa the most pro-abortion state in the country!

This December, Iowa’s babies need LOTS of people who will say #CountOnMe to protect children’s lives from Iowa’s radical courts.

Your urgent gift today will help pro-life Iowans pass a state constitutional amendment protecting life from radical judges who would legalize late-term abortion.

Ratifying the Protect Life Amendment will ultimately take a lot of money … but not today. Today, we simply need LOTS of people who are willing to donate even just $3 to show Iowa’s courts and legislators that we mean business.

Can Iowa’s babies count on you? Your friends? Your family?

Remember, it’s not the amount you give that’s important right now, but just that you are counted among those who give to protect babies.

Even just $3 sends a message that Iowans are willing to put their money where their mouth is and say #CountOnMe to protect unborn babies!

And tell your friends! Give them the chance to stand up and be counted too! Get the word out with the hashtag #CountOnMe. The more who give, the more we can show Iowa’s legislators we stand with them in protecting mothers and babies!

Stand up and be counted today! Tell Iowa’s babies,
“You can #CountOnMe!”




Free help for parents to protect their children at school

The FAMiLY Leader’s friends at Family Policy Alliance and Focus on the Family have just released a new guide designed to help parents navigate the cultural and legal landmines their children increasingly face at school.

Called “the most important book a parent will ever read” by Dr. Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, this guide offers parents help and hope to face challenging school situations.

Download “Back to School – for Parents: A busy parent’s guide to what’s happening in your children’s classrooms and practical steps you can take to protect them” for FREE from the Family Policy Alliance.

Recent school closures have given parents a unique glimpse into classrooms, and they may not like what they’ve seen. Classroom content may be overly sexualized, teach radical viewpoints as fact, or shut down faith-based perspectives – just to name a few concerns. Family Policy Alliance and Focus on the Family hope this guide will help parents navigate these challenging waters.

“Families today face unprecedented challenges at school—from highly sexualized curriculum, to men in their daughters’ locker rooms, to counselors encouraging children that abortion or cross-sex hormones are the right choice, without ever talking to a child’s parent,” said Stephanie Curry, Esq., Policy Manager for Family Policy Alliance. “We receive questions every week from parents about what their rights are, how to navigate the bureaucracies responsible for passing these harmful policies, and how to talk about these issues with children at home. We’ve created Back to School—for Parents to answer these questions, because we firmly believe that parents—not any government entity—are truly best at parenting.”

“As a former high school English teacher, I know that many educators have deep faith, are hardworking, and remain dedicated to their profession,” said Jeff Johnston, Culture and Policy Analyst at Focus on the Family. “But I also know that many legislators and education professionals have a social and political agenda that is antagonistic toward Christianity and biblical values. This agenda affects school curriculums, textbooks, and resources. Many parents are outraged and appalled when they discover what their children are actually being taught in school. This new education resource helps parents know what to watch out for and gives valuable guidance for protecting children.”

The guide is chock-full of surprising facts and helpful resources. Did you know that in some schools, a counselor could coach your child to “transition” genders or get an abortion without your consent or even your knowledge? Or that the school devices your child uses at home may not have the type of content filters you would install in your own home? The guide offers these and other important and eye-opening information for parents, together with practical help for parents who want to prevent or address these situations.

Click here to download your FREE copy of “Back to School–for Parents” today!




This Giving Tuesday, give to save a baby’s life

When #GivingTuesday was invented in 2012 as a way of giving to good causes after the shopping bustle of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Americans donated over $10 million to their favorite charities and nonprofits.

In recent years, that number has risen to over 400 million dollars donated on just ONE day!

One week from today, on #GivingTuesday, Americans will again donate hundreds of millions of dollars. But how many of those dollars will be given to save babies’ lives?

Let’s be honest: Many of those donations will go to groups like Planned Parenthood, which actually kills children in the womb.

This #GivingTuesday, will you give to SAVE babies instead?

The 2020 Election actually expanded the pro-life majority in the Iowa Legislature, meaning next year will present a historic opportunity for life in Iowa. Top on the agenda is the Protect Life Amendment, which would defend mothers and children from the Iowa State Supreme Court’s efforts to expand abortion – even to the day of a baby’s birth!

And YOUR gifts this #GivingTuesday will make all the difference as The FAMiLY Leader works with our state lawmakers to take a stand for life.

Don’t forget to give this #GivingTuesday, Dec. 1, or better yet – give TODAY so you don’t forget!

With you, we can pass the Protect Life Amendment. With your support, we can take a stand for life. You have the chance to literally save babies. Please make #GivingTuesday a part of YOUR holiday plans!




TFL election recap: “Iowa won last night”

Bob Vander Plaats and The FAMiLY Leader’s Capitol Team comment the day after Election Day on election returns, including the big story out of Iowa that may be lost in all the uncertainty about the national outcome.

See why Bob, Chuck, Danny, and Daniel all agree one thing – “Iowa won last night”:




UNI pro-life group saved thanks to TFL-backed law

On Oct. 25, University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook overturned a campus ban on UNI Students for Life, citing a free speech and religious liberty law that The FAMiLY Leader and allies championed through the 2019 Iowa Legislature.

“As of this moment,” Nook wrote in his formal decision, “UNI Students for Life is a fully recognized student organization at the University of Northern Iowa, with all rights and responsibilities afforded any and all registered student organizations.”

TFL Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel Chuck Hurley praised Nook’s decision as a win for life and liberty.

“We’ve seen multiple cases in recent years of Iowa public universities encroaching on the First Amendment rights of free speech and association,” Hurley said. “But the law we helped pass in 2019 stood strong in this case, convincing President Nook that UNI cannot ban a pro-life group from campus simply because of their views.

“I can’t help but be thankful for the legislators and allies that our TFL team worked with to see this law passed and grateful to TFL’s supporters for making a difference in these students’ lives,” Hurley said.

Iowa State Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, also highlighted how elections impact which policies are made into law and how, in this case, the law protected pro-life students.

“Elections matter,” Wheeler commented on Facebook. “Today, we have proof on just how important the work we have done is. … In 2019 we passed a bill requiring full protections for the First Amendment on our public college campuses, [and] I am happy to know that what we passed in 2019 has already seen fruit.”

The case stemmed from a Northern Iowa Student Government (or NISG) Senate decision to deny the pro-life group recognition as an official campus organization. The NISG Senate cited the group’s pro-life views as “hate speech,” and the student body Supreme Court upheld the Senate’s ruling upon appeal.

“The [Student Senate] never gave a reason for why they denied us,” Sophia Schuster of Dyersvile, Iowa, president of UNI Students for Life, told TFL. “They didn’t have any grounds to deny our application, and if you look at what they said during their deliberations, it seemed they misunderstood what the pro-life movement stands for.”

Indeed, transcripts of the Senate’s public debate include opponents likening UNI Students for Life to the KKK and accusing pro-lifers of spouting a “very fringe position” deemed “hurtful and hateful.”

“This is a hate group,” asserted one student senator. “This is hate speech. This is hateful rhetoric that is infringing on basic human rights of health care, and we cannot, we cannot support diversity and be complicit in its destruction at the same time.”

“Not all opinions are equal,” concurred another. “There really is no middle ground here.”

University President Nook, however, has appellate jurisdiction over the student Supreme Court, which upheld the Senate’s decision. Nook chose to overrule the court, citing Chapter 261H of the Iowa code, a section that was created by law in 2019 (SF 274) in response to campus violations of free speech and religious liberty at Iowa universities.

Among other provisions, the 2019 law mandated the state Board of Regents adopt a policy protecting the free speech of student organizations from various violations, including refusal of recognition, the very predicament UNI Students for Life faced.

In his ruling Nook referenced not only the statute created by the 2019 law, but also the free speech policy the law mandated.

“This decision, if allowed to stand, would deny the student organization with access to University facilities and University and NISG services due to the viewpoint of the student organization,” Nook wrote, “and would thereby violate UNI Policy 3.10, Board of Regents – State of Iowa Policy 4.2(F), lowa Code – 2020, Title VII, Chapter 261 H.3(3), and the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.”

The FAMiLY Leader and key allies – including Americans For Prosperity, the Iowa Catholic Conference, 1st Amendment Partnership, and Alliance Defending Freedom – worked in partnership to lobby the 2019 law through the Iowa Legislature. Iowa Sen. Amy Sinclair and Rep. Dustin Hite championed it on the floors of their respective chambers, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed SF 274 into law on March 27, 2019.

“Having this law on the books helped these students in several ways, including saving them from a years-long court battle,” Hurley commented. “The law provided a clear and codified reason for President Nook to protect free speech, and now these students can organize their club and advance their mission of saving lives – this year, rather than waiting until after they’ve graduated for a judge to hopefully decide in their favor.”

As for UNI Students for Life, Schuster said the group is glad to have the controversy behind them.

“It’s a nice burden to have off our shoulders,” Schuster told TFL. “But now we have to focus on what the group is supposed to be doing – advocating, outreach, and education. We have important work to do, changing hearts and minds on campus.”




Bob Vander Plaats: Why I’m voting Trump in 2020

The following column appeared in its entirety in the Oct. 22, 2020, edition of USA Today Online under the title, “Why faith voters should stick with Trump: Christian leaders of character surround him.” Opinions expressed herein are the opinions of Bob Vander Plaats and do not constitute an endorsement of any candidate by The FAMiLY Leader.

When he visited my state of Iowa earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence reminded me why, despite misgivings about Donald Trump’s character and conduct, especially on Twitter, I will vote for President Trump in this election.

When voting for a president, we vote for so much more than just the candidate. We vote for a vision for America, for policy positions, for the kinds of judges that will be appointed, and — more than we realize — we vote for the people who will fill out the administration and make many of the decisions that impact our lives.

This year, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson all came to events in Des Moines hosted by The FAMiLY Leader. They expressed their Christian faith and their confidence in the American people to solve many of our nation’s woes by turning to our neighbors to help them, instead of turning to government mandates to control us.

People around Trump are doing good

Among other examples, I would point to Secretary Ben Carson’s “Mustard Seed Series” — in which the government is working with churches to create affordable housing and reduce homelessness — as an example of the positive impact the people around President Trump have on America.

“We cannot alleviate poverty through the efforts of the federal government alone,” Carson explains. “There are so many faith-based organizations serving vulnerable communities successfully, and we want to share these successes with other faith-based organizations who are already so dedicated to a posture of service.”

These leaders of high character and conviction are in key positions of impact today because President Trump placed them there and because Americans voted for Trump the first time.

By contrast, both former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, separately refused invitations to make their case to The FAMiLY Leader’s audience when campaigning in Iowa prior to the Iowa caucuses. Their silence and refusal to engage this faith community, representative of millions of Americans, spoke and continues to speak volumes.

So who would Biden place in positions of power in his administration?

As pointed out in the vice presidential debate, a Biden administration would replace Vice President Pence’s principled leadership with Vice President Harris, rated by GovTrack.us as the “most liberal” and most partisan member of the U.S. Senate.

At the same debate, Harris pledged she would “always fight” for legal abortion, while Pence declared, “I don’t apologize” for being pro-life and standing for “the sanctity of human life.”

Pence also stood firm during the debate for Israel and for religious liberty, while noting Harris had “attacked” a Trump judicial nominee during his confirmation hearing for being a member of the Catholic Knights of Columbus, which holds to its church’s positions on life and marriage.

Biden-Harris has the real chaos vision

I look at the people around former Vice President Biden — Sen. Harris, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and I just see a very different vision for America, one laden with taxes, government regulation, restricted freedoms, extremist abortion positions, and radical environmental policies.

In contrast, recently I had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Trump’s former press secretary, at a joint speaking engagement. She reminded us of the difference between the reports of “chaos in the White House” and actual chaos. Chaos is when terrorists threaten our lives. Chaos is when businesses close and jobs are lost due to burdensome taxes and regulations. Chaos is when unborn children are prevented from breathing their first breath. Chaos is when protesters burn up our cities. Chaos is when rioters shout slurs at the police and soldiers who protect us. Chaos is when politicians threaten to pack the Supreme Court to get the rulings they want.

It’s true, President Trump seldom reflects the desired fruits of the Spirit. However, President Trump listened and made his case to the faith community, kept his promises to the faith community, and surrounded himself with key leaders of the faith community.

Voting for president is more than a vote for the man; it’s a vote for people like Carson, Pence and Pompeo. That really does make a difference, and for me, it’s more than enough to vote Trump in 2020.

Bob Vander Plaats is president and CEO of The FAMiLY Leader, a non-profit organization that encourages Christians to engage with government. Follow him on Twitter: @bobvanderplaats




Now hiring: TFL is growing the team!

The FAMiLY Leader has been blessed with unprecedented growth and impact, and to advance the mission, we are seeking qualified applicants to fill the following three positions:

Director of marketing and communications

The director of marketing and communications shall maintain and seek growth in communication reach and effectiveness, including TFL messaging, as well as written, emailed, website, and social media content. The goal of this position is to increase the reach of TFL communications to a national level.

To see a job description and requirements for the director of marketing and communications position, click here.

Assistant to the president

Reporting directly to the president and CEO, the assistant provides executive support in a one-on-one working relationship. The assistant serves as the primary point of contact for internal and external constituencies on all matters pertaining to the Office of the President. The assistant also serves as a liaison to the board of directors and oversees special projects.

To see a job description and requirements for the assistant to the president position, click here.

Associate director of the Church Ambassador Network

Their overall responsibility of the associate director of the Church Ambassador Network is to assist the director in pursuing the vision to inspire the Church to engage government for the advance of God’s kingdom, assist in making the strategy, and leading the local Iowa team to implement it.

To see a job description and requirements for the associate director of the Church Ambassador Network position, click here.

Qualified applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Nathan Oppman via email at nathan@thefamilyleader.com.

The FAMiLY Leader is a non-profit Christian ministry based in Urbandale, Iowa, that seeks to strengthen families by inspiring Christ-like leadership in the home, the Church, and the government. We inspire Christians to engage with government for the advance of God’s kingdom, with a vision to see a revived America that honors God and blesses people.




2020 ballot: What’s this about a ‘constitutional convention?’

A question appears by law on the ballot every 10 years about an Iowa constitutional convention. If voters approve the measure, the Iowa Legislature would create rules for electing delegates to the convention and a process for submitting the convention’s proposed constitutional amendments to the people for a vote.

The FAMiLY Leader doesn’t have an official position on this question, but we can share opposing perspectives on the idea:

On one hand, proponents of the constitutional convention argue it was designed by Iowa’s framers to bypass the Legislature’s gatekeeping power over constitutional amendments. The Protect Life Amendment, for example, was blocked in 2020, not by the people nor by the courts, but by the Iowa Legislature. Too many important issues, proponents argue, are being bottled up in the Legislature by influential interest groups that don’t represent the will of the people. A constitutional convention, or “ConCon,” proponents argue, could free up measures the Legislature has thus far impeded.

On the other hand, opponents of the convention share concern that because of the spiritual, moral, and philosophical decay of today’s American society, such a convention could “go off the rails” and pass more anti-God and/or pro-socialist reforms that would outweigh the good that might be passed through. It’s also worth noting, opponents argue, that the United States’ first constitutional convention was only supposed to give America a revised version of the Articles of Confederation … and it went completely off the rails, rewriting an entirely new system of government! Granted, it made the Constitution we still use, but the concern is … if a modern convention went off the rails again today, what new system of government would today’s generation dream up? The potential harm of a ConCon held in today’s political and social winds, opponents argue, outweighs the good that might be done.

For more resources on the 2020 ballot, how to vote, and how to decide whom to vote for, click here.




Election 2020 – How do I vote?

Where you can you find helpful information on voting your biblical values? Right here!

The FAMiLY Leader is compiling research, links, videos, resources, and more to help you make an informed decision this election season and to help you encourage other Christians to steward the gift of the vote that God has given us:

For voters:

Are you registered to vote? Learn more and register here.

Absentee ballots? Early voting? Learn more here.

WHERE do I vote? Find out here.

WHO do I vote for? This year The FAMiLY Leader is partnering with iVoterGuide to compile candidate’s records, endorsements, contributions, questionnaires, and more to help you make an informed decision. Simply enter your zip code here to see iVoterGuide’s evaluation of the candidates on YOUR ballot!

Read Bob Vander Plaats’ column on why he’s voting Trump in 2020 here.

***  What about the judicial retention races?  *** See TFL’s statement and research here.

What about the “constitutional convention” question? Learn more here.

For pastors/churches:

How do you encourage your church to engage biblically, not politically, in this year’s election? Discover election resources you actually want to use at Honoring God 2020.

Candidate conversations:

Candidate for Iowa House Jon Dunwell

State Rep. John Landon

State Senator Brad Zaun

Vice President Mike Pence sharing his personal testimony of faith in Christ: