TFL’s Capitol Connection: Holy Week to end of session

TFL’s Drew Zahn, Chuck Hurley, and Danny Carroll report from the Iowa Capitol on the big bills to watch before the end of session and on Monday’s Holy Week Service at the Capitol, which filled the Capitol Rotunda with songs of praise and proclamation of the gospel!

Watch video of the 2019 Holy Week Service at the Iowa Capitol by clicking here.




Vander Plaats invites Buttigieg to discussion on faith, sexuality

The FAMiLY LEADER President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats is issuing a public invitation to Mayor Pete Buttigieg to join him in a public discussion at TFL’s annual Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines on July 12.

Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and is exploring running for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 2020. In speeches and public appearances recently, Buttigieg has raised several questions about the intersection of faith, politics, and sexuality, including a claim that his same-sex marriage has moved Buttigieg “closer to God.”

Vander Plaats leads The FAMiLY LEADER, a Christian ministry from Iowa that has a significant voice in the Iowa presidential caucuses and seeks to inspire Christ-like leadership in the home, the Church, and the government. Vander Plaats has also become an advocate for civility in public discourse, drawing national headlines over his “unlikely friendship” with the late Donna Red Wing, a prominent LGBTQ activist.

Vander Plaats and Red Wing met privately in genuine friendship, despite their political differences. They also appeared together on several occasions, speaking to college students and others about restoring civility in America, particularly between people who disagree on deeply personal issues.

In this spirit of civility, Vander Plaats welcomes Buttigieg to join him on stage at The Family Leadership Summit for an open discussion of 20 minutes or more on some of the big questions Buttigieg’s comments raise – questions such as, “How do we rightly understand the Word of God and His will for our lives?” “What does it mean to live out your faith, particularly in the political realm?” and, “How can people who disagree demonstrate civility, even in the public eye?”

The Family Leadership Summit is an annual event hosted by The FAMiLY LEADER that invites a variety of speakers to address the tagline, “Principle over Politics.” It’s designed to be an encouraging, inspiring, and thought-provoking event that includes national leaders in the fields of faith, government, and more.

Click here to reserve YOUR space in line for tickets to the 2019 Family Leadership Summit now.




TFL’s Capitol Connection: Bills that survived, died in ‘2nd funnel’

TFL’s Drew Zahn sits down with Capitol Team members Chuck Hurley and Danny Carroll to talk about three priority bills that are still eligible for debate this session after the “2nd Funnel” deadline and three bills that will have to wait until 2020:

Below is breakdown of the bills TFL has been tracking and their current status in the Iowa legislature:

Bills TFL supports and are still alive:

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Bills TFL supported, but are dead:

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Bills TFL Oppose/Undecided, and are still alive:

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Reynolds proclaims Sunday day of prayer for flooding

On Friday, April 5, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds proclaimed Sunday, April 7, a day of prayer for the victims of extreme flooding that has hit primarily western Iowa and our neighbors in Nebraska and Missouri.

The proclamation originated with TFL’s neighboring state ally, the Nebraska Family Alliance. On the west side of the flooded Missouri River, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has also designated Sunday, April 7, as a day of prayer for flood victims.

Following the Nebraska Family Alliance’s suggestion, The FAMiLY LEADER contacted Gov. Reynolds, who quickly agreed to join with Gov. Ricketts in declaring a day of prayer.

In addition to prayer, the official proclamation calls on Iowans to donate “their time, skills, and resources to serve their neighbors within and alongside the many organizations providing disaster relief.”

Iowa, and particularly its western counties, has seen widespread flooding after the snowmelt from blizzard conditions across the Midwest. According to a report from the Des Moines Register, 12 levees, including four in Iowa, have been breached by the historic floodwaters.

Gov. Reynolds’ proclamation declares that, “Whereas prayer provides peace and guidance in times of crisis and conflict, and reminds us of the comforting assurance of God’s love for us all … it seems right and fitting that the citizens of Iowa are urged to pray for the well-being of our fellow citizens and our State, to pray for all those in other states who are hurt by this disaster, to pray for those who are working to respond to the crisis, and to pray for all recovery efforts.”

Following the signing of the proclamation, Gov. Reynolds answered reporter questions about efforts to seek a long-term solution to the Missouri River levee system.

Several members of The FAMiLY LEADER staff were on hand for the signing and had the opportunity to pray with the governor after the signing.




Former film critic reviews pro-life movie “Unplanned”

by Drew Zahn

They were all there – the screaming anti-abortion zealots, the coldhearted abortion executives, the grieving family members, the scared girls, the gentle prayer warriors, the conscience-seared doctors, the boyfriends and fathers callously dismissing an inconvenient pregnancy as “her problem,” the earnest pro-lifers trying to save babies’ lives, and the clinic volunteers who genuinely believe that offering abortion helps women in the face of unimaginable distress.

They were all gathered at the fence, the black, wrought-iron fence that surrounds Planned Parenthood, crying out to be heard. And each gets their moment on screen in the heart-wrecking, heart-warming film “Unplanned,” showing in theaters now.

This is what makes “Unplanned” such a worthy and important entry in the decades-long debate over abortion in America. This, and the fact that it’s based on the true story of a decorated Planned Parenthood clinic director, Abby Johnson.

Watch the trailer below:

Abby’s tale, told in “Unplanned,” speaks not with rhetoric or vilification, but with experience. Abby was the scared girl, afraid to tell her parents of her pregnancy, bleeding on the abortion table. She was the young woman, suffering at the hands of a callous man, writhing in pain from a medically induced abortion she suffered at home, alone. She was the idealistic college student, defending a woman’s “right to choose.” She was a volunteer, a counselor, and eventually director of a Planned Parenthood clinic. She stood on the inside of the fence and watched the pro-life protesters, some who terrified the girls coming for an abortion, others who comforted and cared for them.

And then one day … she saw something that changed everything.

Abby Johnson became the woman who was devastated by the guilt of helping over 20,000 women end their babies’ lives. She became the woman praying at the fence. She became the earnest pro-lifer trying to save both women and children from the horrors she herself had overseen.

This is why you and *everyone you know needs to see “Unplanned”: It tells the story through the eyes of every pro-lifer and every pro-choicer standing at that fence, because it tells Abby’s story, and she’s been all of them.

In an age when public debate becomes bitter division, when opposing sides are quick to call the other a “woman hater” or a “baby killer,” we need to see through others’ eyes, to understand their heart before we seek to change their mind.

Because the real enemy isn’t the abortion clinic worker or the pro-life activist.

But there are real enemies to both truth and love in the controversy over abortion. There are users and liars, and there is genuine evil that is driving an industry that has killed over 60 million Americans in the womb and scarred scores of millions of women.

We must see this movie – one, because it’s long past time we see through others’ eyes, to learn to speak both truth and love in this debate, and two, because we dare not turn a blind eye to what’s happening to our daughters when we’re afraid to see … what Abby saw.

* “Unplanned” is rated R for the realistic, and therefore gruesome, depiction of abortion procedures. This is not a film for children or those whose hearts cannot look into the face of evil and pain. Women who have suffered abortion, or even miscarriage, may find the film’s first several minutes to be particularly difficult. Those first several minutes will be difficult for almost any audience to watch.

Drew Zahn is the former film critic for WorldNetDaily and today serves as director of communications for The FAMiLY LEADER




National report: TFL changing the ‘spiritual temperature’

On a wintry, snow-covered Wednesday in February, a film crew from Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN, flew from Washington, D.C., to Des Moines to cover a story in the Heartland that has national implications.

The work of The FAMiLY LEADER’s Church Ambassador Network had piqued CBN’s interest. And when the network heard Iowa’s successful model of building intentional relationships between pastors and legislators was now spreading to other states … CBN booked a flight to Des Moines to learn just how TFL is changing the way the Church interacts with government in America:

Watch CBN’s coverage of TFL’s Church Ambassador Network below:

Through ministries like the Church Ambassador Network and the If 7:14 prayer initiative, The FAMiLY LEADER is pioneering a strategy of inspiring the Church to engage government for the advance of God’s (not man’s) kingdom. Rather than a politics-first approach, TFL’s model focuses first on cultural transformation, anchoring our ministry in prayer and leading with the gospel.

TFL recognizes that a Church that is biblically and authentically engaged with government will not only transform individual lives and relationships, but also impact elections, influence policy, and lead the way toward a revived America that honors God and blesses people.

And now, though “The Daniel Initiative,” TFL is exporting this model of authentic Church engagement to other states. By partnering with sister state organizations of The Family Policy Alliance, TFL’s “The Daniel Initiative” aims to build a fortress of states that can transform a nation!

TFL is grateful to CBN for covering the powerful impact of our ministry and grateful to you, our supporters, for enabling us to embark on the bold, nation-transforming vision of The Daniel Initiative!

Do YOU want to see a Church revived and impacting government in a biblical way? Your support of The FAMiLY LEADER will help spread The Daniel Initiative across America!




TFL’s Capitol Connection: Planned Parenthood sex ed in Iowa schools

TFL’s Drew Zahn, Chuck Hurley, and Danny Carroll highlight a brewing controversy at the Capitol over YOUR tax dollars paying for Planned Parenthood to teach sex education in Iowa’s public schools:

Visit www.ShesABaby.com today!

Get the facts on the radical Iowa Supreme Court ruling on abortion that has prompted calls for a constitutional amendment.




Iowa signs campus religious liberty, free speech bill into law

One of The FAMiLY LEADER’s top legislative priorities this session was signed into law Wednesday, March 27. SF274, also known as the FORUM Act, secures free speech and religious liberty protections to students at Iowa’s public colleges and universities.

TFL Vice President and Chief Counsel Chuck Hurley called the law’s signing “fabulous news for all Iowans.”

Renee Aamodt, Gov. Reynolds, and Chuck Hurley
Renee Aamodt, Gov. Reynolds, and Chuck Hurley

“This is the best religious liberty bill that’s passed [in Iowa] in my 29 years here on Capitol Hill,” remarked TFL Vice President Chuck Hurley. “It does way more than secure religious liberty – it’s great for free speech and freedom of association. I hope this bill goes around the country.”

“The bill ensures that our public universities and community colleges are places where all members of the campus community are free to speak and express themselves,” explained Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during the signature ceremony. “This bill mandates that the Board of Regents and the board of each community college adopt a robust intellectual freedom and free expression policy. It also prohibits the school from denying any benefit to a student organization just because the organization requires that its student leaders agree with and support the organization’s beliefs and mission.”

“This law codifies what should be known from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” explained the bill’s Senate floor leader, Sen. Amy Sinclair. “It provides protections for students in their freedom of assembly, religion, and speech, and it provides mechanism for recourse if it doesn’t happen. I couldn’t be more excited about this bill passing into law today.”

Among those present for the signing were key legislators, members of TFL Capitol Team, and college students celebrating the new law.

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Jacob Schrader is student government senator at Iowa State University who wrote a resolution endorsing the FORUM Act.

“This is a really important bill that guarantees students’ rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are adequately protected at our public universities,” Schrader told TFL. “As we’ve seen recently at the University of Iowa, that’s not always the case. So this is a really good bill that we shouldn’t have had to pass, but we have now passed. I’m very happy about it.”

As TFL reported earlier, the FORUM Act became one of TFL’s top legislative priorities after an incident in 2017 in which the University of Iowa attempted to disband a Christian campus student organization called Business Leaders in Christ, or BLinC. The University had demanded the organization conform its statement of beliefs to permit an openly homosexual student to serve in leadership.

BLinC ultimately won a lawsuit against the University, when a federal judge ruled the University had applied its Human Rights Policy “selectively” – meaning it had granted exceptions to some secular groups, but clamped down on religious groups.

The FORUM Act now sets into Iowa code that public institutions of higher learning may not deny students their First Amendment rights to speech, religion, and association because the University disagrees with the students’ viewpoint. The bill would thus protect student organizations like BLinC – or organizations of other faiths or no faith – from discrimination based on their beliefs.

The bill faced an uphill battle, but eventually won the support of a bipartisan majority in the Iowa Senate. The Republican majority was joined by a handful of Democrats in passing SF274 by a vote of 35-11.

“A university has to accommodate a universe of beliefs,” affirmed Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames). “And this bill, with its very strong protections for free speech … does that very, very well.”

The bill was then passed by the Iowa House on March 14, before being sent on to the governor’s desk.




TFL’s Capitol Connection: The next generation is rising!

The FAMiLY LEADER’s Drew Zahn and Chuck Hurley sit down to discuss a key prayer request from the Iowa Capitol, as well as the exciting news of two initiatives that are investing in youth to be the Christian leaders of tomorrow (and today!).

Discover more about LEAD, the summer program that is encouraging and equipping Iowa’s youth to be ambassadors for Christ! Click here to watch the video summary of last summer’s LEAD and more.




Rosenberg book tour leaves Iowans laughing, praying

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TFL staff served guests at “An Evening with Joel Rosenberg”

On Saturday, March 16, New York Times best-selling author and Mideast expert Joel C. Rosenberg visited Iowa and made an important announcement leading up to the 2020 caucus season: “I am NOT running for president.”

The quip was just one of many humorous lines and anecdotes that the former Family Leadership Summit speaker shared with the sold-out crowd at “An Evening with Joel Rosenberg,” hosted by The FAMiLY LEADER at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale.

Rosenberg also shared the story of his recent, unexpected trip to the White House and a bold confession he made to President Trump.

“‘Mr. President, I have to tell you, I was a never-Trumper,'” Rosenberg recalled saying. “Now, how many times do you suppose the term ‘never-Trumper’ is used in the Oval Office currently? … The look in his eye suggested ‘none’ might be too high.”

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Rosenberg – whose novels have found fans not only in the U.S., but also in the Middle East – also shared how his work has opened doors for the gospel, for meeting with international power players, and for becoming an ambassador for religious liberty in the Middle East.

“God is opening some crazy doors [for me] as a novelist,” Rosenberg said. “But my heart is to use this platform, the books themselves, [in this way]: If you don’t know the Lord, you’re going to hear about the Lord in these books, and if you know the Lord, these are great books to give to someone you’re trying to share the gospel with.”

Watch Rosenberg’s presentation from “An Evening with Joel Rosenberg” below:


(jump to the segment of the program: 0:00 – Bob intros Joel , 4:08 – Joel Rosenberg , 37:16 – Bob interviews Joel )

Rosenberg holds a special place in the history of The FAMiLY LEADER. His address at the 2012 Family Leadership Summit challenged TFL to look beyond politics to the power of prayer and revival as America’s best hope for the future. Rosenberg influenced TFL to begin the If 7:14 prayer initiative and to focus on cultural transformation. Rosenberg has also been a part of TFL’s trips to Israel in recent years.

And through Rosenberg’s connections, TFL President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats traveled with an evangelical delegation to meet with Jordanian President Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and talk with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about religious liberty.

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TFL President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats prays with Joel C. Rosenberg

Rosenberg gained national prominence when his political thriller, “The Last Jihad,” contained fictional storylines eerily parallel to the events of 9-11, months before the attacks actually happened.

His latest book, “The Persian Gamble,” was released only days ago, and Rosenberg made Iowa one of his first stops on the novel’s debut book tour. Attendees of “An Evening with Joel Rosenberg” enjoyed a meal catered by Hickory Park Restaurant of Ames, Iowa, and received an autographed copy of “The Persian Gamble.”

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TFL’s Capitol Connection: Fast movement on free speech!

The FAMiLY LEADER’s Chuck Hurley and Danny Carroll are celebrating again this week, as one of TFL’s top legislative priorities – a bill protecting speech, religious liberty, and freedom of association on college campuses – has passed both the Iowa House and Senate and is ready for the governor’s signature!

Chuck and Danny also highlight two other key bills – and a dangerous debate – moving through the Iowa Legislature:

Support the team that is YOUR voice for biblical values at the Iowa Capitol! Your donation of $20, $50, $100, or more makes a BIG difference on what kind of state we pass on to our children and grandchildren. Give today!




Join TFL to see ‘Unplanned’

On Friday, March 29, The FAMiLY LEADER invites you to join us in theaters across Iowa for the film “Unplanned”:

“Unplanned” is the inspiring true story of Abby Johnson, one of the youngest and most decorated Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the nation. She was involved in over 22,000 abortions and counseled countless women. Her passion for “choice” even led her to become a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, fighting to enact legislation for the cause she so deeply believed in.

Until the day she saw something that changed everything.

“Unplanned,” rated R*, is the most important movie you may ever see on the most controversial issue of our time. No matter which side of the abortion debate you’re on, no one will leave “Unplanned” unmoved.

Get your FREE ticket to join TFL in watching “Unplanned” with us at a theater near you by clicking one of the links below!

Though the generous giving of passionate pro-life supporters like you, The FAMiLY LEADER has completely bought out the tickets for the opening night of “Unplanned” in four theaters across Iowa. And we’re giving away those tickets to friends and supporters who will join us to make sure the theaters are packed for one of the most important movies of our lifetimes!*

JOIN US FRIDAY, MARCH 29, AT 6:40 p.m. AT ONE OF THESE LOCATIONS! Get YOUR free ticket by clicking your theater choice below:

(PLEASE NOTE: Our Davenport and West Des Moines locations have already sold out. Cedar Rapids, and Sioux City may shortly, as well. But these are not the only showings of the film, nor the only locations showing in Iowa. You may find additional showtimes and locations at the “Unplanned” website.)

  • Cedar Rapids – Marcus Cedar Rapids Cinema – March 29, 6:40 p.m. (SOLD OUT)
  • Davenport – Cinemark Davenport 18 – March 29, 6:40 p.m. (SOLD OUT)
  • Sioux City – Promenade Cinema 14 – March 29, 6:40 p.m.
  • West Des Moines – Century 20 Jordan Creek – March 29, 6:40 p.m. (SOLD OUT)

NOTE: You will receive an email to confirm your ticket. Arrive at the theater early and go to The FAMiLY LEADER table to receive your ticket from our staff.

* IMPORTANT NOTE: Parents and viewers should be aware “Unplanned” contains images from the abortion clinic that some may consider gruesome. For that reason, “Unplanned” was given an “R” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. This is NOT a film for the entire family. Furthermore, you may have your ID checked to ensure you are at least 17 years of age, and no one under the age of 6 will even be permitted in the theater. If you wish to bring teenagers under the age of 17, they must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.