TFL’s Capitol Connection: Busy week at the Capitol!

The FAMiLY LEADER’s Capitol Team was so busy – with the Life Amendment, judicial reform, adoption law, gambling expansion, and more – TFL’s Drew Zahn had to catch up with the guys at the Capitol. This week was one of the busiest of the legislative session, so you’ll want to catch up with what’s going on:

Shortly after this video was filmed, the subcommittee met, and Iowa’s “Life Amendment” cleared it’s first hurdle!

Read more about Iowa’s “Life Amendment” here!

To receive TFL’s weekly Legislative Updates, click here to sign up!

U of Iowa students win victory for religious liberty

A Christian student group at the University of Iowa won a victory for religious liberty in federal court on Wednesday, Feb. 6.

In the fall of 2017, The University kicked off campus a student group – Business Leaders in Christ, or BLinC – because of a dispute over the religious group’s beliefs. An openly homosexual student had complained that he had been denied the vice presidency of BLinC because he refused to sign the group’s Statement of Faith, which affirms the Bible’s authority on human sexuality.

University officials, in turn, sided with the complaint, finding BLinC’s Christian beliefs about sexuality “discriminatory and impermissible” under the University’s Human Rights Policy. In fact, the University demanded BLinC change its Statement of Faith and submit an “acceptable plan” for choosing its leaders before it could return to campus.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie M. Rose issued a ruling that sided with the students. Rose concluded 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 federal judge found that the university targeted the Christian students for their beliefs,” explains TFL’s Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel Chuck Hurley, “egregiously discriminating against them, and thereby blatantly violating the students’ First Amendment rights.”

“We are grateful the court protected our rights today – to let us have the same right as all student groups to express our viewpoints freely on campus, and to be who we are,” said BLinC’s Jake Estell. “This victory reinforces the commonsense idea that universities can’t target religious student groups for being religious.”

It’s important to note that Judge Rose’s decision did not take issue with the University’s Human Rights Policy itself, only the way it was unevenly applied to specifically religious groups. After BLinC, the University also deregistered 10 other religious groups, including Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, the Imam Mahdi Muslim organization, the Latter-day Saint Student Association, and the Sikh Awareness Club. But other clubs without religious affiliation were permitted to restrict their membership and/or leadership through exceptions to the Human Rights Policy.

“The university wanted a license to discriminate, and Judge Rose said no way,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, which represents BLinC. “This ruling is a win for basic fairness, but it is also an eloquent plea for civility in how governments treat Americans in all their diversity. As a governmental body bound by the First Amendment, the university should have never tried to get into the game of playing favorites in the first place, and it is high time for it to stop now.”

A parallel lawsuit by another Christian group kicked off the University of Iowa campus, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship v. University of Iowa, is still pending before Judge Rose and will likely be decided later this year.

Iowa ‘Life Amendment’ takes first step

An effort to amend the Iowa Constitution on abortion passed its first hurdle today.

A subcommittee of the Iowa Senate State Government Committee met Wednesday, Feb. 6, to consider an amendment that clarifies Iowa’s Constitution contains no “right to abortion” and nothing that requires Iowa taxpayers to fund abortion.

The effort, designated as SJR 9 and commonly known as the “Life Amendment,” was sponsored by State Sen. Jake Chapman and currently has wide support in Iowa’s Republican-majority State Senate.

After hearing testimony both opposed and in favor of the amendment, including support from The FAMiLY LEADER and Iowa’s Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, the subcommittee recommended by a vote of 2-1 that SJR 9 be considered by the full committee. Republican Sens. Chapman and Roby Smith voted in favor of the amendment, while Democrat Sen. Claire Celsi voted against.

The amendment effort follows a controversial June 2018 decision by the Iowa State Supreme Court that declared abortion a “fundamental right” under the Iowa Constitution. That same decision was then cited last month by a Polk County judge to overturn Iowa’s Heartbeat Law.

“Of course, no such right can be found in the Iowa Constitution itself,” said Drew Zahn, director of communications for The FAMiLY LEADER. “The Iowa State Supreme Court virtually admitted as much when it claimed it was ‘freed … from the private views of the Constitution’s founders’ to rule on ‘current prevailing [and] evolving standards’ instead.”

Get the facts on the Iowa Supreme Court ruling and why an amendment is needed by clicking here!

“This amendment’s language clarifies what is already obvious on a clear reading of the Constitution. There is no ‘right to abortion’ in our Constitution,” explained Chuck Hurley, vice president and chief counsel for The FAMiLY LEADER. “And there is nothing in our Constitution that forces taxpayers to fund abortion.

“But without this amendment, Iowa’s Supreme Court has already shown that it’s willing to just make up rulings on abortion and call them constitutional. That’s wrong,” Hurley continued. “Judges shouldn’t be making up laws on abortion. Whether Iowa is going to be pro-life or the next New York should be up to We the People, not unelected judges.”

Should the amendment pass through both Iowa House and Senate in the next two years, it would have to be passed again by the newly elected Legislature after the 2020 election. Only then would it be brought before a vote of the people for ratification. The amendment does not require the signature of Iowa’s governor.

To be clear, the amendment’s passage wouldn’t immediately change abortion laws or restrictions in Iowa. But the amendment would serve as a “We the People” check and balance against the State Supreme Court’s attempts to erase abortion laws by judicial fiat.

In recent years, the people of Tennessee, West Virginia, and Alabama have added similar amendments to their state constitutions.

Want to know what was said at the subcommittee? Check out TFL’s Twitter feed to review live coverage of the public testimony!

Watch KCCI’s coverage of the hearing, including an interview with TFL’s Chuck Hurley.

TFL’s Capitol Connection: A constitutional amendment on abortion!

This coming week at the Iowa Capitol, the fight begins for a constitutional amendment declaring there is NO right to abortion in our state constitution and NO requirement that taxpayers fund abortion.

The FAMiLY LEADER’s Bob Vander Plaats, Chuck Hurley, and Danny Carroll explain why YOU are urgently needed to come, encourage Iowa’s determined senators who are advancing this amendment.

Why is such an amendment needed? Because our state Supreme Court has issued a ruling that could make Iowa the next New York!

Bob, Chuck, and Danny explain:

Details on the subcommittee hearing TFL encourages YOU to attend:

Senate State Government Subcommittee
Wednesday, Feb. 6, at noon*
Room 315 of the Iowa Capitol

*The hearing is expected to last about an hour. If you arrive by 11:30, you may be able to get a seat within the subcommittee room. At 1 p.m., immediately after the subcommittee hearing, TFL supporters are invited to stay for a debriefing on the fight for life in Iowa.

Get the facts on the radical Iowa Supreme Court ruling that could make Iowa the next New York, and discover why a constitutional amendment is our best way to stop it – CLICK HERE!

Sign up today to receive text messages when big news events break on the battle for life in Iowa.

Can’t come Wednesday? But you want to join the fight for life? Your donation of $20, $50, $100, or more will have an immediate impact on our efforts to save babies’ lives. Give today!

TFL’s Capitol Connection: Hope for Heartbeat!

The FAMiLY LEADER’s President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats sits down with TFL Chief Counsel Chuck Hurley and TFL Senior Policy Advisor Danny Carroll in this week’s edition of TFL’s Capitol Connection.

The top topic of discussion: How “We the People” can reassert our voice in the fight for life after a Polk County judge ruled Iowa’s Heartbeat Law to be “unconstitutional”:

Get the facts on the radical Iowa Supreme Court ruling that led to Heartbeat being called “unconstitutional” – CLICK HERE!


Your donation of $20, $50, $100, or more today will have an immediate impact on our efforts to save thousands of babies’ lives in Iowa each year.

Heartbeat law struck down by county judge

Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert released his ruling Tuesday, siding with Planned Parenthood to block Iowa’s nation-leading Heartbeat Law. His decision relied heavily on an Iowa Supreme Court ruling from June 29, 2018, which erroneously concluded, “A woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy is a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.”

In response, The FAMiLY LEADER has issued the following statement:

Make no mistake, today’s decision was based on an activist ruling by Iowa’s State Supreme Court. On June 29 last year, the Iowa Supreme Court claimed for itself the power to amend the Iowa Constitution without even a vote of the people, and then it went way beyond even Roe v. Wade to concoct a ‘right’ to abortion.

That’s outrageous judicial activism, and it’s wrong. Today’s decision is just the next, egregious consequence of that rogue ruling.

For we all know that when an unborn child’s heart is beating, she’s clearly a living being. She’s a Baby. And her life deserves protection under the law.

Now is when YOU come in.

Anticipating this ruling, The FAMiLY LEADER began preparing a “friend of the court” brief that can be filed if and when Judge Huppert’s decision is appealed. This brief includes a truly unique opportunity for you to add YOUR name to the official record, calling on the courts to protect life.

You’re going to want to be able to tell your children and grandchildren that YOUR name was counted among the Americans who stood up for life on this day!

All you have to do is fill out the petition form at the link below to add your name to this historic record:

180516 petition2

When you’re done filling out the petition, know that the more people who sign it, the louder our collective voice will be. So SHARE this page! Share it with your online friends, your family, your pastor, your church, your small group, your neighbors, your book club, your Christmas card list – anyone and everyone who might stand with you for life.


181206 petition thumbnail

Click on the image at the left for a downloadable print petition that you can use to gather written signatures. The more signatures, the better! Instructions for use are on the form itself.


This is a historic moment, and our leaders in government need to hear the voice of the people. They need to hear YOU … because babies in the womb have no other voice to speak for them. Sign the petition today!

God’s incredible favor at the Capitol

“God is working in Des Moines, and – wow – we get to be a part of it!”

As the Church Ambassador Network begins another year of ministry at the Iowa Capitol, The FAMiLY LEADER’s vice president of church engagement, Greg Baker, reflects on how God is granting favor and opportunity for real ministry, right in the heart of government:

TFL’s Capitol Connection: Governor’s Condition of the State

The FAMiLY LEADER Vice President Chuck Hurley attended Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 2019 Condition of the State address at the Iowa Capitol. Her speech sparked several notes of optimism for Iowa’s future, but carried the theme that the future isn’t some, distant day, but rather, “The time is now.”

With further reaction from the Capitol itself, Chuck Hurley:

Stay up-to-date with Iowa’s legislative session by getting weekly emailed updates in your inbox! Sign up for TFL’s legislative updates today.

Iowa pastor blesses community ‘from conception to last breath’

by Daniel Sunne

Pastor Ricky Rohrig Sr. of Crossroads Community Church in Red Oak, Iowa, told The FAMiLY LEADER why his heart was drawn to serving women in crisis pregnancies: “Because back in 1973, a 15-year-old girl became pregnant, and she chose to give me a chance for life.”

When Rohrig was adopted at three days old, his teenage mother couldn’t have known he would devote six years to helping young mothers like her through the Pregnancy Center of Southwest Iowa. Nor could she have known he would one day serve as chaplain to long-term elderly care facilities in Red Oak and Villisca.

“God has got me in ministry from conception to a person’s very last breath,” says Pastor Ricky of his unique pastor’s role. “The full spectrum.”

In May 2013, Rohrig, while pastoring a small church in Red Oak, started as chaplain for the town’s Good Samaritan Society long-term care facility. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, the largest non-profit of its kind in the nation, is a 95-year-old Christian organization offering several options for senior housing and care.

Between the facilities in Red Oak and Villisca, Pastor Ricky today serves around 90 residents as chaplain, but his work only begins there. Even as he cares for residents through visits, daily devotions, regular church services, and simply watching Jeopardy with some, he counsels family members and acts as a liaison for other pastors who have congregation members in the residence.

“We want to provide spiritual care, not just to residents, but also to residents’ families,” he says.

His life verse is “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV). As Pastor Ricky describes his work with seniors, the wisdom of that verse becomes evident.

“When I started five years ago,” he told TFL, “one of the things I had no knowledge of was [how] on a daily basis they probably impact me more than I ever will them. Just gleaning that wisdom from them, just taking the time to sit down with them and learn!”

Pastor Ricky vividly described an elderly, Christian gentleman who daily visited to care for his wife. As the woman eventually became unresponsive, Pastor Ricky told the husband how much he respected him and his daily presence.

The man replied simply, “We’ve had our ‘for better,’ this is our ‘for worse.’”

That example inspires Pastor Ricky both professionally and personally: “I have so much respect for him, and I hope that we will all have that care.”

In addition to caring for residents, Pastor Ricky offers services to staff, provides counseling and a weekly Bible study, and chairs a committee that seeks to equip staff to “more fully share God’s love.”

“I’m blessed that I’m bi-vocational,” he told TFL, “but everything I do is ministry.”

His work as a pastor has not decreased either, of course. On the last Sunday of February 2014, Crossroads Community Church, a Baptist Convention of Iowa church plant, had its first service.

Pastor Ricky has been with the church plant since it began. He calls church planting the hardest thing he has done in ministry thus far, but appreciates the support other pastors and his denomination have provided.

“We’ve had mission teams from various states,” he said. “Southern Baptist mission teams have come up and worked on our building.”

Crediting a former Methodist pastor, Pastor Ricky sees his “office” as the community itsef. Every year, his church goes door-to-door, trying to reach the unchurched in the community around them.

“If you do the math,” he explains, “our mission field is the 7,400 around us who don’t go anywhere.”

His outreach to the community, his care for those around him, and his own special connection to the issue led Pastor Ricky to the Pregnancy Center of Southwest Iowa. In 2012, he started on the board of the pregnancy center, which describes itself as “a Christian-based organization that instructs, assists, and encourages women who are pregnant or think they may be pregnant.” The center and its team of both paid and volunteer staff offer a variety of services, including pregnancy tests, counselling, supplies, prayer, and ultrasounds.

The Knights of Columbus recently donated a brand-new ultrasound machine capable of detecting a heartbeat at 18 days.

“Eighty to eighty-five percent of all mothers will change their mind [on abortion] once they see a heartbeat,” Pastor Ricky says.

During two years that Pastor Ricky served as executive director, the pregnancy center moved twice, eventually making its home in a beautiful, two-story, former doctor’s office in Red Oak. Through the generosity of the seller and donors, the building was purchased with almost no debt. Pastor Ricky describes the process of getting the building as “one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen God do.” The center now plans to open a thrift store and potentially have an apartment to bless mothers in tough situations.

While Pastor Ricky is no longer directly involved in the pregnancy center, the new executive director attends his church, and the congregation still supports it.

Pastor Ricky Rohrig’s ministry remains to care for the whole community, from the beginning to the end of life.

“The big picture is Matthew 28,” he says, “one life, one person, one situation at a time.”

Daniel Sunne serves as policy liaison for The FAMiLY LEADER

Pastor, ‘Come and See’ what God is doing

As another Iowa legislative session begins, Greg Baker invites pastors to discover how God is using church leaders to change the culture of the Capitol:

Learn more about the Capitol Project and how YOU can join this life-changing mission field today!

The challenge of our time: Restoring civility

An unexpected invitation led to an even more unexpected friendship. Now Bob Vander Plaats is continuing the legacy of restoring civility in America:

Your generosity fuels The FAMiLY LEADER’s ministry of reconciliation. Join the effort to restore civility today!

Merry Christmas from TFL!

Bob and Darla Vander Plaats (without Chelsea, this time) look back with gratitude on all God has done this year and wish you a very merry Christmas!

As you conclude your year-end giving, please consider making a gift to The FAMiLY LEADER. You are a BIG part of what we do!