When Christians get involved … America wins

160201churchcaucusHow the church in Iowa answered the call in the 2016 Iowa Caucus: 50,000 more evangelical voters!

Forget for just a moment who won the Iowa Caucuses. Our hope never has been in one politician’s victory or failure.

In a country where we have been truly blessed with the gift of self-government, the direction of our nation is more determined by the voice of the people than the voice of a candidate.

But for too many years in America, the voice of the church has been muted.

Poll after poll has shown America’s Christians no more likely to be involved in government than the culture at large. Even in Iowa, where Christians play an unusually large role in the caucus system, hundreds of thousands of believers – more than the total number of people who participate – have typically stayed home on Caucus Night.

Is that really how God would have Christians steward this gift of self-government? Is it any wonder, then, that our government and culture have drifted from their moral compass, have sprinted from the heart of God?

But all of that is changing!

At The FAMiLY LEADER, we yearn for a revived America that honors God and blesses people. That means inspiring believers toward Christ-like leadership in their homes, churches, and government.

So we were enthusiastic to launch the “Caucus 2016 … It Is Time” initiative to encourage Christians to take up the mantle of leadership, answer the call of stewardship, and let their voice be heard in the 2016 Caucus.

Through the “Caucus 2016 … It Is Time” initiative:

  • 1,400 Iowa churches were contacted about encouraging their people to caucus
  • Our Church Ambassador Team spoke directly to 800 Iowa pastors about getting involved
  • Tens of thousands of Iowans encountered online, radio, and print ads encouraging them to caucus. Many heard our ad on WHO’s “Van and Bonnie” program or through the Pandora online music site.
  • Over 1.8 million people were reached through Facebook posts encouraging Christians to caucus

In addition, churches were provided a variety of materials to help congregants understand both how to caucus and why caucusing is so important.

“Bulletin inserts, a PowerPoint slide, videos, directions on where to caucus,” summarized Pastor Philip Herman of Fellowship Community Church in Norwalk. “All those things were really helpful, just exactly the tools we needed to do the proper education of our people.”

And THIS is how the Body of Christ in Iowa responded:

  • 850-950 Iowa churches participated in the “Caucus 2016 … It Is Time” project
  • An estimated 130,000 Iowans learned about the caucus either from the pulpit or during worship services
  • Over 60,000 people visited the “Caucus 2016 … It Is Time” webpage to learn how to caucus and why caucusing is so important!
  • Iowa Republicans shattered their previous record of 121,500 for caucus turnout, with 186,874 caucusgoers, while the Democrats estimate similar numbers.
  • And according to the Washington Post, 64% of those 186,874 caucusgoers were evangelical voters. When you compare that against 57% of 2012’s 121,500 Republican caucusgoers who claimed to be evangelical, it means in 2016, there were 50,000 more evangelicals participating in the caucus than in 2012. And that’s just the Republicans! The numbers for evangelicals participating in the Democrat caucus are not as readily available yet.

Some of the overflow, record caucus crowd in Perry, Iowa
Some of the overflow, record caucus crowd in Perry, Iowa

THANK YOU, Iowans, for responding to the call and making your voice heard in the arena of God’s third social institution, the government!

May this be just the first step toward the goal of a revived America that honors God and blesses people.

For more on how YOU can encourage the flames of revival in America, click here to visit the If 7:14 webpage today. And in case you haven’t heard, the exciting, new If 7:14 app for iPhone is available now!

Merry Christmas (and holiday bloopers!) from The FAMiLY LEADER

In his Christmas greeting, Bob talked about how much his family laughs over the holidays.

But it’s the staff at The FAMiLY LEADER who bring out the laughs by including the blooper reel at the end of this otherwise heartwarming holiday greeting from Bob and Darla!

Watch below:

Discover how YOU are bringing smiles to fellow Iowans by clicking here to read more about Cathy’s story!

Endorsement: The FAMiLY LEADER chooses to remain a standard bearer

The FAMiLY LEADER organization will not be issuing an endorsement of a candidate prior to the Iowa Caucus.

The ministry of The FAMiLY LEADER has grown in recent years to encompass far more than elections and candidates. Especially with the growing, global impact of the If 7:14 call to prayer for revival, our focus is on transforming culture, strengthening families, and inspiring Christ-like leadership. Our work with pastors and churches has grown as well, and it’s critical that none of our ministry efforts be seen as being co-opted by a partisan agenda.

For these reasons and others, our board unanimously decided The FAMiLY LEADER needs to remain a standard bearer for Christian principles in our culture and government, and not endeavor to be a kingmaker in the election process.

And especially in a year when so many good candidates are championing Christian values in the civic arena, The FAMiLY LEADER wants to assure all our friends and ministry supporters that no money given to the ministry of The FAMiLY LEADER will be used to favor one good candidate to the detriment of other good candidates.

Nonetheless, the process of coming to this decision was not easy, especially in the wake of the disappointing 2012 election.

In both the 2008 and 2012 elections, Christians and constitutional conservatives divided their support among various candidates. Recent history has shown that with Christian conservatives divided, the nation’s political parties nominate candidates who do not champion our values or issues.

It is therefore our hope and fervent prayer that 2016 will be different, and Christians will avoid dividing into factions that fight against, instead of alongside, one another. The FAMiLY LEADER board and staff has been in earnest prayer and fasting, over many months and meetings, asking God to intervene as He did in guiding Samuel to choose David in 1 Samuel 16. Our hope is that now, as then, though many candidates exhibit admirable qualities, God would say, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one,” and raise up instead a single standard bearer around whom Christian voters can unite.

To that end, the board has also unanimously encouraged its leaders – including President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats, Vice President Chuck Hurley, and Board Chair Robert Cramer – to apply their personal influence to encourage Christian voters toward uniting behind a single candidate. The board fully supports their decision to make personal endorsements, while recognizing it is more important for the organization at this time to be a standard bearer and steward its resources to honor the intent of those donors who might disagree with a particular choice for endorsement.

VIDEO: Watch the 2015 Presidential Family Forum here!

Catch anything you missed. Relive the moments …

The 2015 Presidential Family Forum on Friday, Nov. 20, was a resounding success! Over 1,100 people and 100 members of national and international media were on hand to listen to seven presidential hopefuls share not just their plans and ideas, but their hearts and worldviews.

Over 1,100 people braved the snow to pack the Convention Center
Over 1,100 people braved the snow to pack the Convention Center

Click below to relive some of the most revealing and insightful moments of the entire election season!

Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Marco Rubio, and former Sen. Rick Santorum all sat down around our table and shared their hearts with us.

Carly smallFocus group maestro Frank Luntz moderated the discussion, bringing questions unlike anything you’ll ever see on a mainstream media debate, many of which came from Iowans and Americans just like you.

For example, Frank asked Carly Fiorina if she should share with him in his own grief any lessons of faith she learned from the death of her daughter. It was one of the most touching moments of the evening.

But not the only one.

HuckabeesmallRick Santorum spoke about wrestling with a bitterness of spirit when doctors told him his son would die, Mike Huckabee detailed the struggle to sign off on the execution of convicts when he was a governor, and more.

The Presidential Family Forum, an event like no other, was held at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

Your donations bring events like the Presidential Family Forum to Iowa. Would you give today to keep ’em coming? Click here now!

The Forum also marked the global launch of If 7:14, an international prayer initiative calling on God’s people to prayer and repentance, seeking God for both personal and national healing.

With the help of musical superstars the Newsboys and an exciting new app that will engage and unites believer around the world, If 7:14 is igniting a global rhythm of united prayer!

Click here now to learn more about If 7:14!

Get the facts: What you need to know about defunding Planned Parenthood

Why “defund” Planned Parenthood? Can we even do that? What do I say when I call the governor?

There’s a lot of misinformation in the press and half-baked excuses coming from your elected officials, confusing the whole issue. But let’s boil it down to the basics. Here’s what you need to know:

Why defund Planned Parenthood?

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, has been caught:

Taxpayers should not be compelled by law to financially support an organization whose practices they find morally repugnant.

What does it mean to “defund” it?

In Iowa, two more things need be done to make sure none of your money supports Planned Parenthood:

  1. Cancel all contracts the state of Iowa has with Planned Parenthood
  2. Terminate Planned Parenthood as an approved Medicaid provider

Taxpayers like you should not be giving millions annually in Medicaid dollars to an organization under investigation for Medicaid fraud.

Can the Gov. Branstad even do that?

Simple answer: Yes.

Iowa’s Democrat attorney general would like to convince Branstad otherwise, but other governors (like Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal) have defunded Planned Parenthood, and other legislators, including Iowa’s U.S. Rep. David Young and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, are calling on Branstad to do it. The U.S. House has already passed legislation specifically allowing for it.

Branstad has also been provided with extensive legal documentation, including precedents in federal court, demonstrating he can.

More importantly, the open investigation of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s for Medicaid fraud gives Branstad all the legal cause he needs.

How would that impact women’s health care?

There are only 13 Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa, many in urban areas.

There are 213 other women’s health medical centers spread across Iowa that don’t commit the crimes Planned Parenthood is accused of, don’t conduct abortions, and even offer additional services Planned Parenthood doesn’t … like mammograms.

Redirecting funds and patients to those clinics will ensure Iowa women continue to receive quality health care.


How can I urge the governor to do what’s right and defund Planned Parenthood? What do I say?

There are several ways:

1. Use our easy email form by clicking here. The words are all provided for you, and you can edit or customize them as you like.

2. Call the governor’s office at 515-281-5211. You may get an operator who wants to tell you all about Branstad’s record or repeat some of his talking points. Don’t worry about trying to argue. No need to be rude. Simply say something like, “Planned Parenthood is under Medicaid fraud investigation in Iowa. I want the governor to terminate Planned Parenthood as an approved Medicaid provider. I don’t want to hear excuses, and I don’t want another penny of my money funding Planned Parenthood. He can do it, and I’m calling to demand he does.”

3. Go to Facebook and “share” this post telling Branstad to “Keep Your Promise” and defund Planned Parenthood.

4. Use the hashtags #KeepYourPromise and #DefundPP on Twitter. Consider tweeting out this message: @TerryBranstad I’m a voter and I want you to #KeepYourPromise #DefundPP https://thefamilyleader.com/keep-your-promise-governor/

Let’s encourage Gov. Branstad to do the right thing and defund Planned Parenthood today!

Bobby Jindal explains to Branstad how it’s DONE

150928jindalbranstad2Gov. Bobby Jindal made news on Aug.3, not for his presidential bid, but for defunding Planned Parenthood in Louisiana.

Now Jindal has written a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad, who has resolutely refused to take the same steps in Iowa, explaining just how a governor can legally cut off taxpayer dollars flowing to Planned Parenthood.

Click here to tell Branstad it’s time he keeps his promise and defunds Planned Parenthood!

150928jindalbranstad“Videos have been released which show in detail Planned Parenthood’s abhorrent practices and disregard for human life,” the letter states. “After viewing the first of these videos in July, I directed the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) to investigate.”

After detailing additional steps, Jindal’s letter goes on to say, “Finally, at my direction, DHH notified Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast of the termination of their Medicaid contract with the state of Louisiana, for cause.”

(This is exactly what The FAMiLY LEADER and many Iowans like you are demanding Gov. Branstad do.)

“I encourage you to watch these videos and to take similar action in your state as well,” Jindal tells Branstad. “If you have any questions about the specific actions our state has taken to protect life, please do not hesitate to call me.”

Read the letter for yourself by clicking here.

The letter comes even as Branstad is facing pressure from Iowan voters after a hard-hitting video reminds the governor he promised five years ago to defund Planned Parenthood, whether the money “goes to pay for abortions” or not.

The web-based video, however, is only the beginning:

  • Hundreds of Iowans are already emailing the governor, telling him to “Keep Your Promise” and defund Planned Parenthood.
  • The video has been reported by WHO-TV News and multiple local radio hosts.
  • Very shortly, radio ads reminding Branstad to “Keep Your Promise” will be featured on some of Iowa’s most-listened-to live broadcasts

And with your help, the “Keep Your Promise” ad may also appear on Iowa’s television networks. Click here now to help fund this critical step in putting the pressure on Branstad to defund Planned Parenthood in Iowa.

Keep your promise, Governor!

Five years ago, Terry Branstad promised he would defund Planned Parenthood. It’s time he keep that promise.

Let’s encourage Gov. Branstad to do the right thing and defund Planned Parenthood today!

What can you do? It’s simple:

1. Contact the governor. Our quick, online form makes it easy for you to send an email with wording sure to get his attention. Click here now!   Or call the governor at 515-281-5211.

2. Turn up the heat! Your support of the “Keep Your Promise” campaign will spread the message through more and more channels, and with generous support, may enable us to put this ad on television. Click here to help make it happen!

(Did you get a form-letter response from the Governor’s Office? Or hear him try to explain why he’s already doing all he can?Click here to see through his smokescreen!)

Branstad pledged during a 2010 gubernatorial debate on Iowa Public Television to make Planned Parenthood one of the first programs he would defund upon being elected. And yet millions in taxpayer dollars are still flowing to Planned Parenthood through state contracts.

150924noexcusesBranstad has been provided with legal evidence that he has cause to terminate those contracts, particularly as Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is already under Medicaid fraud investigation.

“There are no excuses left for Branstad’s inaction,” says Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation. “His own party insists he act. Iowans are lighting up his phone lines demanding he act. Conscience requires he act. It’s time for Branstad to make good on his promise and defund Planned Parenthood.

“Furthermore, Iowa has over 200 women’s health clinics not affiliated with Planned Parenthood and which offer more comprehensive health care – such as mammograms and well-child services – that Planned Parenthood does not provide,” Vander Plaats adds. “Imagine what those millions in Medicaid and taxpayer dollars could do if they were used in those 200 clinics across the state instead of concentrated in only 13 Iowa communities where Planned Parenthood clinics are located.”


What more does Branstad need?

  • Even after shocking videos have revealed the abortion industry leader deceiving women and altering the abortion procedure to better dismember babies for their more profitable parts …
  • Even after Planned Parenthood’s Iowa chapter has been placed under investigation for an alleged $28 million dollars in Medicaid fraud …
  • Even after his own party called on him to defund Planned Parenthood “as soon as possible using all means and methods at their disposal” …
  • Even after lawyers have shown him he has legal cause to terminate the contracts …
  • Even after over 200 other clinics in Iowa have been identified as viable alternative options for women’s health and taxpayer funding …

… Governor Branstad still hasn’t acted to defund Planned Parenthood!

Isn’t it time the governor keep his promise?

>> Click here to tell the governor to keep his promise.

>> Click here to support the “Keep Your Promise” campaign.

More on the effort to defund Planned Parenthood:

Paid for by The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation through donations from people like you.

Refuting the governor’s talking points

Many of you have contacted Governor Branstad’s office urging he keep his promise to defund Planned Parenthood.

UPDATE: Perhaps you’ve heard Branstad’s most recent excuse that he doesn’t have a good enough legal “reason” or “cause” to defund Planned Parenthood.

Here’s our response to that claim:

As if the 10 videos from the Center for Medical Progress exposing Planned Parenthood’s deception of patients and trafficking in human body parts aren’t enough cause, a recent letter from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad – coupled with a pending case investigating Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for Medicaid fraud – only reinforces the argument that Branstad has more than sufficient cause to defund Planned Parenthood in Iowa.

“At my direction, [the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals] notified Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast of the termination of their Medicaid contract with the state of Louisiana, for cause,” states Jindal’s letter to Branstad, dated Sept. 23, 2015. “I encourage you to … take similar action in your state as well.”

The full text of the letter can be found by clicking here.

“Yes, Governor, you can defund Planned Parenthood in Iowa,” says Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation.

“Branstad claims he has no legal ’cause’ for cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding. That’s simply not true,” continues Vander Plaats. “He has been given an extensive legal briefing demonstrating ample cause. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is currently under investigation for allegedly committing $28 million in Medicaid fraud right here in Iowa. How is an open, pending case investigating Planned Parenthood for scamming state and federal taxpayers not sufficient legal ground to suspend their contracts and Medicaid provider eligibility?

In fact, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals has confirmed the investigative case against Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is still open and pending.

“According to the Guzman v. Shewry [2008, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit] case,” adds attorney Chuck Hurley, chief counsel for The FAMiLY LEADER Foundation, “Gov. Branstad now has full legal authority to immediately terminate Planned Parenthood of the Heartland as a Medicaid provider in Iowa.”

*     *     *     *     *

Many of you have also likely received a form letter in return that begins, “Thank you for contacting the Governor’s office and expressing your concerns …” or heard his office make public statements based on the same letter’s messaging.

Here’s what you need to know about that letter:

This form letter the governor’s office has been sending out for weeks is little more than a smokescreen, as it doesn’t even begin to answer the question of whether Branstad will or won’t stop the millions of taxpayer dollars that funnel into Planned Parenthood in Iowa each year.

Let’s examine each of the letter’s primary rebuttals to your demand he defund Planned Parenthood.

1. “Defunding Planned Parenthood cannot happen with a line item veto”

Yes, that’s correct, Governor. But that’s not what we asked. We demand state contracts with Planned Parenthood be canceled for cause and Planned Parenthood’s eligibility as a Medicaid provider be terminated. You don’t need a veto to do that.

2. “Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds have ensured that Planned Parenthood is never reimbursed for an abortion.”

No, Planned Parenthood simply takes in millions of taxpayer dollars each year to pay for everything else, so they can use the funds that would otherwise pay for overhead on abortions instead. We pay the light bill, so they have more money to pay for their abortion activities. Your assurance, Governor, means nothing.

3. “… and … have asked the Iowa Department of Public Health to thoroughly review the funding the legislature appropriated for the Family Planning Block Grant to ensure it does not and will not ever fund abortions …”

See point No. 2 above. And the delay tactic here is not commendable.

While you dally with your “review” of this or the other, Medicaid dollars are still pumping life into Planned Parenthood.

You have the backing of the people, Governor. You have the backing of your party. And Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is already under investigation for Medicaid fraud in Iowa. So you have what you need to cancel the contracts and terminate Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider in Iowa.

Please, Governor: Don’t brush us off with meaningless assurances. Keep your Promise. Defund Planned Parenthood now.

Thank you for contacting Governor Branstad and making your voice heard! Are your ready now to really turn up the heat? Your support of the “Keep Your Promise” campaign will spread the message through more and more channels until Planned Parenthood is defunded in Iowa. Click here to help make it happen!

GOP: Party of character or cowards?

At the CNN Republican debate on Sept. 16, candidate Carly Fiorina looked directly into the camera and dared anyone to watch the videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practice of butchering babies to sell their body parts for profit.

She demanded Republicans act now to stop the public funding of Planned Parenthood and force President Obama to either sign on or veto.

“I dare Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch these tapes! Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking,” Fiorina said. “This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us!”

See Fiorina’s comments in context for yourself below:

At The FAMiLY LEADER, we couldn’t agree more.

This is about character – of the GOP, of pro-life leaders, of our president, and of the country.

Tell Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to take a stand of character and defund Planned Parenthood now!

Character means having a spine and taking courageous leadership. There’s no way we at The FAMiLY LEADER can back Republican politics as usual while America continues this dark, deceptive path of funding Planned Parenthood. One-third of the budget of the nation’s largest abortion mill comes from taxpayers, to the tune of over $500 million a year, while its clinics deceive their patients and dismember and sell baby body parts on the side. It’s time to shut it down. Now.

There are some, including National Right to Life President Carol Tobias, who say attaching a defund Planned Parenthood measure to the federal spending bill isn’t warranted. They don’t want a fight over “shutting down the government.” They want to wait until a Republican takes over the White House … in January 2017 (at the earliest).

The notion that Republicans can wait to act until a new president takes office in 2017 is nonsense. It’s cover for the cowardly.

Attaching a defund measure to the budget is exactly what Republicans should be doing. It’s time to find out the character of our president: Is he willing to shut down the government to protect Planned Parenthood’s admitted practices of lying to expectant mothers and chopping up baby parts for profit? If Obama is willing to shut down the government to continue funding these horrors, that tells Americans all we need to know about how to vote in 2016.

Planned Parenthood has been exposed now. The American people are outraged now. Pushing it off until the iron cools, continuing to spend $500 million a year of taxpayer money on funding baby butchers, and simply avoiding a fight over Obama’s anticipated “shutting down the government” to try to eke out a win in the next election isn’t character – it’s cowardice.

The FAMiLY LEADER agrees with Bobby Jindal’s indictment at last night’s CNN Debate of Republicans who won’t act: “If we can’t defund Planned Parenthood now, if we can’t stand for innocent human life after these barbaric videos, it is time to be done with the Republican Party.”

Watch Bobby Jindal call for “Republicans with a backbone”:

Help us keep the pressure on our leaders to defund Planned Parenthood by making a donation to The FAMiLY LEADER today!

Fox News asks, Vander Plaats to back Ben Carson?

“He’s a mover and a shaker. He’s not a braggart about it, but he does affect votes.”

That’s what Fox News Channel host Neil Cavuto said of The FAMiLY LEADER President Bob Vander Plaats after this live interview on the state of the 2016 presidential race yesterday.

Vander Plaats endorsed Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012, both of whom went on to win the Iowa GOP caucuses and push for the Republican nomination nationwide. This led FoxNews.com to title the interview with Vander Plaats, “Republican kingmaker ready to back Dr. Ben Carson?

To answer the FoxNews.com question, neither Vander Plaats nor The FAMiLY LEADER have yet made any endorsement, but are evaluating all the candidates, looking for a person of character whom we can trust to lead with courage and conviction and put pro-family principles over politics, should he or she be elected to the presidency.

If you want to keep up to date on the work of The FAMiLY LEADER and learn how you can be a part of seeking a redeemed America that honors God and blesses people, sign up today to receive our latest news and updates, conveniently in your email.

Red Cross emergency manager remembers 9/11

The following is the transcript of a speech given by American Red Cross emergency manager Peter Teahen – an Iowa native who was summoned to New York City the day the World Trade Center was attacked – on the 2014 anniversary of 9/11 in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

In the Lewis Carroll novel, “Alice in Wonderland,” the character Alice was asked by the Caterpillar, “Who are you?”

Alice replied rather shyly, “I … I hardly know, sir, just at present. At least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”

Thirteen years ago today, a day that will always be known simply as 9/11, Americans re-discovered the cost of freedom as more than 3000 individuals became part of history – not by choice, but by fate.

From the farm fields near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 was wrestled to the ground by passengers … Washington, D.C., where American Flight 77 symbolically pierced the heart of our government … and to New York City, where American Flight 11 and United Flight 175 assaulted the core of our economy and financial markets, the commencement of war by foreign terrorist on American soil was etched forever in hearts and minds.

Perhaps you, like me, wake up each 9/11 and wonder if they will strike again on this day. Historians suggest that the events of 9/11 will be noted as one of the top four events in the history our country.
What will not be captured in the annals of history are the intense personal stories that provide insight to the depth of that morning of horror and the change it brought about in us.

The names of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Benghazi, Gitmo, Sharia Law, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, and now ISIS are part of our common language. On the news we hear of the beheading of American reporters, the crucifixion of men, and the live burial and brutal atrocities waged against innocent children and women who refuse to surrender their religious beliefs.

Yes, 9/11 was only the beginning of the ever increasing threats and attacks by terrorist groups who show us the poisonous venom of hatred, anger, and madness done in the name of a religion or belief and their promise to kill us in the very cities that we live.

We are disgusted as we watch young radicalized Americans join terrorist groups, and we are in fear of their return to America. We live in a time when at least three terrorist groups are competing to inflict the next catastrophic hit on the United States.

Let us not forget that terrorism is not just a foreign threat; it is also a domestic based threat. We need to only reflect on the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, the killings at Fort Hood, the slaughter of school children in Sandy Hook, and the bombing during the Boston Marathon.

Following the events of September 11, I responded to New York City on behalf of the American Red Cross and was attached in a leadership role to the emergency management staff of Mayor Giuliani. With all aircraft grounded across America, a military aircraft was dispatched to fly me to New York. As we flew, I recall the eerie feeling of listening to the aircraft radio and only hearing complete silence from radio frequencies normally full of chatter from aircraft winging their way through the skies; looking out the window at armed fighter jets frequently intercepting our aircraft to ensure we were friend, not foe; flying over Ground Zero and watching as the smoke bellowed from the scarred earth; and landing at JFK Airport in the middle of the day only to find a total absence of people and aircraft moving about. It was as though the most frightening horror movie had come true. For me, that was only the beginning of what I can honestly say was the most frightening five weeks of my entire life.

Almost every day I stood in the World Trade Center complex and was awed by the destruction. I watched as responders and dogs sorted through the collapsed buildings and served as a witness to the evilness, hatred, and ugliness of terrorism. I vividly remember the overwhelming sense of loss and my inability to comprehend the fact that I was standing in the midst of what we believed at the time to be more than 5,000 dead.

My personal story of the World Trade Center began for me nearly 25 years ago. Since 1989, I have responded to 47 major disasters throughout the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico, as well as the horrific genocide in Darfur, the tsunami-hit country of Sri Lanka, and the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. Many of those disasters required me to face the threat of terrorism as well as the fury of Mother Nature. I have been held at gunpoint by terrorists and have listened to gunfire wondering how many innocents were dying in the surrounding fields. Over these 25 years I have borne witness to almost every known type of disaster, from the ruins of the Oklahoma City bombing to being in the direct path of more than a dozen hurricanes, including in New Orleans the day Katrina made landfall. I have stood among the wreckage of major airplane crashes and have provided medical care to the injured and dying.

Nothing prepared me for the magnitude of the horror, destruction, and the devastation I witnessed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And nothing prepared me for the personal transformation from responder to victim upon learning of my exposure to Anthrax in Washington, D.C., prior to my return home.

What I could hold on to during those days was a personal philosophy developed from my experiences – a philosophy that helps me make sense of the complexities of a disaster response by identifying three important parts to every disaster.

The three parts of a disaster include the physical, emotional, and the spiritual.

The physical part of a disaster is witnessed with all of our senses. When you are in the midst of the destruction you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the devastation. At Ground Zero, I recall the acrid smell of the fires raging in the debris; I inhaled into my lungs the air that was thick with the particles of asbestos, burning plastic, concrete dust, chemicals, and human remains. I remember standing in the debris for five weeks and always being amazed that I never saw a computer, a desk, a chair, or a file cabinet, knowing that thousands had existed prior to the collapse.

The emotional part of a disaster includes the tears, anger, and horror we see etched on the faces of victims and responders.

Here is what stays in my mind’s eye and is etched in my memory: As each remains was recovered from the site, I was always moved by the sign of dignity, respect, and compassion that was displayed as the workers would stop working, line up to create a corridor of honor, and stand at attention as the flag-draped remains was carried past the workers to the ambulance.

I remember watching as families came to the Family Assistance Center with pictures of loved ones around their necks, seeking answers, and giving the medical examiner information in hopes of identifying their loved ones.

I remember looking at the thousands of photos and descriptions of loved ones pasted on walls and fences all over New York City, as families held out desperate hope that their missing loved one would be seen and returned home alive.

I remember standing at Ground Zero in the days prior to the one-year anniversary and being approached by a woman who was crying. On that day, she was at Ground Zero looking for her answers. As she spoke, I heard her story and felt her pain as she recalled how she overslept that morning and missed her train to lower Manhattan.

When she called her office to say she was running late, her coworker said, “Don’t come in. Something has happened. We will let you know.”

As she stood there with eyes full of tears, she struggled accepting that she was the sole survivor of her office. She repeatedly asked, “Why me?”

Finally, the spiritual part of my philosophy is the part that defines the reason why I continually stay involved with disaster work. The spiritual side of disaster work is not a reflection of a religious belief, but the extremely intense personal experiences one has when working with other individuals during a crisis. The spiritual part of a disaster is that interaction with another human being that is so intense that it reaches down and touches the most inner part of your existence and changes you forever.

Over the years, I have always tried to define disasters NOT by the breadth of destruction but rather by the intense spiritual experiences. These experiences help me as I deploy to disasters as well as help me define who I am as an individual.

As I reflect back 13 years ago I remember the man who stopped me at 4 a.m. and asked that I meet with him and his wife. It had been several days after the attack and neither had slept because every time they closed their eyes they once again became eyewitnesses to bodies falling like raindrops from the sky. As they shared their story with me, I was deeply moved by their anguish and sorrow.

I recall a young firefighter who spoke of standing at the base of the towers with two of his teammates. As a team they were strategically planning a medical triage response when the buildings began to collapse. He spoke of his fear as the debris fell and how the three of them looked at each other before running for their lives. He told me how he became separated from his teammates and how all he could hear was his wife telling him which direction to run to escape death. He recalled that his wife kept telling him not to leave their children orphans and how he ran listening to her as she guided him through the blinding debris. Then he quietly stated that his wife had died nine months prior to September 11.

He is convinced that it was her spiritual presence that guided him to safety that fateful day and eventually back to their children. Six months later I was at his side when he was informed that the remains of his teammates had been identified. Although he still struggles today with why he did not die with his teammates, he finds comfort in the belief that even in her death he knows his wife is always at his side.

I remember the day I called two of my friends in Washington, D.C., who were planning to visit me because they heard the stress in my voice. I told them not to come because a terrorist alert had been posted for the next day and I felt that I was going to die. I told them not to come to New York because I did not want them to die with me.

I remember one friend saying, “That’s OK. I am coming anyway.”

For me, it served as a reminder that God always ensures we will never be alone as we face personal trials.

I often reflect on the tremendous humanity, dedication, generosity, and patriotism that I witnessed in those following weeks. I saw Americans reach out in so many ways to help others who were suffering. There were ribbons, flowers, Teddy bears, poems, candles, and groups of people standing on the curb cheering and waving signs as we drove to and from Ground Zero, saying we were their heroes. Little did they realize that they – and our families and friends back home – were the heroes of everyone who worked at Ground Zero. We knew we could not survive the responsibilities we faced during those dark days without their love, support, and prayers.

Let me tell you about my friend Margaret. She was a kind grandmother, a “real lady,” full of energy, wit, compassion, and an incredible desire to serve those touched by disaster. She died this past summer from her exposure at Ground Zero. Thirteen years after the terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center killing innocent people going about their work, the death toll from that attack continues to grow as thousands of emergency workers are becoming ill and dying.

Fires at the site burned for three months, releasing carcinogens and other deadly chemicals into the air, while thousands of tons of pulverized toxic debris lay strewn at the site of the Towers. Doctors say those who spent time at Ground Zero were exposed to “wildly toxic” dust that would be the equivalent of inhaling Drano. Responders are now facing an increased risk of a number of different cancers, including prostate, thyroid, lung, leukemia, multiple myeloma, as well as respiratory problems.

Latest figures show more than 2,500 New York City police officers, firefighters, ambulance staff, and sanitation workers report having a cancer certified as relating to their work following the attack. That figure is twice as many cases of cancer as reported just 12 months prior.

The figures from the U.S. government’s monitoring and treatment program for 9/11 emergency workers, responders, volunteers, and local residents report more than 18,000 people are suffering from illnesses linked to the dust from the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Although it is unclear how many responders have already died after contracting cancer as a result of their work at Ground Zero, U.S. health officials managing the health legacy of the attacks warn of early deaths. Personally, I continue to be closely monitored each year for the physical and emotional toll on my body.

As we all struggled for answers during those frightening days, I soon realized why I was there. I was fortunate to be part of some of the worst hours of America’s history. I was fortunate to witness America rise to its finest hour. I witnessed the tremendous effort, humanity, dignity, and courage of Americans as they came together in a manner we had not witnessed in decades.

One of the reasons for being here today is to recall our past, to appreciate the present, and to contemplate our tomorrows.

People have asked me, “What have you learned from the September 11 attack?” This is what I have learned:

• You do NOT have the luxury of saying I don’t want to be involved. You are involved.
• You do NOT have the luxury of saying it does not affect me. It does affect you.
• You do NOT have the luxury of saying it won’t happen here again. It will happen here, and the horrors of 9/11 will pale in contrast.
• We must learn that a terrorist cannot be defined by their nationality or religion or glamorized in the media. They can only be defined by their evilness, hatred, and lack of regard for life.
• We must learn and remember the past and to stand united against those who threaten our existence.

Our challenge is not to run and hide. We must come together as a community and as a nation to stand strong, to stand prepared, and [to] be ready to defend what we hold so dear.

For most Americans, September 11 did change us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

As President Bush noted on 9/11, “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people have been moved to defend a great nation.”

Like Alice in Wonderland who replied, “At least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then,” we may never completely understand the depth of the change that occurred to us since that horrific morning, but we have come to realize that life will never be the same. The security and future of this country, the protection of our families, and the safeguard of our beliefs that we hold so dear rest with each and every one of us.

Today I pray that God will guide, bless, and protect each and every one of us.

I remember the 3,000 who died 13 years ago, the 7,000 soldiers who have paid the ultimate price as they fought the war on terror, and the 1 million soldiers and their families who cope with their combat injuries each day.

As we once again prepare to continue the war against terror, I pray that God will guard our men and women serving in the armed forces, in our embassies and consulates around the world, as well as those who respond to disasters.

And I beseech God to always watch over and bless these United States of America.

‘Truth Exposed’ rallies Iowans to defund Planned Parenthood

On Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, several hundred Iowans gathered on the steps of the Iowa State Capitol to demand the men in women inside the golden domed building take action to defund, investigate, and prosecute Planned Parenthood after a string of investigative videos revealed the abortion giant’s practice of deceiving patients, taking dead babies from their mothers without signed consent, and butchering the babies to sell their organs and other body parts.

Twenty different speakers, from presidential candidates, senators, and congressmen to local activists and Iowa elected representatives, spoke to the crowd of the #TruthExposed Rally.

Among the themes: It’s not enough to simply ensure no tax dollars fund abortions. It’s time to stop ALL government funding of Planned Parenthood.

Click here to tell Gov. Terry Branstad Iowa needs to defund Planned Parenthood NOW!

** Time Codes Below** (jump to each speaker)
#TruthExposed Rally – Iowa State Capitol, 8-15-15 , with Simon Conway of WHO Radio

-National Anthem: sung by Shannon Seals*
-Welcome: Emcee, Simon Conway
2:40 Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad
-Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds
15:46 Sen. Joni Ernst
23:29 Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum
-Jan Mickelson, WHO Radio
-Congressman Steve King
-Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch
-Congressman David Young
-Secretary of State Paul Pate
1:07:05 Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer
-Matt Schultz for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz
-Sen. Jack Whitver for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
-State Sen. Ken Rozenboom
1:31:22 Bob Vander Plaats, president of The FAMiLY LEADER
-Rev. Cary Gordon, Cornerstone World Outreach
-Sam Clovis
2:02:00 Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life
2:13:12 Simon Conway, closing remarks

Known notables in attendance: Tamara Scott – Republican National Committeewoman, Steve Scheffler – Republican National Committeeman, Rep. Walt Rogers, Rep. Dawn Pettingill, Rep. Dean Fisher, Rep. Ted Gassman.
— Simon Conway: http://bit.ly/1oQFKdR , https://www.facebook.com/simon.conway…
— http://www.TheFamilyLeader.com ~ Strengthening Families…
— Iowa Right to Life : http://www.iowartl.org/

*Shannon Seals is a senior at Simpson College with a Vocal Performance Major