Yesterday, religious leaders in Iowa held a press conference to decry the role that the American Family Association in playing in running the Iowa For Freedom effort to remove three Supreme Court justices over their ruling in favor of marriage equality:
“I believe that as a person of faith I am called on to aide those who are oppressed, abused and bullied — just as Jesus did,” said the Rev. Tom Capo of Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist. “And when I hear any faith-based organization — whether it is called the American Family Association, Iowa for Freedom or IowaPastors.com — that calls basically for revenge against our Iowa Supreme Court justices because these justices made one decision that these groups don’t agree with, a decision to allow one group of people to have the civil rights that they deserve, I wonder if they are considering if they are living loving messages of faith that all the world religious speak of: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as yourself. Help those in need or in pain. Help those who society shuns. These are the messages of my faith.”
The groups aren’t preaching that message, according to Capo, but are attempting to “manipulate us using fear.”
Rabbi Todd Thalblum, leader of Temple Judah in Cedar Rapids, agrees that “the voices of hate are out in force” and encouraged all Americans to return to the country’s “founding principles of equality and respect.”
“We are, each of us, a representation of God on this earth, and this makes us equal,” Thalblum said.
“History has shown us that where ever hate speech has been allowed to fester, violence and aggression are not far behind,” Thalbulum said. “The Jewish people know this all too well as do many, many other minorities both in this country and across the globe. We should never make our decisions based on a rhetoric of hate, rather we should let that what is just and right be our guide.”
Bob Vander Plaats, executive director of Iowa for Freedom, responded by claiming that the AFA was merely one supporter of many:
“The only thing I’m going to denounce is activists judges on the supreme court that’s used to make law, govern law and amend the constitution, and usurp the will of the people, and the will be the message today all the way until November two,” Vander Plaats says.
He says he believes the people of Iowa will have their voice be heard and will vote “No” on the three justices. The Interfaith Alliance says the A-F-A is an “extremist group, with a radical agenda, and a record of hate.” Vander Plaats says the group is one of many supporters of Iowa for Freedom.
He says Newt Gingrich supports the effort, Iowa Congressman Steve King supports the group and Vander Plaats says he’s not going to take credit or responsibility or accountability for any of their comments, nor should they take credit or responsibility or accountability for any of his comments.
But as the Iowa Independent reports, Vander Plaats’ claim is complete nonsense:
But in fact, according to documents filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, Iowa for Freedom is not a separate entity, but simply the name given to AFA’s Iowa campaign. The group’s attorney told the state, “It is anticipated that all source funds for the Iowa for Freedom will come from AFA directly and that no other individuals or organizations will contribute specifically or directly for the campaign.”
As The Iowa Independent reported Wednesday, AFA has spent about $85,000 in Iowa in hopes of swaying Iowa voters not to retain three state Supreme Court justices that appear on the November ballot. According to Bryan Fischer, AFA’s director of issue analysis for government and public policy, the group will spend $200,000 on the effort.
While Vander Plaats downplays AFA’s contribution, AFA has done little, if anything, to hide its involvement with the retention campaign. Each page of the Iowa for Freedom website is marked as being “paid for by AFA Action Inc.,” the political arm of AFA. Advertisements generated by Iowa for Freedom are clearly marked as being “paid for by IowaforFreedom.com, a project of AFA Action Inc.” The West Des Moines address provided below the disclaimer is to a mail box at a UPS Store. In addition, e-mails sent by Vander Plaats on behalf of Iowa for Freedom dating back to August bear a similar disclaimer that the group is a project of the AFA. The website does note that AFA Action is a 501(c)4 organization, and that no contributions are tax-deductible.