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May 18th, 2009

At the Intersection of Faith and Politics

obama-and-notre-dame-copyEver since the Iowa Supreme Court issued decision allowing gay marriage in Iowa, my faith has been intertwined with my politics. To be honest, the two have been a jumbled mess for most of my life. My faith instills in me principles that are non-negotiable. I then support candidates and causes that support or advance my worldview.

The latter isn’t always easy to do, especially when your income comes from political candidates. I have worked with candidates who are supportive of my worldview, and I have worked for candidates who I have had differences with. That said, none of those candidates have been openly hostile to my worldview.

On the other hand, when dealing with your church, one would expect there to be little or no hostility towards a Christian worldview. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Just yesterday, President Obama gave the commencement speech at one of the greatest Catholic universities in the western hemisphere, Notre Dame. I don’t have any problem with Obama accepting the invitation to speak at Notre Dame, but I have major issues with him being invited to speak at their commencement given that he is hostile to the Catholic Church’s position on abortion.

Here in Iowa, we have our own version of the Notre Dame saga. The Iowa Methodist Church has invited the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright to speak at its conference in Ames next month. The Methodist Church’s motto is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors,” but there is nothing “open” about Rev. Wright’s sermons other than his hatred of America. It’s hard to understand why the Iowa Methodist conference is bringing in Rev. Wright to speak. He was so controversial that President Obama had to go out of his was to distance himself from Wright during his campaign.

These two instances hit close to home for me. I grew up in a very Catholic home. I was an altar boy for ten years in the tiny unincorporated town of Bryant, Iowa. We said the Rosary every night during lent, and I attended St. Ambrose University, a Catholic institution where many of my college professors were priests.

One of the things that I always appreciated about the Catholic faith was its history and traditions, as well as its unwavering stance on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Even with its long-held views on those issues, I have to admit I’m not surprised by the invitation to have President Obama speak at Notre Dame’s commencement.

Some priests in the Catholic Church believe that issues like the environment and social justice are equal to or superior to the Church’s long-held beliefs on the protection of the unborn and its opposition to gay marriage.

For example, I was the president of the College Republicans at St. Ambrose in Davenport, Iowa. I was a Junior and Senior in the years leading up to the 2000 Iowa Caucuses. While I was never allowed to use campus-wide voice mail to alert students about upcoming events, one of the priests was allowed to send campus-wide notice that Al Gore was coming to town and encouraged students to join him in welcoming Gore to the Quad Cities.

Not only was I upset that there was a double standard between the political activity of a student group and campus ministry, but a very popular priest was active in recruiting students to be support then-Vice President Gore because of his stance on environmental issues. This priest simply ignored the fact that he was advocating for a candidate who is opposed to one of the Catholic Church’s main teachings regarding life.

I am no longer a Catholic, but I attend a mass occasionally with my family and follow things like president Obama’s commencement speech closely. I’m currently a Methodist, but to be honest, the denomination really means nothing to me. I am simply a Christian who seeks to find a congregation that is not hostile to my worldview. With the Methodist Church inviting Rev. Wright to speak at its conference, I’m now beginning to realize that the Methodist Church is apparently hostile to my world view.

While I find Rev. Wright’s visit to Iowa troubling, equally disturbing is seeing what the state lobbyist for the Iowa Methodist Conference has advocated for. Their lobbyist, Naomi SeaYoung Wittstruck, lobbied for the repeal of federal deductibility and also supported a bill which would require Regents universities to study climate change (HF 769). At a time when our state and our universities are under tremendous financial strain, this seems silly, particularly given that many scientists have come to the conclusion that climate change likely not manmade.

This lobbyist registered against legislation that would require students at postsecondary schools to provide proof of citizenship and/or legal status (HF 141). She also supported the repeal of the Iowa English Language Reaffirmation Act (HF 14). She also lobbied against a bill that would allow for enforcement of immigration law at the local level(HF 107). While I understand the call to be kind to aliens and sojourners among us, I have to question whether it is right for us to aid and abet illegal conduct (see HF 141 & 107). Most people also feel that, while a family may choose to speak a language other than English in their home, it is still important to have one common language used in business and government. This is not an issue that divides, but rather, it can be one that would unite us as a state.

While Ms. Wittstruck’s positions on the above issues are mildly troubling, the fact that she failed to register a position on several bills with Biblical implications is highly disturbing. For example, Ms. Wittstruck failed to register on the following bills.

SF 353: A bill for an act creating a religious freedom and civil marriage protection Act, providing a repeal, and providing effective dates.

HF 545: A bill for an act relating to proof of identity of a parent provided notification of the performance of an abortion on the parent’s pregnant minor child.

HF 567: A bill for an act prohibiting the provision of state funds to certain entities in the state that provide family planning services.

HF 318: A bill for an act relating to the determination of when life begins and acknowledging the rights, privileges, and immunities of an unborn child.

HF 323: A bill for an act relating to informed consent to an abortion and providing a criminal penalty, and providing effective dates.

HF 231: A bill for an act relating to termination of pregnancy reporting information, and making penalties applicable.

HF 183: A bill for an act relating to the teaching of chemical and biological evolution in school districts and public postsecondary institutions and providing an effective date.

HJR 6: A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa specifying marriage between one man and one woman as the only legal union that is valid or recognized in the state.

HF 691 A bill for an act relating to access to obscene materials and child in need of assistance proceedings and child abuse reporting.

Not only did Ms. Wittstruck fail to take a Biblical stance on these bills (and a proposed amendment), but a few of the bills she supported antithetical to Biblical principle. For example, she supported a bill that classified sexual orientation the same as other classifications based on immutable characteristics (i.e. race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) The Bible is very clear that homosexuality is a sin, and like other sins, should not get special protection under the law.

Ms. Wittstruck also supported a measure honoring Judie A. Hoffman. While Hoffman has done much charitable work, she is well-known for lobbying on behalf of The Interfaith Alliance Action Fund, a group that has taken a high profile role in working to usurp God’s definition of marriage here in Iowa. The Iowa Methodist Conference should not be advocating for honoring this woman.

It is unacceptable that a lobbyist for a religious institution failed to advocate for traditional marriage as defined in God’s word and also failed to advocate for those most innocent among us who have no voice, the unborn.

When I take a step back, I think the problems in our churches are far greater than the ones that we are dealing with in the Republican Party. While I know that some people think WHO Radio personality Steve Deace is too hard or even unfair to our Republican candidates and office holders, he is equally critical, if not more critical, of the leaders of our churches.

It’s disappointing that our religious institutions feel the need to invite people to address their conferences and graduating classes who openly chastise what these organizations believe. On the other hand, the left calls people who believe in the rights of the unborn and traditional marriage bigots.

Look at the fallout the Obama administration had to deal with for having Pastor Rick Warren give the prayer at President Obama’s inaugural. The outrage was caused because of his belief that gay marriage is wrong. So, while the liberal left can’t even tolerate a pastor like Warren who rarely says anything anybody would disagree with, our churches and religious institutions are inviting the most radical opponents of the teachings of the Bible to speak to their flock.

How can we expect a political party to stand on its core principles when our churches kowtow to the liberal left?


About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and TheIowaRepublican.com as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, TheIowaRepublcian.com. Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.




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