By Craig Robinson
The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the definition of the word tolerance is having, “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.”
Apparently being tolerant of views and beliefs contrary to your own isn’t good enough for some Democrat lawmakers in Iowa. No, if you don’t openly support gay marriage and the homosexual lifestyle you are not capable of serving on the Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities.
Iowa State Senator Herman Quirmbach finds Robert Cramer, a Des Moines area businessman who Governor Terry Branstad has appointed to the Board of Regents, to be unacceptable because of his religious views. Quirmbach fears Cramer might promote an atmosphere of intolerance on the campuses.
Why is Senator Quirmbach concerned about Cramer? Because, “you know, over the last decade a lot of people have, let’s say, evolved in their views with regard to sexual orientation and gay rights,” Quirmbach said. “I was not persuaded today that he [Cramer] has.”
Take a second and think about what that means.
So, unless you support gay marriage and endorse the homosexual lifestyle, you are not qualified to serve in a volunteer capacity for the state of Iowa. Cramer even stated that he would oppose any policy that would endorse, encourage, or promote any specific behavior on campus because he does not believe that is an appropriate role for a university to take. Yet, while Cramer has proven to be tolerant of others’ views, Democrat legislators have not been so tolerant of his religious views.
It’s also ironic that while Quirmbach attempts to disqualify Cramer for his religious beliefs, he is opposing another nominee to the Board of Regents, Craig Lang, on the grounds that Lang didn’t support academic freedom for the now defunct Harkin Institute at Iowa State University.
Quirmbach’s objection to Lang has nothing to do with academic freedom. In fact, ISU Faculty senate president Suzanne Hendrich and Professor Mack Shelley, the leader of a faculty group focused on defending academic freedom, both deemed Harkin’s complaint about the lack of academic freedom to be unfounded. Even the director of the Harkin Institute, David Peterson, told TheIowaRepublican.com last month, “President Leath’s directive doesn’t restrict academic freedom, rather it addresses efficient management of the University.”
Yet, Senator Quirmbach and his Democrat colleagues don’t seem to be interested in the facts surrounding the Harkin Institute soap opera.
The irony is that Quirmbach objects to Cramer because of his religious views, thereby demonstrating disdain for religious freedom, while at the same time, he falsely objects to Lang in the name of academic freedom.
The Senate Education Committee failed to give a recommendation to the full senate for both Cramer and Lang on Wednesday. The liberal precedent that this sets for future gubernatorial nominees is highly disturbing. Both Cramer and Lang now face confirmation votes in front of the entire State Senate. To be confirmed, each needs to garner 34 votes out of the 50-member Senate.
Confirmation looks to be an up-hill battle, but not just because of the harsh questioning from Democrats. Republican State Senator Brad Zaun told the Des Moines Register that he plans to vote against all three of Branstad’s nominees to the Board of Regents because he alleges only wealthy political contributors typically serve on the Board of Regents. Zaun told the Register, “I do not think there’s enough average, ordinary Iowa parents on the Board of Regents.”
Zaun’s comments about Lang and Cramer seem to be a little foolish and very uninformed. Since 2010, Lang has contributed just $600 dollars to Branstad’s campaign. While he did serve 10 years as the Farm Bureau President, Lang is uniquely Iowan, and at least one of his kids attended Iowa State. Lang might be the most average, ordinary person to ever serve on the Board of Regents.
Cramer has been a donor to Republican candidates and organizations for years. Most of the contributions he has made to candidates are between $250 and $500. He did contribute $625 to Branstad’s campaign in 2010, but it’s not like he’s one of the biggest donors in the state. Cramer has made some other large contributions in the past. In the 2010 primary he contributed a total of $30,000 to Bob Vander Plaats’ campaign. That in itself makes Zaun’s accusation seem silly and uneducated. Cramer also contributed $250 to Zaun’s failed congressional campaign in 2010.
It’s disappointing that the Iowa Senate has created a litmus test on gubernatorial appointees that says if you believe in traditional marriage, you are not able to serve in state government.
It is also disappointing that Senator Quirmbach continues to push the false notion that the reason Sen. Tom Harkin pulled his papers from Iowa State University was because of academic freedom concerns. Yes, the Des Moines Register bought that line hook, line, and sinker, but TheIowaRepublican.com has provided ample evidence that proves otherwise.
Equally disturbing are Zaun’s incoherent ramblings. Maybe instead of shooting his mouth off to the Des Moines Register about people he obviously doesn’t know anything about, he could have stood up to Senator Quirmbach for lynching a man because of his religious beliefs. What has transpired in the State Senate over the past week is despicable, and Iowans shouldn’t tolerate it any longer. Last I looked, Article I, Section III of the Iowa Constitution states the Iowa General Assembly shall make no law that prohibits the free exercise of religion, yet voting down a nominee because he doesn’t support gay marriage does just that.
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