As the Ames Straw Poll hovers on the proverbial horizon and the eyes of the nation turn to Iowa, members of the religious right want to make sure their voices are the loudest come Saturday.
This article first appeared online at WashingtonIndependent.com on August 9, 2011.
Iowa social conservatives push agenda in anticipation of straw poll
By Meghan Malloy
DES MOINES — As the Ames Straw Poll hovers on the proverbial horizon and the eyes of the nation turn to Iowa, members of the religious right want to make sure their voices are the loudest come Saturday.
The “Values Voter Bus Tour,” a coalition comprised of state and national religious conservative organizations, including National Organization for Marriage and The Family Leader, will hit 22 Iowa cities before the Ames Straw Poll, advancing their agenda that entails support of traditional marriage and anti-abortion initiatives. Many within the group also spoke out adamantly Tuesday about state supreme courts overstepping constitutional bounds.
The bus tour coalition includes — in addition to The Family Leader and NOM — Iowa Right to Life, Susan B. Anthony List and the Family Research Council Action’s Faith Family Freedom Fund. Tamara Scott, Iowa director of Concerned Women of America, Republican National Committee member and former head of IRTL Kim Lehman and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds also delivered remarks.
“Both the Governor [Terry Branstad] and I have stood strong for family values, sanctity of life and for smaller, less intrusive government,” Reynolds said.
The Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats said Republicans cannot tackle the economy without considering social issues. The proof, he said came four years ago, when he was state campaign chair for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Baptist pastor Huckabee gathered significant support from social and religious conservatives, catapulting him to second and first places finishes at the Ames Straw Poll and Iowa Caucuses, respectively.
“Iowans said, ‘Values matter, principles matter, life matters and marriage matters.’ What it shows is, in Iowa, anything can happen, especially when you find somebody who is who they say they are, and they say what they believe and they believe what they say,” Vander Plaats said.
“Today, we hear a lot, ‘It’s all about the economy, it’s all about the economy,” he continued. “I’d say today, it’s all about bold leadership. You cannot erode the family and think you’re going to limit government.”
GOP candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined the tour in the capital city Tuesday; fellow GOP candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn) will also speak as part of the tour.
Pawlenty said social and religious conservatives must “advance a culture of life,” encompassing the defeat of legalized same-sex marriage and abortion.
“The people of this country support traditional marriage, but sometimes we have other politicians or courts who want to intervene in these decisions and take country on a different course,” Pawlenty said, presumably referring to Varnum v. Brien, a 2009 unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that legislative limits placed on civil marriage were a violation of the state’s equal protection clause.
“We’re going to win this cause because we’re right,” he continued, adding he will continue to vocally support and encourage his followers to support traditional marriage because “it’s right for our country, it’s right for our society, it’s right for our culture and the right thing to do for America.”
Being faithful doesn’t mean encouraging beliefs on the general population, however, argued members of Faithful America, a non-profit, non-denominational interfaith-based national organization.
About 20 members stood across the street, peacefully yet vigilantly, Tuesday behind the Values Tour Bus, passing out literature accusing the coalition of lies, particularly their pro-family economic stance.
“Religious Right politicians hold views that are out of touch with real family values, especially when it comes to the economy,” the flier read. “They support the Tea Party’s reckless hostage-taking politics and tax breaks for millionaires, instead of standing up for hard-hit Iowa families.”