Family Leader cashing in on tragedy

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Time to clean the temple courts

Let’s start this off by saying what shouldn’t need to be said: Allow the dead to be buried before attempting to fundraise on their graves.

I was not surprised to receive an email from Bob Vander Plaats noting how he and other Christians are misunderstood victims of hate in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla.

“While the nation still is grieving over the shooting deaths in Orlando, some are beginning to lash out in anger,” Vander Plaats wrote on behalf of the Family Leader. “We’ve already seen it here in Iowa, but our sister organization in Florida under John Stemberger is on the front lines of this bitter backlash.”

Most of the email is a long essay by Stemberger, a religious conservative who worked to prohibit same-sex marriage and refute other policy positions supported by the LGBTQ community. Specifically, Stemberger wants readers to know he was targeted after releasing a statement on the shooting, which he suggests was expected.

Bob Vander Plaats (center), president and CEO of the Family Leader organization, announced he is endorsing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in his 2016 Republican bid for president. Also endorsing Cruz were Robert Cramer (left), Family Leader board chairman, and former state Rep. Chuck Hurley (right), vice president of the Christian conservative organization.
Bob Vander Plaats (center), president and CEO of the Family Leader organization, announced he is endorsing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in his 2016 Republican bid for president. Also endorsing Cruz were Robert Cramer (left), Family Leader board chairman, and former state Rep. Chuck Hurley (right), vice president of the Christian conservative organization. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

“Almost immediately gay-rights activists on Twitter and Facebook began to lash out at me personally and the Florida Family Policy Council,” he wrote.

“Christians should be prepared to be attacked and persecuted if they do not bow down and pledge allegiance to the gay pride flag and all it supposedly represents.”

The Family Leader’s message continues after this narrative under the heading, “What can I do in light of the Orlando shooting?” The last action item reads: “GIVE: Like John Stemberger in Florida, the FAMILY LEADER stands in Iowa proclaiming the truth in love. Would you consider donating today?”

Even now, as I retyped the question, bile rose in the back of my throat.

Vander Plaats and others who hold religious conservative views on homosexuality want the public to believe the things they say and do are out of “love.”

In fact, when Family Leader employee and RNC committeewoman Tamara Scott recounted her prayer for lightning to strike a Wiccan offering a blessing at the Iowa Statehouse, she giggled and said the prayer was “in love, in love” and asked for “just a little jolt.”

Part of Vander Plaats’ sharing “in love” has been support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s push to criminalize the spreading of information about homosexuality.

Vander Plaats has gone on radio programs to say that same-sex marriage will lead to legalized polygamy and pedophilia. He believes transgendered bathrooms will result in child molestation.

The Iowa organization he leads wanted 2012 presidential candidates to sign a pledge that equated homosexuality with polygamy, adultery and polyandry, and labeled gay people as a public health risk. The pledge also stated black people were better off as slaves.

A video produced by the group links images of terrorist attacks, gay members of the Boy Scouts, gambling, shootings and same-sex marriages. This was done “in love” to call attention to the “darkness” sweeping across the nation.

You get the point.

Vander Plaats and the Family Leader have moved beyond objections to homosexuality on religious grounds. They demonize, ostracize, marginalize, dehumanize and seek to criminalize the LGBTQ community.

And if my pointing that out, if my declaration such words and actions have done more harm than good, if my calling bullcrap on the assertion that it was said and done out of love makes me part of some mythical persecuting mob, so be it. I’ll sign the roster and proudly display my membership certificate right next to Vander Plaats’ victim card.

Ecclesiastes 3 reminds Christians that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

The time following mass murder should be one of quiet reflection, not comparative misery or fleecing of the flock.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on June 19, 2016. Photo credit: Rod Boshart/The Gazette