Iowa

Potential Iowa Senate Candidate Vander Plaats Explains Christian Nationalist View Of Government

Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the social conservative group The Family Leader, will reportedly be deciding in the next few weeks whether to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin this year. While he hasn’t made a final decision yet, Vander Plaats is widely considered to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination if he enters the race, and already seems to be selling himself as a candidate.

Progress Iowa shares a video of Vander Plaats speaking at The Family Leader’s annual “Life, Marriage & Family” rally yesterday, in which Vander Plaats lays out his Christian nationalist view of government. Speaking about recent court decisions in favor of marriage equality, Vander Plaats – who led the effort to oust three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled for marriage equality in 2009 – claimed that “rogue justices” and President Obama (“who is in over his head”) have “forgotten” that the American government is actually an instrument of God.

“God institution (sic) government,” he said. “He has three institutions: He has the Church, he has the family, and he has government.” He went on to explain that “the purpose of government: to promote righteousness,” which he counts as following “God’s principles and precepts” on everything from economics to family policy to foreign affairs.

Vander Plaats frequently portrays the Constitution as an extension of the Bible, claiming that marriage equality is unconstitutional because it “goes against the law of nature’s God” and that the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision provoked a “constitutional crisis” by “going against the document that predates the Constitution.”

The remarks start about three minutes into the video.

I happen to believe the reason you will see a leader who is in over his head, why you will see a Congress with a nine percent approval rating, and why you see rogue justices taking authority that isn’t theirs to take, is that they have forgotten, many of them have forgotten who is the Lawgiver. That God institution (sic) government. He has three institutions: He has the Church, he has the family, and he has government. Where those three intersect, that is the focus of The Family Leader. That is where we focus our attention, we focus our crosshairs.

God instituted government. That’s why we have the founders who referenced in the Declaration of Independence, ‘the law of nature and the law of nature’s God.’ Because they knew when you start walking away from the law of nature and the law of nature’s God and you start implementing your own laws about what’s best for Bob, what’s best for Greg, what’s best for Tamara, what’s best for Nancy, you will have a train wreck. there has to be a higher standard. And that’s the standard that we try to achieve here at the Family Leader, we try to promote at the Family Leader. The purpose of government: to promote righteousness.

All you have to do is look at God’s principles and precepts. They are for our good and our benefit, not our harm and our destruction. You apply his principles and precepts to economics, then your economic house is in order. You apply his principles and precepts to marriage and the family, well marriage and family is in order. You apply his principles and precepts to foreign policy, and foreign policy is in order. So, when you’re looking for the solutions, where should we look? We should look up, and not to the sides, and definitely not to the poll of the day.

Rep. Steve King Thinks The High Cost of Abortion For Low-Income Women Is Hilarious

At a House subcommittee hearing yesterday on a bill that would severely restrict access to insurance coverage for abortion, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa mocked an expert who testified, accurately, that paying out of pocket for an abortion could cost a low-income woman more than a month’s rent.

Susan Wood, a George Washington University professor and former FDA official, told the all-male judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution that HR7 – which would make the Hyde Amendment permanentban federal subsidies for private insurance plans that cover abortion and would permanently block the District of Columbia from spending local tax money on abortion services – could “virtually eliminate abortion coverage from the private insurance market” and would especially hurt low-income women, threatening to push them “deeper into poverty.”

“While it may not seem like a big expense to a Member of Congress, in these tough financial times, for many people, abortion care costs more than their monthly rent, putting it out of reach for their family’s pocketbook,” Wood said.

When it came time to ask questions, Rep. King mocked Wood’s comparison of the cost of abortion to a month’s rent, wondering, “I wonder how many abortions a month does she need to keep up with the monthly rent check.”

CNS News transcribed the exchange, which the anti-choice website LifeSiteNews described as “ humorous” :

Rep. King: “Okay, then your answer, then, would be that, in exceptional cases it may cost a woman more for a single abortion than it does for her one month of rent check. Is that an accurate way to depict what you said?”

Prof. Wood: “That’s correct.”

Rep. King: “Okay, because I wonder how many abortions a month does she need to keep up with the monthly rent check.”

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that the average cost of a first-trimester abortion is between $450 and $500, depending on the method used; Planned Parenthood says a first-trimester abortion can cost up to $950. Later-term abortions, which are more rare, can cost many times that.

Vander Plaats: Marriage Equality Unconstitutional Because It's 'Against The Law of Nature'

Last year, Religious Right activist and possible 2014 Iowa Republican Senate candidate Bob Vander Plaats claimed that the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling had provoked a “constitutional crisis” because it defied “the law of nature and the law of nature’s God.”

In an interview on the Steve Deace show last week, Vander Plaats elaborated on this constitutional analysis, claiming that a Utah federal judge’s ruling legalizing marriage equality was wrong because same-sex marriage “goes against the law of nature” and therefore is “against the Constitution.”

Vander Plaats also encouraged Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to simply ignore the court’s ruling and issue an executive order staying the decision until it’s put to a popular vote. 

He warned guest host Jen Green that the Utah ruling was the first step on a slippery slope to tyranny, showing the need to put judges “in their place” as he did in Iowa in 2010.

Vander Plaats: First of all, Justice Shelby, there’s a lot of issues with his ruling. Number one is, you had the people of Utah already amend the Constitution to what marriage is. And you’re supposed to uphold the Constitution, not redefine the Constitution. So, that’s number one.

Two is, there is no research on it, there is no data on it. Why? Because it never existed before. So all there is is speculation. But what we know is it goes against the law of nature, and the law of nature’s God, which means, again, it’s against the Constitution.

My suggestion to Gov. Herbert: Don’t overcomplicate this. Don’t over-study this or analyze this. Lead on this. Issue an executive order from the governor’s office that places a stay on this judge’s decision until the people of Utah resolve this, either through the legislature – the people’s representatives – or through another vote, if you need to go through another vote. But you don’t allow an activist judge to have his way to inflict same-sex marriage on the entire state of Utah.

It is We the People who are the final arbitrators of this deal. They gave us the power of the king. The governor is the executor. He’s got the executive branch, he’s the one who gets to enforce or not enforce. By him staying silent, he’s really enforcing this judge’s opinion. That’s why he needs to step up and lead, and what I’d say, issue that executive order.

And for the Lead or Get Out of the Way members and audience, and especially those in Utah, what really has to concern you here is that if they will do this to the institution of marriage, they won’t even blink an eye when they take your private property, tell you how to educate your kids. If you really want to have tyranny, keep allowing activist judges to keep activism alive. You need to put them in their place. That’s what I’d encourage Gov. Herbert to do.

Green: You will be made to care.

Vander Plaats: You will be made to care. But Gov. Herbert could make that judge made to care. Just like in Iowa, we made the judges, that they should care about what they’re doing.

Vander Plaats: Gay Marriage, Utah Polygamy Ruling Will Lead To Parent-Child Marriage

Count Bob Vander Plaats among the Religious Right activists responding to a court decision decriminalizing polygamy in Utah by crowing that they “correctly” predicted that marriage equality victories would lead to legalized polygamous marriage.

Steve King: Immigrants Will 'Erode The Law Further' By Voting Democratic

At a panel discussion on immigration policy today, Rep. Steve King of Iowa claimed that Democrats support bipartisan immigration reform because undocumented immigrants would “vote for a more liberal agenda” which in turn, “erodes the law further.”

King suggested to the panel, convened by the right-wing Judicial Watch, that if given a roadmap to citizenship, undocumented immigrants would go on a crime spree: “When people break the law to come here and we reward them with breaking the law, then they think that’s all right to break another law. It breeds disrespect for the law. We cannot be a great nation if we are going to willfully destroy the rule of law, especially for political purposes.”

King touted Robert Rector’s discredited Heritage Foundation study, which purported to show a devastating economic impact from immigration reform, but which was both deeply methodologically flawed and co-written by someone who believes that Latinos are genetically inferior.

Later in the discussion, King claimed that President Obama’s executive order implementing parts of the DREAM Act had provoked a “constitutional crisis.” He also lamented that immigration proponents have been pushing the “sympathy factor” with the help of “a lot of Christian groups who misread the scripture.”

Iowa Group Threatens Recall Campaign Against Judge In Abortion Rights Case

The Iowa Religious Right group that successfully campaigned to unseat three state supreme court justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality has set its sights on a new target: a judge who granted a stay in an influential abortion rights case.

The Family Leader, run by prominent conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats, gained national attention in 2010 when it ran a successful campaign, with plenty of funding from national Religious Right groups, to oust three state supreme court justices in retention elections after the court ruled unanimously to legalize marriage equality in the state. The group tried its luck against another justice last year, but the tide had turned enough that the judge held on to his seat.

Now, the group is taking aim at a District Judge Karen Romano, who ruled this week that Planned Parenthood could continue to use video conferencing to guide women through early-term abortions using abortion-inducing drugs – drugs that are widely considered safe to take at home during the early weeks of a pregnancy – while a ban on the practice is appealed. Planned Parenthood had challenged a ruling by the Iowa Board of Medicine banning telemedicine for chemical abortion,  but for no other medical practice. Judge Romano did not rule on the merits of the case.

Vander Plaats’ group issued a statement yesterday claiming that Judge Romano had “not learned a lesson” from the 2010 election and urged voters to remember the judge’s “activism” in her 2016 retention election.

The Family Leader’s Chuck Hurley told the Des Moines Register that his group is “open” to a recall campaign against Romano but hasn’t decided yet whether to go beyond the barely-veiled threats in its press release. Hurley did take the opportunity, however, to allege that Romano was biased because she was appointed by former Gov. Tom Vilsack who “notoriously and admittedly an activist who selects judges who support his liberal viewpoints.”

Romano said Wednesday afternoon that she was not shocked by the Family Leader’s statement.

“I think in the current climate, it doesn’t really surprise me,” she said in a brief interview.

She added, “I understand that the issue the case deals with is a volatile issue.” She said she couldn’t comment any further.

Chuck Hurley, the Family Leader’s vice president, said Wednesday that the group hasn’t decided whether to mount a recall campaign against Romano. “We are definitely discussing it and are open to it,” he said.

He added that he didn’t know much about Romano’s personal views, but he knows she was appointed in 2001 by former Gov. Tom Vilsack. Hurley said Vilsack, a Democrat, was “notoriously and admittedly an activist who selects judges who support his liberal viewpoints.”

UPDATE: The president of the Iowa State Bar Association has denounced Vander Plaats' move, calling it "political bullying," and the Des Moines Register spoke out against his "not-so-subtle" threat to Romano in an editorial

UPDATE 2: After telling the Register that his group would be "open" to launching a recall campaing against Romano, Hurley followed up with the paper and "clarified" that he in fact meant "we are not launching a campaign against Judge Romano nor do we have any plans to do so at this time. We were simply pointing out that it was this kind of judicial activism by Iowa judges that led to Iowans voting out three Iowa Supreme Court judges in 2010.” 

More Evidence that the 'Court Efficiency Act' Isn't So Efficient

Unable to come up with any legitimate reason to filibuster President Obama’s three nominees to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Senate Republicans have landed on a not-so-convincing excuse: They claim that the court has too many judges as it is and that it would be wasteful to fill its remaining vacancies.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has even gone so far as to introduce a bill that would permanently reduce the number of seats on the influential court from eleven to eight (the number of active judges currently sitting on the court), thereby preventing President Obama from placing any more nominees on the court. (The president has had one nominee confirmed to the DC Circuit, compared to four nominees under President Bush and eight under President Reagan).

Grassley’s bill would reduce the number of slots on the DC Circuit by three and “reallocate” two of those seats  to circuits that he contends need the judges more.

There are a number of gaping flaws in Grassley’s logic, the first of which is that he and his fellow Republicans were eager to fill the very same DC Circuit seats that they are now trying to eliminate back when President Bush was the one making nominations.

Then, there’s the fact that there seems to be absolutely no basis for reallocating the two D.C. Circuit seats to the Eleventh and Second circuits. The official office that evaluates the needs of federal courts and makes recommendations for adding and removing seats doesn’t include the D.C. Circuit in its recommendations because the court’s caseload is uniquely complex and difficult to compare to that of other courts…and it also hasn’t recommended that the Eleventh or Second circuits get new judges.

This was confirmed by a former Chief Judge of the Eleventh Circuit whose statement  [see p. 34 of this pdf] was submitted into the Senate record last month confirming that his former court indeed does not need new judges:

Since my appointment to the Eleventh Circuit on October 1, 1990, the judges of our court annually have voted whether or not we should ask Congress to authorize more federal judges.  Each time our court considers the topic, an overwhelming majority of our members have voted “no!” 

Even one of the co-sponsors of the court-rigging bill – Sen. Jeff Sessions – has gone on record saying that the Eleventh and Second Circuits actually don’t need new judgeships.

All of which makes one suspect that of all the goals that Sen. Grassley might have in mind with the Court Efficiency Act, the efficiency of the courts is probably not one of them.

PFAW

Iowa Senate Candidate Bruce Braley Stands Against Citizens United

The Democratic frontrunner in the 2014 Iowa Senate race, US Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA01), is placing the issue of money in politics front and center in his campaign.

On Sunday, Representative Braley sent an email to his supporters requesting they sign a petition to stand with him “to stop more money from flooding our election system.” The letter referred to McCutcheon v. FEC – a campaign finance case that the Court is hearing this term – and the infamous Citizens United decision, which Braley said is “destroying the election process.”

The American public overwhelmingly agrees with Representative Braley’s assessment, but Braley, a longtime supporter of campaign finance reform, has proven he’s not in the “money in politics” fight just because of public opinion.

Prior to Citizens United in the 111th Congress, Braley cosponsored the “Fair Elections Now Act,” a bill that provided for public financing of congressional campaigns. Following Citizens United, in 2010 and 2012 he cosponsored the DISCLOSE Act, which, had it not been blocked by Republican filibusters, would have stopped “dark money” social welfare organizations and trade associations from spending anonymously in federal elections.

Braley has personal experience with these Citizens United-empowered dark money groups. As People For the American Way documented in “Citizens Blindsided,” during the 2010 election, Braley was the target of a large influx of anonymous outside spending from the American Future Fund, a secretive group without an office or even a website.

In May 2012, Braley spoke about the attack ads in an appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show. In the interview, Braley referred to Citizens United as the “worst thing to happen to democracy in [his] lifetime” and spoke about the implications of the decision:

… now, we can see that very powerful moneyed interests are trying to buy the government they want and have no restrictions—literally—on what they can spend. And that’s why Americans have to wake up and realize they need to ask the tough questions when they see these ads on TV and they have innocuous names – paid for by the American Future fund. Most people don’t realize that this is really a highly coordinated effort to get rid of people who speak truth to power and aren’t going to be swayed by some of these powerful special interests [emphasis added].

In 2014 in Iowa, voters have the chance to stand with Representative Braley and against “these powerful special interests.” They want to dominate the political process by buying it; he wants to keep the “for sale” sign off the US Senate.

 

PFAW

Rep. Steve King Just Wants to 'Unleash Human Nature'

Last night, as Congress finally ended the government shutdown and the Tea Party’s dreams of ending Obamacare through sheer force of will faded once again, Iowa’s KCRG asked local lawmakers to reflect on the 16-day shutdown and near default. Republican Rep. Steve King, a Tea Party stalwart and cheerleader of the shutdown, waxed philosophical, telling the station that he merely wants “to continue to unleash human nature” in the United States.

“I want what’s best for the long-term best interests of this country, I want it to be on constitutional underpinnings, and I want to continue to unleash human nature,” he said. “And I’m afraid we’re going in the other direction here, and that is troubling to me.”

Steve King Insists 9/11-Muslim Brotherhood Link Confirmed By 'Well-Placed Sources Within the Middle East'

Iowa congressman Steve King, who joined fellow Republicans Rep. Michelle Bachman and Rep. Louis Gohmert in Egypt last week, where they delivered a televised message praising the Egyptian military’s crackdown on dissenters, claims that the group’s insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood was linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks comes from a “very reliable” source “within the Middle East.” But he won’t say who his source is because “then it would be a political incident.”

The Bush administration’s 9/11 commission found no such link, except to note a handful of instances where Al Qaeda members had peripheral contact with the sprawling group.

While Bachmann has attempted to backtrack from the comments, King has characteristically doubled down.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:

Tuesday, during a call with reporters, King defended Bachmann's statements.

King said he had received evidence tying the Muslim Brotherhood to both the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and last year's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He said his information comes from “very well-placed sources within the Middle East.”

Pressed for more details, King declined to specify even the country from which the information originated.

“That source is a very reliable source and it is very sensitive,” King said. “If I were to clarify the source of it, then it would be a political incident. And I'd just as soon not initiate that.”

Radio Iowa adds:

“I have received evidence that there was a foundation there among the Muslim Brotherhood in each of those cases and it’s not something that I think that they can just simply say is wrong. They would have to be the ones to prove the negative,” King said. “It takes a fair amount of self-confidence, sometimes misplaced self-confidence, to be so critical with a basis to do so.”

King was asked twice during his telephone news conference to reveal the source of his information.

“I think I’ll just stick with my answer of very well-placed sources within the Middle East,” King said, “and I think that it will be verified over time.”

Bob Vander Plaats Praises Russia's Ban On Pro-Gay Rights Speech

One of the chief players in Republican politics in Iowa yesterday praised Russian president Vladimir Putin for his role in criminalizing speech supportive of gay rights as part of a larger crackdown on the country’s LGBT community. Bob Vander Plaats, head of the group The Family Leader and recent host of a summit with likely presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum, defended the ban in an interview with conservative talk show host Steve Deace.

While speaking about the crisis in Syria, Vander Plaats commended Putin for appropriating American “strengths” like “military might, decisive action, core values, morality, beliefs,” which have now “defaulted into our weaknesses because of Barack Obama.”

Vander Plaats praised Putin for taking a stand and saying “don’t bring this homosexual propaganda into my country for the Olympics; we believe in one man, one woman marriage; there is no homosexual marriage in Russia.”

Deace interjected that Putin shouldn’t be deemed a hero of thepro-familymovement since he recently divorced his wife, Vander Plaats but said “it doesn’t matter.”

Vander Plaats: He has taken what used to be our strengths — military might, decisive action, core values, morality, beliefs — and he’s saying, those are being turned into your guys’ weakness and guess what I’m doing? I’m taking those. I’m taking decisive leadership, you’re following my lead. As a matter of fact, Obama’s now agreeing with Putin, ‘oh you know maybe we’ve got some other options here now.’ So he’s taking Putin’s lead. Putin’s saying, ‘you know what don’t bring this homosexual propaganda into my country for the Olympics; we believe in one man, one woman marriage; there is no homosexual marriage in Russia.’

Deace: Says the guy that just kicked his wife of four decades to the curb.

Vander Plaats: It doesn’t matter. He’s taken what used to be our strengths, which has now defaulted into our weaknesses because of Barack Obama, no leadership, and he’s making them his strengths and he’s emerging now on the world stage as a newly discovered leader. Ladies and gentlemen this is why you need to rise up, this is why we rise up, to demonstrate, we do have a voice in this process.

Of course for gay people and gay rights advocates in Russia, they will no longer have a voice in the already-undemocratic state.

David Lane Digs In

In July, we reported on Christian-nation extremist David Lane’s closed-door pastors briefing in Iowa, and the presidential hopefuls and other politicians who have flocked to Lane’s gatherings over the years.

This week the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs reported that Lane’s American Renewal Project is holding church-based voter registration drives on three Sundays this month: Sept. 15, Sept. 22 and Sept. 29.  Steve Michael, a spokesperson for the project, told the Register that after the American Renewal Project’s $1.2 million voter registration campaign in Missouri during the last election cycle, the state saw a 3 percent increase in evangelical voters.  He said it will organize in Iowa “steadily until the 2014 election.”

The "Stand-up Sundays" model goes like this: Pastors ask their congregation members to stand up if they're already registered. Volunteers will then hand out voter registration paperwork to the adults still seated. But each Iowa pastor will decide how to do it, Lane told the Register.

Iowa is among 11 states the American Renewal Project is targeting in the 2014 cycle, Michael said. The others are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Organizers will do “Pastors and Pews” events followed by voter registration drives in each state. Next up is Louisiana on Sept. 26-27….

Lane said Iowa may be one of the most registered states in the nation, thanks to the attention from the presidential campaigns, so he expects Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina to be more "target rich areas."

It’s worth noting that Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina are also among the top Senate races for 2014, as are other states on Lane’s target list. 

Ted Cruz 'Honored' To Go Hunting With Steve King

Texas senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz has made a notable friend in Iowa: Rep. Steve King. The Des Moines Register reports that Cruz has accepted King’s invitation to go pheasant hunting on the opening day of the hunting season next month, and was “honored to have received the invite.”

“Yes, we are confirmed for a hunt with King,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said in an email Friday to the Des Moines Register. “The senator has enjoyed getting to know him and work with him on important issues before Congress. He’s honored to have received the invite.”

Prior to the 2012 Iowa Republican presidential caucuses, King hosted former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum twice for bird hunting at Iowa game preserves and Texas Gov. Rick Perry on one occasion. The Iowa congressman said in an interview on Thursday he hopes to shape the debate for the 2016 GOP presidential contest by serving as a “guardrail of constitutional conservatism.”

Cruz’s proud association with King is another sign that the Texan has no plans to moderate his positions in advance of a presidential run. King earned rebukes from his party leadership last month when he insisted that most young undocumented immigrants are drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” He has also compared immigrants to dogs.

Cruz has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration proposal.
 

Steve King Compares Unemployed to Children Who Don't Do Chores: 'You Get to Eat After You Do the Work'

UPDATED

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King appeared at an event in North Carolina Monday where, according to a Red Alert Politics blogger who attended, he chastised unemployed Americans, saying “I want to see more Americans step up.”

King reportedly compared the unemployed to children who refuse to do chores, implying that those who are out of work should not receive a helping hand:  “Now what kind of a family — if you had six kids and a third of those kids would say ‘I’m not doing the chores, Mom,’… pretty soon those kids would be on the ‘you get to eat after you do the work.’”

Speaking to a group of conservatives in Charleston, S.C., on Monday evening, the Iowa Congressman said that it wasn’t the economy that was sluggish, but the 100 million non-working Americans giving up jobs to “unskilled” illegal immigrants.

“One hundred million Americans aren’t contributing and yet we’re looking out across the board and saying let’s bring in some more people that are uneducated, unskilled and we’re going to put them into the unskilled workforce and somehow we’re going to increase our economy,” King said during the Charleston Meeting. “…I want to see more Americans step up.”

This “middle class standard of living” is the direct result of President Obama propelling the country into a “dependency state,” according to King.

“We borrow money from China to pay people not to work and we say we’re going to grow our GDP because we have sympathy for people that are in this country illegally,” he said.

King equated America to a family, comparing the amount of non-working Americans to children refusing to do their chores.

“Now what kind of a family — if you had six kids and a third of those kids would say ‘I’m not doing the chores, Mom,’” King said. “…pretty soon those kids would be on the ‘you get to eat after you do the work.’”

UPDATE: Raw Story found the video of King’s remarks.

Here, King compares the unemployed to delinquent children:

And here, King claims that President Obama is using unemployment benefits to encourage women “not to have a man in the house” and “pushing the dependency class”  in order to “increase [his] power base.” Later on, King recalls a controversial incident in which he declined to contradict a constituent who called President Obama a Muslim and a Marxist. “I don’t know his religion, I don’t question that at all,” King said. “But my answer was, ‘Well, he’s at least a Marxist.’”

Santorum: Term 'Middle Class' Is 'Marxism Talk'

Rick Santorum says the term “middle class” is “Marxism talk” since America doesn’t have any classes. “Since when in America do we have classes?” Santorum asked a Republican gathering in Lyon County, Iowa, “There’s no class in America.” He added that the GOP, unlike Democrats,“values the dignity of every human life,” and therefore shouldn’t use the term—which he has actually used repeatedly.

New GOP Same As the Old GOP: Iowa Summit to Feature Republican Leaders and Religious Right Stalwarts

Year after year we keep hearing about the supposed decline of the Religious Right and the GOP’s shift away from the fringes. Despite all of that talk and speculation, this weekend will see this year’s second Religious Right gathering for potential presidential candidates, almost three years before the Iowa caucus. For anyone who anticipates that Republican presidential candidates will move towards the center in 2016, this weekend’s festivities are a very loud wakeup call.

The upcoming Family Leadership Summit comes on the heels of last month’s Iowa Pastors and Pews meeting, which hosted Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

This weekend’s conference, hosted by the Religious Right group The Family Leader, will feature Cruz, former Sen. Rick Santorum and perennial presidential candidate-vacillator Donald Trump.

Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate who spearheaded the 2010 campaign to boot pro-marriage equality justices off the Iowa Supreme Court, is hosting the event. The Family Leader continues its push to become a conservative power player: Last year, the organization hosted a debate attended by every Republican presidential candidate save Mitt Romney and tried to get candidates to pledge to fight legal pornography and to agree that African-American families were better off under slavery. In 2016, the group might take over the reins of the Iowa Straw Poll.

Along with Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley, several far-right figures are slated to speak at the summit:

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who recently claimed that most young undocumented immigrants are drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, the far-right 2010 GOP Senate nominee who has tiestomilitia groups.

Talk show host Steve Deace, who has fantasized about assaulting openly gay NBA player Jason Collins and suggested that the public school system was responsible for the Newtown massacre.

Talk show host Kevin McCullough, who believes that gay people are out to kill him and hate God (but also don’t exist).

Talk show host Jan Mickelson, who has said that AIDS is divine punishment for homosexuality and hailed former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s opposition to gay rights.

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, who has likened his campaign against marriage equality to fights against slavery and Jim Crow.

David Bossie of Citizens United, the Clinton-era witch hunter who predicted that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would cripple the military and bring back the draft.

Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, who argued that the Violence Against Women Act represented a “war on women” and accused Planned Parenthood of supporting domestic abuse.

Actor/Reality Show contestant Stephen Baldwin, who called President Obama a “cultural terrorist.”

Dr. Del Tackett of Truth In Action Ministries, who blamed homosexuality on lazy parenting.

Doug Napier of Alliance Defending Freedom, who pledged to represent county officials in Iowa who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Dr. David Noebel of Summit Ministries, who has warned that “Obama and his radical homosexual mafia plan to sodomize the world and make such perversion seem as wholesome as apple pie and vanilla ice cream.”

Trump: I'm A Great Christian Who's Angry the Unemployed 'Get Better Benefits' than People with Jobs

Donald Trump is totally serious this time about maybe running for president, and to prove it he is appearing at The Family Leader’s upcoming conference in Iowa alongside Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Steve King and Brian Brown. He chatted with conservative talk show host Steve Deace on Tuesday about why Religious Right voters should love the thrice-married casino magnate.

Trump said he is a “pro-life,” “very, very, pro-family” Christian. “I’m a Presbyterian and a good one,” Trump elaborated. “A lot of people ask me about my children, how did you get them so they’re not drinkers and they’re not on drugs and you know lots of good things.”

Plus, he has a “great relationship with the church” and people love him: “Tickets are going at a rate like they’ve never gone before, maybe it’s one of the other candidates but you know what, I doubt it.” “I know some of the people that are candidates and the Republicans are not going to be winning with these people,” Trump continued.

Trump showed off his conservative credentials by making the absurd claim that “people don’t work, they don’t have to work, they get better benefits if they take it easy, which is unfair because the people that are working are paying for that.”

At Iowa Summit, Religious Right Activists Hope to 'Change the Direction of the Wind' Against the 'Gay Agenda'

We have been posting videos and reports from the recent Religious Right gathering in Iowa as they become available – so far we’ve seen Rand Paul warning of the country’s collapse and Ted Cruz repeatedly attacking gay rights.

Today, the 700 Club finally featured a segment with additional footage from the summit. CBN’s David Brody interviewed chief organizer David Lane, who has predicted divine punishment on America in the form of car bombings, along with billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks, the latter of whom told Brody that he is upset about the rise of the “gay agenda.”

Brody also showed footage of right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton praying over Cruz and conservative pastor Laurence White telling activists that they can sway politicians if they “change the direction of the wind.”

Watch highlights here:

Steve King Attacks Critics' 'Unrestrained, Undisciplined, Divisive Remarks,' Says They're Dooming Nation to Failure

Rep. Steve King has taken plenty of heat from both the left and the right over the past few days for his assertion that for every valedictorian DREAMer there are “another hundred” who “weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Faced with criticism from House Speaker John Boehner and other fellow Republicans, King has refused to back down, saying “it’s not something that I’m making up,” and that his comments were “objective” and “might be the best informed in the entire U.S. Congress.” He wrapped up his case on the House floor yesterday, declaring that his critics would cause the downfall of the United States and of Western Civilization.

In an interview with Iowa talk radio host Simon Conway on Wednesday, King offered a similar tirade, accusing his critics of making “unrestrained, undisciplined, divisive remarks” and warning that if his opponents are allowed to have their way “this nation will eventually fail because we’ll completely lose our objectivity and we’ll be driven by our emotions instead of our reason.”

If we can’t discuss objective truth among people that are elected representatives in the United States Congress, if it has to turn personal, if they have to make these kind of remarks, these unrestrained, undisciplined, divisive remarks, at first I’d say, how  could they have listened to the tape that you’ve run and come to such a conclusion? But second is, if there’s no objective discussion, if we can’t bring up the other side of the coin, then this nation will eventually fail because we’ll completely lose our objectivity and we’ll be driven by our emotions instead of our reason.

Steve King: Undocumented Immigrants Mostly '130-Pound' Drug Runners With 'Calves the Size of Cantaloupes'

Rep. Steve King of Iowa is getting some publicity this week for an interview on Univision in which he refused to apologize for comparing immigrants to dogs. Our friends at the Center for New Community point out that just a few days earlier, King gave an interview to Newsmax in which he claimed that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are “130-pound” drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

“For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said.

He challenged proponents of the bipartisan immigration law to “define the difference between the innocent ones who have deep ties with America and those who have, I’ll say, been undermining our culture and civilization and profiting from criminal acts.”

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