Iowa Republicans tout legislative successes at Christian conference

By: - July 16, 2021 12:04 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit July 16, 2021, in Des Moines. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Republicans ran a victory lap at a conservative Christian event Friday, touting their successes from the legislative session and their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Gov. Kim Reynolds was the first elected official to speak at the Family Leadership Summit, an all-day gathering at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Des Moines. Speakers later today will include former Vice President Mike Pence, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Reynolds contrasted the “traditional faith and values (of) Americans” — “virtue and freedom, family and community, love and mercy” — with the policies of President Joe Biden, which she called a “radical social agenda.” She listed concerns about First and Second Amendment rights, abortions, immigration, taxes and “the elevation of angry, ever-shifting moral code of wokeness.”

“Believe me, this is not an agenda for Iowa, and it is not an agenda for our country,” she said.

Reynolds also spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic, reminding the audience that Iowa never mandated church closures and that students returned to the classroom as soon as possible. Audience member Pat Vannorsdel said Reynolds had shown “wonderful vision” by deciding to keep schools open for in-person instruction. 

“My granddaughter started the first day in August going back to school full-time,” said Vannorsdel, a 72-year-old retired nurse. “I mean, they wore masks, but they were there. They never missed a day.”

Reynolds highlighted other legislative wins for Republicans: a policing bill that introduces new penalties for rioting and the first passage of an abortion amendment to the Iowa Constitution. She said states must “redouble their efforts” on abortion restrictions as the Supreme Court is set to consider a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

“We finally have a chance to move our cause forward in an unprecedented way and to restore the soul of our nation,” Reynolds said.

Several members of the audience stood and applauded when Reynolds said that the state had banned the teaching of “critical race theory,” a series of concepts including that a person or institution could be inherently racist.

“And we’re coming back next year, and we’re going to continue to put parents in charge and continue to give you the choice in your children’s education,” she said. 

The Family Leader, a conservative Christian group and host of Friday’s event, brought up over a dozen Republican lawmakers to thank them for passing high-priority bills, like the abortion amendment and the ban on critical race theory. Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats said it was the “best legislative session, we believe, ever.”

Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter Katie Akin is posting live updates from the Family Leadership Summit. Follow her on Twitter:

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.