In the 2010 midterm elections, religious right activists were pleased that their campaigning resulted in three members of the state supreme court losing the retention vote because they were on the panel that unanimously found in April 2009 that a ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional.
The campaign against the justices was a well-funded attack by the National Organization for Marriage, American Family Association and Family Research Council, all "pro family" religious right activist organizations. They were joined by Cornerstone World Outreach, a Sioux City congregation, that was sponsoring Project Jeremiah, a church-based campaign to encourage voting against the judges in the retention election. Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against Cornerstone World Outreach because it was sending pastors around the state to campaign against the judges. “I don’t think I have ever seen a more outrageous effort to politicize churches,” said Barry Lynn of Americans United. “This deplorable scheme seeks to turn houses of worship into dens of inequity and intolerance. I call on the IRS to move swiftly to put a stop to this outrage.
The three justices who lost their seats on the bench — Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Associate Justice Michael Streit, and Associate Justice David Baker — received the "John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage" award from Caroline Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy's only surviving child and an attorney, in March this year.
The anti-gay forces are busy again this election cycle, campaigning against the retention of Justice David Wiggins. They are running a campaign called "Iowans for Freedom," an effort spearheaded by Bob Vander Plaats of The FAMiLY Leader and lauded by groups such as CatholicVote.org, the National Organization for Marriage and Rick Santorum's Patriot Voices. Last year, Vander Plaats' group demanded that presidential candidates sign a "Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family" that implied that black children were better off born into slavery because they would be born into families headed by "one man and one woman." The vow encouraged "robust childbearing and reproduction" because robust childbearing "is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security." The slavery language was removed after national outcry, but the robust childbearing language and other extremist language remained.
As National Public Radio reports, Santorum has been a key speaker at the Christian conservatives' anti-Wiggins bus tour.
Another of the big name Republican speakers showing up at the "No Wiggins" bus tour this week was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who likened a U.S. Supreme Court decision reversing the death sentence for a child molester in his state to the same kind of "judicial activism" that found that a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional under Iowa's state constitution. This type of "judicial activism," he speculated, could lead to taking away property and Second Amendment rights.
TRANSCRIPT (video embedded below):
I also want to talk to you about the threat of judicial activism and what that means to us and what that means to our freedoms and to our values.
For so many years, you only thought you had to worry about judicial activism when it came to the federal courts, especially the United States Supreme Court. How many times have we just shook our heads and thought, how in the world did they conclude that? How many times have we gotten so frustrated when it seems like they're more worried with opinion polls and international precedent instead of just doing their jobs, reading the Constitution and applying it fairly? I think some of these judges, they actually make replacement refs within the NFL look like geniuses by comparison!
But you know, it started at the federal courts, but now it's coming, this judicial activism, is coming to our state courts as well. I want to give you an example from my state.
There was a federal court case, made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court, it was the Kennedy case that basically evolved in Louisiana. My first term as governor, we had a death penalty and in state law, we had the death penalty for those monsters that rape our children. And I know capital punishment should only be reserved for the most heinous of crimes and we said this seems to us like this would be a good crime where again, it has to be voted by the jury, that happened every time, but in the worst case, this needs to be something that a jury has at least as an option. And I will spare you the graphic details, we had a horrific case involving a 9-year-old girl and her stepfather and he hurt her so badly she will never be able to have children as an adult. He was given, the offender in this case, Patrick Kennedy was given the death penalty by a jury. It went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court not only removed the death penalty from him, but threw out the death penalty for all child rapists and said this, said there was a growing national consensus against the use of the death penalty for child rapists.
Somebody has got to tell me where in the Constitution, because I don't see it in my copy, where in the Constitution does it say that our supreme justices, that our courts are supposed to look to opinion polls when they decide cases? I thought it was their job to simply read the Constitution.
And now we've got that same issue right here in the state of Iowa.
You've got a justice, Justice Wiggins, who apparently being on the Supreme Court is not enough. You would think that would be a full time job. But apparently, he wants to do the job of the legislature and the governor as well. You know, I don't have any problem with Justice Wiggins proposing liberal views. I don't have any problem with him wanting to espouse his views on marriage or whatever else he chooses to opine on. But if he wants to make law, he needs to do that by running for the legislature, not from the bench of the Supreme Court of the great state of Iowa.
This is a pretty simple election. It really comes down to this and Bob said this so clearly (Editor's Note: He is referring to Bob Vander Plaats of the Iowa FAMiLY Leader), and he said this so well. The realty is today we're talking about redefining marriage if the court is allowed to impose and write their own laws, in their own views, and overturn those that are done by our duly elected representatives, what's to stop with today's marriage? Tomorrow it may be property rights. Maybe Second Amendment rights. This is — We have got to take a stand against judicial activism and say we understand that there are separation of powers, there are checks and balances, built into our system.
Again, this isn't about Judge Wiggins' liberal views. If he wants to espouse those views, God bless him and I hope he — I wish him luck as he runs for the legislature. I wouldn't recommend that you vote for him but I wish him luck if he decided he wanted to go and run for that office. But as long as he's on the court, he's got to take his oath seriously. If he is not willing to do that, it is up to us to make him take his oath seriously by voting no for Justice Wiggins this fall.
Let's remember, this election's about not only setting a message we won't tolerate judicial activism in the state of Iowa, it's also about making sure we leave freedom, we leave the American dream for our children and grandchildren. It may be the most important election in our lifetimes. Let's make sure we show up and vote. God bless you all, thank you.
The "checks and balances" that Gov. Jindal referred to is the system of distribution of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, in relatively equal proportions, so that each branch has the ability to counter the actions of the other two and thus prevent the entire government from being controlled by any single branch. Yet, he implies that if the courts do not uphold laws that appeal to the Christian right that are challenged for being unconstitutional, the justices are guilty of "judicial activism."
The Des Moines Register reports that this year, a "Yes On Retention" bus tour is shadowing the conservative Christians' bus. The "Yes on Retention" campaign is a bipartisan effort to promote " Justice Not Politics."