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Branstad Mixes State With Church, Creates A Bad Cocktail

not a church

not a church

Governor Branstad’s latest little in-your-face move of signing a proclamation calling on Iowans to participate in a bible reading marathon from June 30 to July 3rd in front of all 99 courthouses simultaneously is simply way out of bounds. Whatever his motivation may be – probably very cynical to pander to right wing Christian voters – it should not be allowed.

It is bad enough that he publicly declares support for an action that favors one religion over any others. Then to offer up secular public buildings, county courthouses in this instance, goes way beyond the pale. This action appears to be the very epitome of the state using its power to establish a religion.

Defenders point out that Branstad has signed proclamations stating one day or another as a day of prayer for earlier Christian observances and also one for Muslims. Just because something similar has been done before doesn’t make the current practice any more legal. One observer also noted that Branstad had signed a proclamation fro a day of reason. Since when is reason a religion? If the argument is that atheism is a religion, how does not believing in something constitute a religion.

Perhaps Branstad was told that all the churches in the state had been shuttered and thus he felt some obligation to offer those wishing to make a grand outward show of their religiosity (against Christ’s prescriptions) the use of government buildings? But thousands upon thousands of churches remain open in Iowa even though they are mostly empty even on Sunday. Even if they churches were shuttered wouldn’t businesses that push their Christianity be a better place for the religious to congregate. Businesses such as Chik-Fil-a or Hobby Lobby or Pizza Ranch.

If none of those are available then perhaps they could move to the private homes of the believers and “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

No, Governor, your move is very cynical and should be ruled very unconstitutional. While we would like to think that Branstad could be reasoned with on issues like this we only need to look at some of his actions in office to know that he could really care less what we think. So in lieu of reasonable argument may we suggest a contribution to the ACLU or the Freedom From Religion Foundation

If they are praying in the courthouses we hope they are at least pray for something that will benefit the country – keeping Donald Trump out of the White House.

Really makes you wish Tom Paine was alive to take Branstad to task.

proclamation for weekend of prayer

proclamation for weekend of prayer

ACLU Names Allen Honorees

ACLU - Iowa(Editor’s Note: The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa created the Edward S. Allen award. Here is their release about the ceremony coming Oct. 2 in Des Moines).

August 27, 2015

I’m excited to announce that we have named three remarkable Iowa leaders as the first-ever recipients of the ACLU of Iowa Edward S. Allen award, named after the Iowa State University math professor who founded the ACLU of Iowa in 1935. The honorees this inaugural year are Dennis Barnum, Mary Garst, and Art Neu.
The past year marked the passing of all three, who have done much to defend and advance civil liberties for all Iowans. As a result, to recognize them in a fitting way, the ACLU of Iowa created a new award to recognize such individuals, living or deceased. Find out more about the Allen Award honorees’ accomplishments.
We created the Edward S. Allen award to ensure that we had the ability to recognize Iowans who are long-time civil liberties heroes. While the ACLU of Iowa staff and board work tirelessly to defend civil liberties, we cannot do it alone, and it is important to recognize members of our community who give of their own time to expand and protect civil liberties in our state.
Please join me and the ACLU of Iowa staff and board at our 80th Birthday Bash on Friday, October 2 to celebrate our 80th year and recognize these three Edward S. Allen Award honorees.

ACLU of Iowa 80th Birthday Bash
Friday, October 2, 5:30-8 p.m.
World Food Prize Building, Des Moines

We hope to see you there!
Jeremy Rosen, Executive Director

Iowa Secretary Of State Matt Schultz May Be Held Accountable For Voter Purging


A lawsuit that challenges the powers of the Iowa Secretary of State is advancing.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa (ACLU-Ia) and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC) both say Secretary of State Matt Schultz violated the law in July 2012.

The groups claim that Schultz lacked legal authority to pass emergency rules for voting a few months before the November general election. The lawsuit claims that the emergency rules infringed upon the exercise of the right to vote.

Polk County Judge Scott Rosenberg has denied Schultz’s request to dismiss saying the lawsuit may move forward.

According to

“The judge said in a ruling Saturday that since there is nothing to stop the secretary of state from attempting to pass voting rules again prior to an election, the court must hear the case and resolve the issues.

“If Schultz refiles these emergency rules before a future election, the same issues will arise of whether he abused the emergency rulemaking process, exceeded his statutory authority, and violated the right to vote,” Rosenberg wrote.

“The alleged impact of the emergency rules on the right to vote is clearly a matter of public importance,” Rosenberg said in his opinion.

If you’re wondering what is all the fuss about, here’s some additional context from  The Brad Blog from August, 2012:

In an echo of Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his incredibly partisan Sec. of State Ken Detzner’s disastrous recent attempt to purge “potential non-citizens” from Sunshine State voting rolls, Iowa’s incredibly partisan Sec. of State Matt Schultz issued “emergency rules” at the end of July to help kick off his own “non-citizen” voter purge in the Hawkeye State.

That effort was met by a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on Wednesday, charging that Schultz’ rules were issued improperly in an abuse of his office.

According to AP, the new rules call for suspected non-citizens to be identified through an unknown process created by Schultz without oversight or explanation which, his office says, would be “contrary to the public interest.”

If, through this magical, unoverseeable process, created with no public input, voters are believed to be ineligible to vote as non-citizens, “Schultz’s office will send notice telling them they may be illegally registered, a class D felony, and should cancel their registrations immediately. They would be given 14 days to dispute the notice; if they fail to do so, Schultz’s office would take steps to remove them from the list.”

Another “emergency rule” issued by the Iowa’s Secretary Schultz, according to the ACLU, removes the requirement of signing a sworn statement when making an allegation of voter fraud. It should be a fun election this year in Iowa!

Schultz has long called for polling place Photo ID restrictions in Iowa, despite the dearth of evidence that anybody has ever committed voter fraud by in-person polling place impersonation — the only type of voter fraud that can possibly be deterred by such measures — in the state. Last year he sponsored a bill to require polling place Photo ID, but, thankfully, the measure was blocked by Democrats in the state Senate.

Despite all of that, when the Iowa GOP ran their “First in the Nation” Presidential Caucuses in January, when they were able to create any rules they wanted for the proceedings, they chose not to require their own voters to present a photo ID before participating in the caucuses. Go figure.

For additional background, click on the links to previous Blog for Iowa articles on the topic:


Sunday Funday ACLU Edition.

OK, I was watching Jeopardy the other day. They had the ACLU as a category. Well, what could be a better category for a bunch of liberals and progressive than the group that will lead them into the worker’s paradise?
Guess what? We haven’t always seen eye to eye with the ACLU. I bet most of us can remember at least one battle they fought that we wondered WHAT are they doing? So let’s see what you know.

1) When was the ACLU founded?
a) Just after the Constitution was adopted
b) Prior to the Civil War.
c) Shortly after the end of WWI in 1920
d) At the end of WWII.

2) What issue helped gel the ACLU into existence?
a) The adoption of the bill of Rights at the Constitutional Convention
b) The Communist threat following WWII
c) Slavery before the Civil War
d) The imprisoning of anti-War protesters during WWI

3) Over the years the ACLU has defended many individuals and groups which were incredibly unpopular at the time. Which group did they defend during

a) Americans of Japanese descent who were interned as a prevention.
b) Members of the German-American League who were banned after the start of the war.
c) Communists
d) American Jews.

4) The ACLU is often best known by the cases it has been involved in. One famous case arising from Iowa led to loosening free speech in public schools. What city was the defendant in that case?
a) Iowa City.
b) Des Moines
c) Sioux City
d) Cedar Rapids

5) One issue that the ACLU is frequently vilified by the right concerning public schools is:
a) forced that evolution be taught in American high schools
b) included Buddhism and Islam prayers be included in public school prayers.
c) allowed students to withdraw from public school prayer.
d) the outlawing of prayer in public schools.

6) In one of its more controversial cases the ACLU defended the right of the American Nazi Party (NASP) to march in what mostly Jewish community?
a) Palm Beach, Florida
b) North Bergen, N.J.
c) Brookfield, Wisconsin
d) Skokie, Illinois

7) In its early years, because of mutual interests the ACLU was frequently associated with what group or movement?
a) labor
b) civil rights
c) anti-war
d) industry

8) The ACLU first gained public notoriety due to its involvement in what famous 1920s case?
a) Sacco and Vanzetti
b) The Scopes Monkey Trial
c) Teapot Dome Scandal
d) Leopold and Loeb

9) Recently, the ACLU was on which side in the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission?
a) Citizens United
b) FEC

10) In toto, which one of the Bill of Rights has the ACLU defended most frequently?
a) the second amendment on firearms
b) the fourth amendment on searches and seizures
c) the fifth amendment on trial by jury etc.
d) the first amendment on freedom of speech.

I feel a little freer know the ACLU is out there to defend our freedoms.
Here are the answers:

1) c) shortly after WWI

2) d) the imprisoning of anti-war protesters.

3) a) Japanese Americans who were put in internment camps

4) b) Tinker v. Des Moines (the black armband case)

5) d) outlawing of prayer in school

6) d) Skokie, Ill.

7) a) labor

8) b) the Scopes Monkey Trial

9) a) Citizens United (they have been roundly criticized for this)

10) d) the first amendment, especially the freedom of speech.

Iowa’s Three Former Supreme Court Justices To Receive Noun Award at ACLU of Iowa Dinner

Iowa’s Three Former Supreme Court Justices To Receive Noun Award at ACLU of Iowa Dinner

The ACLU Foundation of Iowa is proud to announce that the 2011 Louise Noun Award will be presented to the three former Iowa Supreme Court justices: Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit.

The justices were removed by voters last November in the wake of the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 unanimous ruling supporting marriage equality. They will be present to be honored at the ACLU of Iowa annual dinner in Iowa City on Saturday, April 30.

The Louise Noun Award, named after the remarkable Des Moines activist, philanthropist, and former president of the ACLU of Iowa, goes to those who have made significant contributions or displayed uncommon courage on behalf of civil liberties in the state.

”This award, created in the memory of Louise Noun in 2004, is typically awarded to an individual or group of individuals who have amassed a lifetime record of fighting for civil liberties or who have shown courage and leadership in standing up for democracy, equality, constitutional rights, and justice,” said Randall Wilson, legal director for the ACLU of Iowa.

“We honor these three former justices for their steadfastness, leadership, and adherence to the ideal of an independent and professional judiciary governed by the rule of law,” Wilson said. “Each of these justices had the courage to join in the unanimous and historic opinion in Varnum v. Brien recognizing that equal protection under the Iowa Constitution required civil recognition of marriages between same sex
couples. They did so knowing full well what the consequences of that decision might be.“

The dinner’s keynote speaker will be Des Moines attorney Sharon Malheiro, a leading advocate in LGBT issues. Malheiro founded and is the chair of One Iowa, the largest statewide civil rights organization dedicated to LGBT issues in Iowa. She has been a significant force in achieving same-sex marriage equality in this state.  A former journalist, Malheiro joined the Davis Brown law firm in 1990. She was
elected president of the firm’s board of directors earlier this year.  Soon after joining the firm, Malheiro started working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) issues. She worked to amend Des Moines’ human rights ordinance to include protections for gay and lesbian people, to introduce the Iowa Safe Schools legislation, and to add a LGBT amendment to the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

The dinner and program will be held at the University Athletic Club on the campus of the University of Iowa.

The schedule will include a 6:00 p.m. Appreciation Reception for the justices and our keynote speaker. The dinner and program starts at 7:00.
Dinner is $45, with lower prices for students and those with limited means.
Visit for more information and to register on-line. Or email or call 515-243-3576, ext. 13.

Contact: Veronica Lorson Fowler, communications specialist or 515-451-1777

Workers Take Heat from ICE

Workers Take Heat from ICE

By Marty Ryan, Legislative Director of the ACLU of Iowa.

“They didn't get me for robbing or murdering.  They got me for working”

Irma Hernandes, Postville resident and Agriprocessors employee

meetings on bills during the session of Iowa’s General Assembly can
result in the emergence of some very fascinating information, and a bit
of entertainment now and then. During a subcommittee meeting on Senate
Study Bill 3286, a bill relating to wage payment collection and 
employment classification,  an interesting exchange took place
between John Gilliland, lobbyist and senior vice president of the Iowa
Association of Business and  Industry (ABI), and Senator Joe
Bolkcom (D-Iowa City).

Uh, yeah, I have this problem with Section 11 of the bill; the part
that  holds the top ten largest shareholders personally liable for

rubbing his chin:  [after pausing  for a while to read the
section] Yeah, I see what you mean, John.  Ten is probably too
many.  What do you suggest?  Five?

John:  No, no, that’s not what I meant.

Well, then, what are you saying, John?  No one individual should
be  responsible for paying wages due to an  employee?

SSB 3286
passed out of subcommittee and out of the Senate Ways and Means
Committee and became Senate File 2416.  It was never brought up
for consideration (debate) in the Senate and died when the Legislature
adjourned for the session.

The bill
had flaws, but it’s too bad that some provisions were not enacted prior
to May 12 when federal agents stormed a meat packing plant in Postville
to eventually take away over 300 of its employees in handcuffs. 
Why?  The employees didn’t have proper documentation.  

owner and corporate shareholders shrugged their shoulders.  They
had no idea (wink, wink) that some of their  employees were
undocumented workers.   

now that that federal government has whisked them away from the
area,  the problem is all over.  Or, is it? Were these
workers paid?  Were they paid fairly? Legally? Slavery is a
constitutional violation. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly
convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject
to their jurisdiction. That’s the 13th Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution.  It brings to mind words rarely used anymore:
peonage, serfdom, Russian chattel, military draftee.  

Labor Commissioner Dave Neil has confirmed that, prior to the May 12
show of intimidation in northeast Iowa, a state investigation was
underway, possibly leading to labor law violations against the
Agriprocessors plant in Postville.  Speculation has it that many
of the potential allegations include violations of child labor laws.

‘It is
an ongoing investigation, and I can’t really get into the specifi cs,’
Neil said.  As many as eighteen juveniles were detained in the
raid. The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union had
been conducting an effort to organize the workers within the
plant.  Mark Lauritzen, UFCW international vice president, had
urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in a May 2 letter
to delay a raid at the plant so that possible OSHA investigations could
be completed.  It’s almost as if reporting problems to the right
hand of the government gets the left hand of the government involved.

Yin and
Yang, so to speak. All of this came down as though Agriprocessors
requested the raid.  The UFCW has to start almost from
scratch;  witnesses in workplace violations may  have
vanished, either on their own accord, or by governmental intervention;
and workers who were hauled away in handcuffs – over 300 of them most
likely will not see what would be their last paychecks, accrued
vacation pay (if it even exists), and any other benefits, that at a
minimum, might be owed to the former loyal employees.

So much for business ethics.  With employers like Agriprocessors, why are unions often considered the bad guys?  

I doubt
very much that Agriprocessors is a member of ABI, but sitting in that
subcommittee meeting last spring I couldn’t help but wonder what
businesses John Gilliland was representing when he fought to keep top
executives and shareholders from being personally liable for paying
employees the just wages they deserve.

always, it’s the worker who takes the heat.  If the law put the
corporate board of directors in jail for a day or two the ‘problem’
would cease to exist.  The rich always live by different rules,
mainly because they pay to make the rules, or in this case, the
laws.  SF 2416 should have been given some consideration. I’m
looking forward to the day when photojournalists take snapshots of the
CEO and nine other shareholders being led from a plant in
handcuffs.  Or, I’ll compromise, John.  Five is a nice
number.  But don’t tell me that individual shareholders are
oblivious to the conduct of the corporation, or that they shouldn’t be
held responsible.  If wealthy shareholders call the shots, they
should take the shots.

ACLU Sues Over Unconstitutional Dragnet Wiretapping Law

ACLU Sues Over Unconstitutional Dragnet Wiretapping Law

By the ACLU

Group Also Asks Secret Intelligence Court Not To Exclude Public From Any Proceedings On New Law’s Constitutionality

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a landmark lawsuit Thursday to stop the government from conducting surveillance under a new wiretapping law that gives the Bush administration virtually unchecked power to intercept Americans’ international e-mails and telephone calls. The case was filed on behalf of a broad coalition of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations whose ability to perform their work – which relies on confidential communications – will be greatly compromised by the new law.
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, passed by Congress on Wednesday and signed by President Bush Thursday, not only legalizes the secret warrantless surveillance program the president approved in late 2001, it gives the government new spying powers, including the power to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications.

“Spying on Americans without warrants or judicial approval is an abuse of government power – and that’s exactly what this law allows. The ACLU will not sit by and let this evisceration of the Fourth Amendment go unchallenged,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “Electronic surveillance must be conducted in a constitutional manner that affords the greatest possible protection for individual privacy and free speech rights. The new wiretapping law fails to provide fundamental safeguards that the Constitution unambiguously requires.”

In Thursday’s legal challenge, the ACLU argues that the new spying law violates Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution. The new law permits the government to conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and email addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.

Plaintiffs in Thursday’s case are:

•    The Nation and its contributing journalists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges

•    Amnesty International USA, Global Rights, Global Fund for Women, Human Rights Watch, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union, Washington Office on Latin America, and the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association

•    Defense attorneys Dan Arshack, David Nevin, Scott McKay and Sylvia Royce

“As a journalist, my job requires communication with people in all parts of the world – from Iraq to Argentina. If the U.S. government is given unchecked surveillance power to monitor reporters’ confidential sources, my ability to do this work will be seriously compromised,” said Naomi Klein, an award-winning columnist and best-selling author who is a plaintiff in Thursday’s lawsuit. “I cannot in good conscience accept that my conversations with people who live outside the U.S. will put them in harm’s way as a result of overzealous government spying. Privacy in my communications is not simply an expectation, it’s a right.”

The ACLU’s legal challenge, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Thursday, seeks a court order declaring that the new law is unconstitutional and ordering its immediate and permanent halt.

In a separate filing, the ACLU asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to ensure that any proceedings relating to the scope, meaning or constitutionality of the new law be open to the public to the extent possible. The ACLU also asked the secret court to allow it to file a brief and participate in oral arguments, to order the government to file a public version of its briefs addressing the law’s constitutionality, and to publish any judicial decision that is ultimately issued. 

“The new law allows the mass acquisition of Americans’ international e-mails and telephone calls,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The administration has argued that the law is necessary to address the threat of terrorism, but the truth is that the law sweeps much more broadly and implicates all kinds of communications that have nothing to do with terrorism or criminal activity of any kind.”

In 2006, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) to stop its illegal, warrantless spying program. A federal district court sided with the ACLU, ruling that warrantless wiretapping by the NSA violated Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, ran counter to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and violated the principle of separation of powers. The Bush administration appealed the ruling, and an appeals court panel dismissed the case. However, the court did not uphold the legality of the government's warrantless surveillance activity and the only judge to discuss the merits of the case clearly and unequivocally declared that the warrantless spying was unlawful. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this year.

“A democratic system depends on the rule of law, and not even the president or Congress can authorize a law that violates core constitutional principles,” said Christopher Dunn, Associate Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The only thing compromised in this so-called ‘compromise’ law is the Constitution.”

Attorneys on the lawsuit Amnesty v. McConnell are Jaffer, Melissa Goodman and L. Danielle Tully of the ACLU National Security Project and Dunn and Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU. Attorneys on the motion filed with the FISC are Jaffer, Goodman, Tully, as well as Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area.

More information, including Thursday’s complaint, a video discussing the ACLU’s legal challenge, plaintiff statements in support of the lawsuit and the FISC motion, is available at: