Bob Vander Plaats’ Tone-Deaf Response to the Orlando Massacre

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In an email today from anti-gay organization The Family Leader titled “Repercussions of Orlando shooting,” failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats laments that “some are beginning to lash out in anger” as “the nation is still grieving over the shooting deaths in Orlando.”

“We’ve already seen it here in Iowa,” Vander Plaats writes, presumably referring to the response to actions like his judicial jihad against the Iowa Supreme Court over its gay marriage ruling in 2009, “but our sister organization in Florida under John Stemberger is on the frontlines of this bitter backlash. I believe you’ll find his firsthand story below both encouraging and alarming. All the more reason we need to be faithful to Christ in loving genuinely those who may regard us as enemies.”

Stemberger, who heads the socially conservative Florida Family Policy Council, recalls how he learned about how bad and close to his home the nightclub massacre was after reading about it on the Drudge Report, and how he received a call on his cell phone from Marco Rubio, who asked him to “encourage our supporters, pastors and other church leaders around the state to please pray for the families of those killed and for the City of Orlando.”

After issuing a statement saying that those killed “were image bearers of the Creator and worthy of dignity, value, and respect,” Stemberger writes, “I was mocked and openly attacked by gay-rights activists simply for asking people to pray for those injured and the families of those killed.”

That’s probably because Stemberger has said that accepting a child’s identity as being gay is abusive, provided resources on “leaving the gay lifestyle,” opposed gay adoption, argued that gay marriage is detrimental to society, compared gay marriage to incest, and said that allowing gay people to join the Boy Scouts would promote molestation.

Later in his story, Stemberger complains about how a CNN host didn’t challenge a gay-rights activist who criticized right-wing Christians. “She openly said you don’t need to find a terrorist cell to find this kind of hatred,” he writes. “All you need to do is look right here in America at fundamentalist Christians.” He contrasts that interview to Anderson Cooper’s interview with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, during which Cooper “shamelessly transformed from reporter to radical gay activist” by calling out her hypocrisy for saying she supported the LGBT community after previously fighting against gay marriage by saying it caused “public harm”:

“Honestly, I am really tired of seeing special interest rainbow flags and wish we could see more American flags, as we stand together in unity against our greatest mutual enemy, radical Islamic jihadists!” he writes.

After Stemberger’s story, Vander Plaats ends the email with a note: “At The FAMiLY LEADER, we too will never stop defending God’s design for marriage, and we will never stop proclaiming that truth in love. Loving members of the gay community and loving God’s design for marriage are not mutually exclusive. So as John said, ‘We will love people and speak truth. Jesus commanded us to do nothing less.'”

Here’s a video of Vander Plaats expressing his love for the gay community:

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.