Dear Governor Branstad:

As an educator and as a person of faith, I share your goals to eliminate bullying and harassment of any person for any reason. Writing this letter on Valentine’s Day is a good reminder of our call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Our goal at The FAMiLY LEADER is to speak the truth in love.  Ironically, the upcoming 7th Annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) Youth is exchanging truth for acceptance and tolerance of harmful behavior.  As parents, we love our children so much that we do not accept or tolerate their desire to play dodge ball in a busy street.  If we did, that tolerance and acceptance could result in serious injury or worse.

In like manner, this is how I view the conference.  I have deep love and concern for the 14-18 year old students who will be attending and who may be negatively influenced by the messages they will hear at the conference.  And although I may not share their view of God’s design for sexuality, I would do everything in my power to prevent their harassment or bullying.

My ongoing concern regarding this conference is the message we are sending to our youth under your title of Governor.  I can only assume when you grant the use of your title, Governor, that you approve of the conference and all of its components.

For example, beyond workshops on bullying, there are vendors distributing condoms and “safe” sex kits.  I ask you, “What is the message being communicated to Iowa’s youth?”

In addition, the conference claims that in order to provide transgender friendly restrooms, girls will be allowed to use the boys’ restrooms and boys will be allowed to use the girls’ restrooms.  It all depends upon “which gender you identify with”.  Do you think that moms and dads will approve of allowing boys to share restroom facilities with their daughters?

And finally, the keynote speaker is featured in the series, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”.  Do you really believe that an authentic anti-harassment conference would feature such a “keynote” speaker?

I don’t know about you, but for me, this conference goes way beyond the prevention of bullying and harassment.  It is clearly about advancing a radical agenda that is overtly harmful and reckless for our youth.  Schools should be about academic achievement, not agenda acceleration.

According to our Christian faith, the leadership displayed by this conference bears serious consequences.  Jesus warns us in Matthew 18:6 that there is high accountability for this type of leadership.  This is the main reason why I believe you should not lend your title nor your support to this conference.

My Dad taught me that anyone can identify a problem, but it takes a leader to present a solution.  So, in the keeping with our name The FAMiLY LEADER, let me propose a solution I hope you will consider.

In exchange for the removal of your title from The 7th Annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on LBGTQ Youth, I, along with my team at The FAMiLY LEADER, would be willing to join you and your administration in the development of a privately funded, comprehensive safe schools conference with the goal of promoting healthy, safe behavior, and ridding our schools from all bullying and harassment.

This conference would address the harassment that takes place against minority kids, overweight kids, skinny kids, poor kids, disabled kids, red headed kids, kids confused about their sexuality…ALL kids!   This comprehensive approach is especially important since the Iowa Safe Schools bullying statistics show that only about 10% of the bullying incidents are related to sexual orientation, while the remaining 90% are a result of race, physical attributes, and other categories.

Instead of passing out “safe” sex kits to students, the conference could provide abstinence-based education, emphasizing healthy behavior and the healthy aspects of preventing unwanted pregnancies, STD’s, depression, and other problems resulting from sexual activity outside of marriage.

I believe Iowans would be proud to have a Governor-sponsored conference of this type.  The golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would be the message and the expectation.  Anti-bullying messages, along with abstaining from sexual activity until marriage, would be the basis of this conference, promoting long-lasting relationships that honor God and benefit societies from generation to generation.

Please feel free to contact me at your convenience to fully discuss our teaming for such a conference. Until then, I will be praying for your leadership that honors God and our youth!



Bob Vander Plaats

President & CEO, The FAMiLY LEADER

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