Terry Branstad, the mustachioed former Republican governor of Iowa and present U.S. ambassador to China, is now on trial in state court back in the Hawkeye State. Branstad, you see, had the temerity to request the resignation, in 2011, of a leftist mandarin named Chris Godfrey, who served as commissioner of the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation. Godfrey was, reliable sources tell me, unanimously despised by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (Iowa’s closest equivalent to a statewide chamber of commerce) due to his deeply held hostility to business interests. After Godfrey — who had been both initially appointed and reappointed by Democratic governors — refused to resign upon Branstad’s request, Branstad slashed his pay by 35%.
All standard fare for a newly elected Republican governor looking to re-shape the direction of his state’s anti-business governance, right?
Well. As it turns out, Chris Godfrey is an open homosexual. So Godfrey now claims, in a lawsuit that went to trial in state court in Iowa last week, that his sexual orientation is the reason that Branstad “retaliated” against him.
Godfrey offers zero direct evidence that anti-homosexual animus had anything whatsoever to do with the fact that a newly elected Republican governor of Iowa, upon taking office, sought to rework his administration to cleanse it of anti-business bureaucrats who were holdovers of previous Democratic administrations. Even more interesting, Roxanne Conlin, who is Godfrey’s attorney, seems to have a personal vendetta of sorts against Branstad — she ran against him in a decades-old gubernatorial race, as a Democrat, and lost.
And yet the facts actually get even more bizarre. The trial court judge assigned to the case made some
utterly insane bizarre recent rulings as to what types of purely circumstantial evidence to allow at trial. You see, the trial judge here seems hell-bent on ensuring Godfrey has every possible means available to “prove” anti-homosexual retaliatory animus on the part of Branstad, his chief of staff, and his legal advisor. Here is how a local Iowa blogger summarizes the evidentiary proceedings thus far (I have also directly reviewed Branstad’s petition for certiorari to the Iowa Supreme Court, for corroboration):
The trial started last week with District Court Judge Brad McCall, a Culver appointee and former plaintiff’s attorney, presiding. McCall, who is a district court judge in Jasper County (Judicial District 5A), was assigned the trail despite its location in Polk County (Judicial District 5C).
Branstad’s attorneys, Katie Graham and David Bower, petitioned the Iowa Supreme Court to place a stay on the trial until the resolution of a dispute over evidence McCall allowed.
According to the petition, McCall ruled that the following “circumstantial evidence” is admissible at trial:
- Evidence of candidate/Governor Branstad’s public policy positions on Varnum v. Brien, same-sex marriage, and the constitutional amendment process in Iowa;
- Evidence of Governor Branstad, Boeyink, and Findley’s affiliation with the “anti-gay” Republican Party of Iowa;
- The private, religious beliefs of individual members of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI”) regarding whether homosexuality is sinful; and
- Opinion testimony that the Republican Party of Iowa is “anti-gay” from elected officials who had no involvement in Governor Branstad’s decisions.
Let’s translate this into non-legalese. The trial court is permitting evidence to be entered with respect to Branstad’s personal thoughts on Varnum v. Brien, the outrageously activist Iowa Supreme Court decision wherein the Court held the state’s traditional marriage definition to be incompatible with the Iowa Constitution, as well as his personal policy views on what the state’s definition of marriage ought to be. The trial court is furthermore permitting evidence with respect to a mere affiliation with the Republican Party of Iowa allegedly being “anti-gay” due to the fact that the state’s GOP affirms the conjugal, one-man/one-woman definition of marriage to which disparate religions, ethnicities, and cultures from all around the globe had all adhered for millennia, in uninterrupted and unquestioned fashion, prior to the revisionist fad to redefine marriage as an institution oriented toward adult romance and not toward the rearing of children. Even worse, the trial court is permitting evidence with respect to whether the (presumptively Christian) individual members of the Iowa Association of Business at issue have the audacity to actually believe what the Bible says about homosexual conduct!
In a word, Christianity is on trial here in Iowa. Indeed, the very notion of whether it is “anti-gay” to believe in the once-universal conjugal definition of marriage is also on trial.
This ought to be deeply, deeply harrowing for anyone who supports religious liberty. “[Judge] McCall’s rulings have put Iowa’s freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association at risk,” concluded the local Iowa blogger, Shane Vander Hart. “By not stopping it, the Iowa Supreme Court just gave its tacit approval.”
The Iowa judiciary, in direct opposition to the Midwestern Christian sensibilities of the Iowa people, is disproportionately leftist. Nonetheless, God-willing, the judiciary will come to its senses and exculpate Branstad and his former legal advisor and chief of staff. But the fact that this case is even being tried — and that this outrageous circumstantial “evidence” is even being admitted into court — ought to be deeply depressing for patriotic Americans of all political and religious stripes.