Christianity can wait

Monday morning Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Boone, was ambivalent about allowing Syrian refugees into Iowa. By the afternoon the governor said no refugees should be allowed, and no state resources will be used to accommodate their resettlement. In the intervening hours, Branstad must have faced a hellfire of brimstone in blowback from those who love him best.

And then, all the state’s Catholic bishops came out urging Branstad to reverse course. Stumbling from that buffet, a Branstad aide clarified that the governor is powerless against the tide of federally-vetted refugees. Churches and charities may work to resettle them in Iowa, but the aide reiterated that no state resources will be used. It is a federal call after all, the aide said, which leads to the implication that the governor wishes nobody had asked him about it at his Monday morning press conference in the first place.

Responses on both sides, from Washington to Des Moines to Storm Lake, explore the boundaries of American outrage. Shame on the governor, the left says. Shame on John Kerry, Chris Christie says.

Here’s where we pull out the big gun:

“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.”

That was Jesus talking.

Back in 1938 Gallup found that two-thirds of Americans did not want to allow displaced Jews to enter the United States — even after Kristallnacht. In fact, the United States turned away boats full of Jews from Europe seeking sanctuary. They were welcomed in Cuba, of all places, probably by discreet arrangement.

The governor could say that Iowa will devote no public resources to resettling war’s refugees. We don’t devote hardly anything to it now. The Iowa Cares program that welcomed Southeast Asian war refugees has been denuded and, for practical purposes, dismantled. Branstad’s position articulates standing state policy. We sort of feel sorry watching Branstad grope for the right position. It is beyond his ken.

That’s the real shame. Iowa loses the opportunity to lead, and to welcome new people bathing in the glory of freedom in safe small towns where employers go begging for help. Look at how war’s refugees have brought such vitality and beauty to Storm Lake in the Tai Dam people. We did not suspect Communists loyal to Ho Chi Minh infiltrating the squalor of the Thai refugee camps. We suspected that they were human beings in desperate need of relief.

Iowa welcomed Muslims from the former Yugoslavia primarily to Waterloo and Des Moines, where they have become patriotic contributors to their communities.

There have been calls to only allow Christian refugees into the United States. We hold up thousands of poor children from Latin America in concrete bunkers. Their crime was to come to our borders seeking protection from death squads, drug cartels and rampant corruption. They are Christian, almost all of them from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. They need Iowa and we need them. Yet they languish, those least among us. We are told that someday we will have to answer for that. But not today. Christianity can wait for a more compelling moment.


Foregone conclusion

Much testimony was solicited before the Iowa Utilities Board this week regarding a proposed pipeline from the fracking fields of North Dakota to an outlet in Illinois, which would run through Buena Vista and 22 other Iowa counties. Despite all the talk, the decision is a foregone conclusion: The Bakken highly volatile crude oil pipeline will be granted the right to condemn private property in its way through Iowa. It has become clear that the utilities board has projected a political stance unbecoming of a regulatory authority. The politics favors the pipeline; seldom do big labor and big business agree so fervently on the need for something that is unnecessary.

That the board has become a political apparatus should be beyond dispute. A former chairman was displaced by the governor and replaced by a former Republican state legislator, Geri Huser, who has made the governor’s business her business in the utilities business. Just this week Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley exposed the fact that Huser personally is blocking funds collected by the board under legislative command to be disbursed to the Iowa Energy Center. The center is housed at Iowa State University and doles out grants for research into fuels that obviate the need for highly volatile crude produced in environmentally suspect ways. The center does a lot of work on improving biofuels, for instance, and wind/solar energy.

Husser brushed off the report, saying that she just wanted the center to answer some questions. The center’s advisory council was not aware of the questions. This is the first time in 25 years, since the center was created by the legislature, that funding has been delayed or denied. Huser has said and done things that make us question her objectivity as a regulator, and whether the board can make an apolitical judgment in the case of eminent domain. It would appear that the cards are stacked against pipeline opponents, who include many Buena Vista County farmers, for political purposes that do not necessarily serve the interests of Iowa.