Waukee’s is a modern-day tabernacle with a stage instead of an altar and auditorium-style seating in the sanctuary instead of pews in neat rows — all complemented by Christian music not too different from the sound of nightclubs.
And indeed it feels like a concert as colorful spotlights dance and a thin veil of artificial fog swirls, as if to herald Iowa GOP Senate candidate and Pastor Jeff Mullen, his eight-piece orchestra and a trio of female backup singers. A pair of videographers move in for close-ups of the guitar licks and saxophone solos in what has all the trappings of a made-for-TV Sunday morning gospel hour.
Wearing a casual Hawaiian-style shirt and linen trousers, Mullen booms his concert-worthy baritone, closes his eyes, raises one palm in praise and clutches a microphone in the other. He is in his element.
When the singing stops on this Memorial Day Sunday, Mullen prays:
“May we always be a country that trusts firmly in You, Our God.”
“Thank you, God, for this great nation and the freedoms we have.
Come back to Patch tomorrow to read another installment in our coverage of the June 5 Iowa Senate District 22 Republican primary.
If Mullen isn’t actively campaigning in the church for the Republican nod for , his campaign was nevertheless born there after a unanimous 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage. He jumped into the political fray as part of a successful 2010 anti-retention campaign that ousted three justices from the bench, and then said yes to running for the newly carved Senate district at a legislator's urging.
Worshippers can leave the church with a booklet of devotionals, tithing envelope and other church literature — plus a pamphlet answering hypothetical questions about his campaign, titled “Answering Questions about Pastor Jeff Mullen’s Bid for Political Office.”
Among the answers is one to this two-part question: “Should I be concerned about a pastor being involved in politics? What about separation of church and state?”
The short answer:
“It doesn’t exist,” according to the brochure. “People have been so propagandized to actually believe it.”
The longer answer:
“The broad stroke of it is, the government should stay out of the church and the church’s business. Our government should not make a nationwide religion. That, you can find in our Founding Documents. They’re very clear about that. Our nation should never tell you what to worship, how to worship, when to worship. I love that. If you want to go worship a pair of dirty old socks, that’s your prerogative. That’s the freedom part, the liberty part.”
Ward Says Pastor’s Campaign Tactics Are “Troubling”
Mullen’s opponent in Tuesday’s primary, Sen. Pat Ward, said Mullen is twisting facts – the founding fathers’ intent and her own during eight years in the Iowa Senate. Ward currently represents District 21, but moved into the new District 22 when redistricting put her together with popular Democratic Sen. Matt McCoy.
Mullen would not comment to Patch for this story.
“Absolutely, (Mullen) brings religion too much into politics,” Ward said in an interview. “I think he openly preaches politics in church. That isn’t my belief, but I’ve heard that’s what occurs on a regular basis, and I would assume at least some of his church supports that.
“Church and state should be separate,” said Ward, a member of Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines. “I believe my values are certainly reflected in my voting, but I do not believe the two should be combined, and I think our founding fathers did that for a reason.”
Ward said she finds it “troubling” that as a pastor, Mullen would air that intentionally twisted and distorted her positions on legislation also supported by a majority of Republicans.
“That’s troubling for real people, for the average citizen on the street who doesn’t get into the details of voting records and who doesn’t get into the details of what’s included in these hundreds of pages of budget bills,” she said. “What he’s trying to do is distort my position by singling out minor things that could be singled out about any Republican, any time, anywhere.
“He’s trying to portray me as something I’m not,” she said. “I think that’s a shame, and I’m very troubled that as a pastor, he’s willing to do that.”
Low Voter Turnout Could Favor Mullen
Ward says she’s confident she can win in November against Democrat Desmund Adams, who faces no primary opposition on Tuesday. She adds that her “common-sense conservative” values are consistent with those of the majority of voters in the new district, who supported presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the caucuses.
But she acknowledges getting past the primary may be tough because voter turnout is typically low and special-interest voters can more easily influence the outcome by coalescing around a specific candidate.
For example, “We saw what happened to Sen. Lugar in Indiana,” Ward said, referring to moderate GOP Sen. Richard Lugar’s primary defeat to a Tea Party-backed candidate.
“A special interest group came in,” she said. “He had received 80 percent of the popular vote in past elections, just like Sen. Grassley in Iowa, and this group came in and poured $3 million into that campaign and just slaughtered him.
“So, yeah, I think that it is a real concern in primary races,” she said. “I hope that doesn’t happen here.
What do you think about religion and politics in the context of this race? Tell us below in comments.
Mullen is unabashedly going after religious conservatives’ votes. In the brochure left for churchgoers that includes information about his campaign website, Mullen writes that “every citizen and especially every Christian should be registered and ready to vote Biblical values.”
He tells supporters a political run is part of his calling and that he’ll take his Christian values to the Legislature if he’s elected. He describes himself as “pro-life” and “pro-family” and writes that he will “look at every piece of legislation through the lens of the Constitution with a goal to create a leaner and smaller government, lower taxes and less government intrusion.”
Previously in this race, Patch reported: