Federal Prosecutor Skips Religious Right Event In Iowa

A federal prosecutor was ordered by the Justice Department to cancel plans to participate in a Religious Right conference in Iowa.

U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004, had agreed to serve as the master of ceremonies for the Iowa Christian Alliance’s 2007 Spring Kickoff. That group, formerly associated with the Christian Coalition, drew criticism in 2006 for asking state judges to answer a questionnaire designed to reveal their feelings on controversial public policy issues such as same-sex marriage.

In late February, when the Associated Press reported on Whitaker’s involvement, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Whitaker’s plans were problematic.

"Appearing at an event like this certainly raises legitimate questions," AU’s Rob Boston told the AP. "It’s important that our federal prosecutors present the image of impartiality and that they not be captive to the extreme agenda of special interest groups."

On the day of the event, the Department of Justice contacted Whitaker and asked him not to participate. Whitaker told the AP that his permission had been rescinded by the Justice Department.

"I initially got approval but ultimately that approval was revoked, and I couldn’t appear and I didn’t appear," he said.