Sarah McCammon

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.

Evangelicals see the Bible as the ultimate source of guidance for every aspect of life. But how exactly to apply to that to difficult moral dilemmas isn't always clear.

And this week, as the question of what to do about the plight of refugees from Syria and Iraq in the wake of the Paris attacks has become a national political debate, it's also become a moral question — one evangelicals are divided over.

'Our Faith Tells Us ...'

There's a fierce political debate underway about how the U.S. should respond to refugees fleeing terror.

Presidential candidates have weighed in, with many Republicans calling for keeping refugees from Syria, or other countries with an ISIS presence, out of the U.S.

There will be a few empty seats around one Thanksgiving table this year: Donald Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are among those skipping Friday's Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines. The event is hosted by the conservative Christian group the Family Leader. President Bob Vander Plaats is seen as an evangelical kingmaker in Iowa.

As many leading conservatives call for stopping Syrian refugees from entering the United States, several evangelical Christian organizations are pushing back.

Since last week's attacks in Paris, at least 30 governors in this country, mostly Republicans, have called for keeping Syrian refugees out of the U.S.

This weekend marked a revival of sorts on the Bob Jones University campus in Greenville, South Carolina – but not the religious sort. It was the first time in more than a decade that a presidential candidate had made a major public appearance on the conservative Christian college campus.

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One year from today, voters will decide who becomes the next president of the United States. Over the past several days, we asked people around the country what they want to hear — and not hear — from candidates over the next 12 months.

Brenda Alston is a retiree from Orlando, Fla.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



At a time when Republicans have struggled to keep their party in order in Congress, while more than a dozen presidential candidates are taking primary shots at each other, Democrats like to

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In this presidential campaign, political outsiders are outshining experienced politicians.

To succeed with the conservative Republican base in the early-voting state of Iowa, Ted Cruz will need to win over supporters of both outsiders and insiders vying for the nomination.

At a restaurant in the Mississippi River town of Keokuk, Iowa, this week, the Texas senator addressed a full room over a loudspeaker.

"God bless the great state of Iowa," Cruz said. "I spent most of last week in Washington, D.C., so it is great to be back in America."

Iowa is undergoing a demographic shift. The first-in-the-nation caucus state is overwhelmingly white — Latinos still make up less than 6 percent of the state's population — but their numbers have more than doubled since 2000.

That means Latinos are an increasingly important group for both Republicans and Democrats to win over. Activists are stepping up efforts to engage Latinos in the 2016 election.

But they face some obstacles. The state's caucus system can be tricky for newcomers to navigate.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



The nation is halfway between census years. The next decennial U.S. Census is coming up in 2020. And for the first time, it'll be offered online. That means census officials have lots of work to do to make sure no one is left behind.

For several months this year, the Rev. Thurmond Tillman has been working for the Census Bureau. His main gig is at First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., where's he's been a pastor for more than 30 years.

The sun isn't quite up, but Tillman is already on the road. He crisscrosses coastal Georgia and South Carolina in his black sedan.

House lawmakers in South Carolina have voted to slash funding for two of the state's largest public colleges in retaliation for the introduction of books with gay themes into the schools' freshman reading programs.

In a mobile classroom — basically a trailer outfitted with a desk and some chairs — music teacher Chris Miller works with a group of active kindergartners dressed in green and khaki school uniforms. He teaches them the basics: musical concepts, artists and styles of music.

"Everybody repeat after me," he says. "Wade in the water." Kids sing back, "Wade in the water."

Broadlawns Medical Center has been serving low-income residents of Des Moines, Iowa, and the surrounding countryside for decades. Now there's a twist in Broadlawns' mission as a public hospital: helping people sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

On a recent Saturday morning, Jerrine Sanford traveled half an hour from the small town of Runnells to get her insurance questions answered at a hospital-run event.

Sanford, 47, is out of work because of a back injury. She's worried about the law's requirement that everyone have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Drought is mostly seen as a bad thing — and for good reason. It dries up crops, destroys landscaping and stops ships from moving. But even the lack of rain clouds has a bright side.

Good For Grapes

Last summer it seemed like all Midwestern farmers were upset over the lack of rain. But not all of them were; those growing grapes were embracing the drought.



Early on in the election cycle, some voters were fired up about a candidate we haven't heard a lot from since the Republican primary. That's Ron Paul. The Texas congressman ran for the GOP nomination with a strong libertarian platform. He has not endorsed Mitt Romney. And in some places, including Iowa, his supporters are still involved but not on behalf of Romney. As we hear from Sarah McCammon of Iowa Public Radio, they're keeping their focus close to home.

In the months since the controversy over the Susan G. Komen Foundation's shifting position on funding for Planned Parenthood, the organization has seen a decline in fundraising and attendance at its main event, annual races held around the country to raise money for breast cancer prevention and treatment.

Early in-person voting has begun in Iowa, the first swing state to open polling sites.

Residents of the battleground state can now vote in person at their local county auditors' offices or turn them in by mail. Some areas will offer additional satellite locations.

At the Polk County Auditor's office in downtown Des Moines Thursday morning, a line of voters stretched down the block as the door opened.

Peter Clay, 62, was among the many supporters of President Obama. He says he's volunteered for the campaign on his days off from his job as a zookeeper.

There goes Iowa again, always having to be first. The home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses is also the first swing state to begin early in-person voting in the presidential election.

On the heels of the quadrennial political extravaganzas, it's back to the day-to-day work of winning the election. On Friday, that means the focus returns to a pair of small-population states with relatively few electoral votes.

The day after he formally accepted his party's nomination, President Obama and an entourage including first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden were scheduled to campaign in Portsmouth, N.H., and at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

In another sign of Democrats' growing embrace of gay-rights issues, an Iowa man who gained national attention for his story of growing up with lesbian mothers was to address the party's national convention Thursday.

Zach Wahls became a bit of an Internet star last year after testifying against a proposed same-sex marriage ban before members of the Iowa House of Representatives. A video of his statement went viral online, garnering millions of views.