It had been widely reported that “the Pledge” was originally to be released without addressing social issues.  They quickly realized that to do so would be a mistake as social conservative leaders and mainstream Americans voiced their opposition.  We commend their desire to address health care reform, out-of-control spending and tax policy, but a message has been delivered, in large part due to the efforts of the American Principles Project’s Plank 1 campaign to put our principles first.  Those priorities cannot and should not come at the expense of the preborn, traditional marriage, family values and religious liberty.

Thankfully, they listened and in this “Pledge” we now have a reaffirmation of some of our primary issues.  They pledged “to honor families, traditional marriage, life and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.”

They pledged to end taxpayer funding of abortion present in the health care reform act, and work toward making the Hyde Amendment law.  They also want to extend protections for health care workers so they are free to follow their conscience concerning abortions without threats of reprisal.  Conservatives should be thrilled they want to pursue such common sense measures recognizing that only with economic, political and religious liberty can Americans “advance themselves, their families, and the common good,” but acknowledge this is only a starting point.

This is a much needed reaffirmation of the Republican Party’s positions on social issues.

Following the midterm elections Republicans have a shot to stop playing defense and to start taking the ball down the field on social conservative issues.

Eliminating taxpayer funding for abortion is a start, but let’s work toward ensuring that all children have the right to life protected by working on a human life amendment.  Let’s ensure that the preborn are extended 14th Amendment protections.  There should be common federal ground in terms of parental notification laws, it is appalling that in some states our children can receive an abortion without consent but need it to receive aspirin at school.

At the very least, parents who are responsible for their child’s well-being should be made aware before their daughter makes such a life-altering decision.  Better yet, shouldn’t parents who are legally responsible for their children be able to veto such a decision?  If nothing else Republicans have the opportunity to educate and inform the electorate on abortion.

Can Republicans make progress with President Obama in the White House?  I’m sure that Republicans will face some setbacks.  Be aggressive, advance the cause of life in Congress, and make President Obama defend any veto.  His position on abortion is not the mainstream view that the majority of ordinary Americans hold.

Move the ball forward with solid pro-life legislation, don’t retreat.

Republicans should also advance the ball on traditional marriage.  In Iowa we experienced judicial tyranny as our state’s Defense of Marriage Act was overturned by a rogue Supreme Court in defiance of the will of the people.  The traditional definition of marriage has been upheld in every state where it has been on the ballot.  It is a mainstream position, and if what happened in Iowa wasn’t bad enough, now we have seen a federal judge strike down a state constitutional amendment.  Nowhere in the Constitution are judges given the authority to legislate.  Our legislative branch has the opportunity, if they have the moral courage to do so, to educate the judiciary and their constituents on the separation of powers.  They must move beyond just complaining about the “overreaching” judiciary.

They must not retreat; Republican leadership in Congress must move the ball down the field toward ending judicial activism on traditional marriage and a whole host of other matters.

Congress must aggressively pursue religious liberty so we don’t see our pastors handcuffed in the pulpit like they are in Canada because of, ironically, discriminatory civil rights laws.  Whatever happens this November, let’s not stop at the starting point.  You can’t score touchdowns by constantly playing defense and you can’t win without them either.

Shane Vander Hart is the communications director for American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative in Iowa.  He is also the editor of a popular conservative blog based in Iowa.