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I saw a familiar face at last Saturday’s Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Fall Fundraiser. Betty Odgaard, someone I consider a true hero, was at the event.

It turned out she was being honored for taking a stand in support of religious freedom. What I didn’t know, embarrassingly, was that Dick Odgaard, Betty’s husband, had died late last year.

I want to share their story with our readers as some may not be familiar. And then I want to say a little something about Dick Odgaard.

The couple purchased an old church and turned it into an art gallery. The Gortz Haus Gallery also featured a bistro as well as a small framing, flower and gift shop. It was a beautiful facility where weddings and receptions were hosted.

The day after the Iowa Supreme Court forced same-sex marriage on the Hawkeye State, a same-sex couple entered the Gortz Haus to inquire about using the facility for a wedding.

Dick and Betty, citing their religious faith, declined.

A few years later — 2013 — two men came in and requested to rent the facility for a wedding. Again the Odgaards refused.

And this time they were sued. In addition to the legal threat, the couple faced vile messages and death threats. The story quickly gained national attention.

In the end, they settled the matter and were fined $5,000 by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The Odgaards also had to stop offering wedding services completely.

Without the ability to host weddings, the business closed soon after.

Yet they emerged on the other side of the battle. They survived. And, in some ways, thrived after the ordeal.

They were able to take their story of standing up for their faith and defending their beliefs across the country.

Betty said she wished Dick was with her on stage to accept the award on Saturday night.

“He would’ve loved this,” she said. “And you know, we would do it all over again because God has blessed us and we wouldn’t be in the position we were had we not taken a stand.”

The Odgaards graciously came to Northwest Iowa for an event I hosted where they shared their story. I had met Dick and Betty at the Iowa Capitol. They were at a subcommittee hearing testifying in support of a religious liberty bill.

I saw them at the Capitol a few times after that. And despite their faith forcing their lives to take a bit of a twist and a turn, I do not doubt they would do it all again.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with them. And every time I saw Dick after they came to speak in Sioux Center he would ask me how my kids were. But it wasn’t in a way that he was searching for something to talk about — he genuinely cared and wanted to know.

It was a few years ago that I was embroiled in a controversy over publicly expressing my religious beliefs, also on the issue of same-sex marriage. I’m not going to get into the details of that story because this story isn’t about me — it is about the Odgaards.

I realized as I went through my own battle just how difficult it must have been for Dick and Betty to fight through theirs.

Yet I never sensed regret. I never sensed anger. In fact, I always felt they were at peace with what had happened to them.

They were wronged. They were unjustly punished. They were violated.

But they were at peace.

I told Dick how much I loved and respected them for taking the stand they took and for being an example for all believers. For being willing to “lose” something for their faith in an age so many aren’t willing to risk anything for it at all.

When Dick and Betty spoke here at the event we hosted a few years ago, he talked about how much he learned going through their ordeal.

“If you see people that are persecuted for their faith, don’t stand behind them, stand beside them,” he said. “Be seen supporting these folks. One of the things that happened to us in our business, people, even though they agreed with what we did, did not want to be seen walking through our doors.”

Honestly, it’s a large reason I do what I do — to provide a voice in the media that will stand with people like the Odgaards and ministries like Freedom Blend Coffee when they are punished by the government for their religious beliefs.

Dick is right — it is not enough to stand behind our brothers and sisters in these battles — we must stand beside them. They must know they are not alone.

In regards to my own little dust-up over my beliefs regarding same-sex marriage, I count it as a blessing to be able to take a stand. I have no doubts that Dick and Betty do as well.

I wish I would have had at least a couple more conversations with Dick. At least one. One more to tell him “thank you” one more time. I don’t think we can tell people like the Odgaards thank you enough.

Dick and Betty’s story is a significant piece to the puzzle of The Iowa Standard if I’m being honest. Not just in regards to providing a space in the media to support those willing to stand for their faith, but also willing to have a mindset that looks beyond politics and instead focuses on reality.

Discussions and debates over religious liberty and the erosion of the First Amendment — they are not theoretical — they’re very much reality.

I could not be more proud to have gotten to know Dick and Betty and to help provide a platform for them to share their story with a small group of people.

But I know this — when people hear their story, they are inspired. When people hear their story, they are sharpened. They become a little more rooted in their faith.

Courage truly does beget courage.

Every time we take a stand for our faith, it deepens a little bit more. And when we do so publicly, it even emboldens others who share our beliefs.

The Odgaards provided us an example of what faith through trial looks like.

God bless them.

Author: Jacob Hall


  1. The Odgaards and those who act like them are not the persecuted. They are the persecutors. When you’re in a business for profit you don’t have the right to discriminate, even in the purported name of religion. If roles were reversed and the Odgaards were denied an accommodation because of their religion by a gay business owner, they would be able to sue successfully.
    I know I won’t convince anyone of how logically wrong you all are. I pity you. Jesus would never have turned them away.

  2. Those of us that have given up jobs and assignments for expressing our faith in Christ are encouraged by stories like the Odgaards. It is always an honor to stand up and speak up for Jesus Christ and His Word. He said it would cost us something, and He was exactly right. If our freedoms didn’t cost us something, they wouldn’t be worth anything. And for those freedom has cost nothing, they are the first to give those freedoms away. Thank you, Jacob.


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