By Megan K. Mertz
What are the Title IX implications for LCMS schools that accept state or federal funds? Can schools continue to make employment decisions based on their religious principles? What should schools do when a same-sex couple tries to enroll a child?
These are a few of the questions addressed on Worldwide KFUO’s “Faith’n’Family” program June 7-8.
During the show, host Andy Bates talked with guests Gregory S. Baylor, senior counsel and director of the Center for Religious Schools for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF); the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission; and Terry Schmidt, director of LCMS School Ministry, about such critical issues facing Lutheran schools today.
Advice for Lutheran schools
“The No. 1 issue far and away … is the application of nondiscrimination rules that impair your ability to be who you are,” Baylor said. “You don’t need me to tell you that an institution maintains its character, maintains its fealty to its faith through the people it hires. If it hires people who reject that faith or who reject the moral standards that come with that faith, it quickly becomes something different than what its founders wanted it to be.”
“There is enormous pressure being placed on educational institutions — more at the higher-ed level, frankly, but also at the K-12 level — to relinquish these distinctives,” he continued.
So, what’s a faithful Lutheran school to do in this rapidly changing political landscape?
Baylor’s advice is to “stay the course.” Don’t withdraw from any government funding programs and don’t change any religious beliefs.
Baylor also recommended that schools prepare for any possible legal controversies by making sure their policies — such as those on Christian conduct, employment and facility use — are in order and then sharing them with faculty, parents and job applicants.
“Don’t be shy about this,” he counseled. “Talk about who you are right from the beginning and that there are expectations for students and families.”
A helpful resource coming mid-July
To help the Synod at-large prepare for any potential legal troubles, the LCMS Office of the President will be mailing a new LCMS-specific version of ADF’s “Protecting Your Ministry” resource to every congregation and school in mid-July.
The resource contains a checklist of things ministries can do to protect themselves from legal entanglements related to the changing political views on marriage and sexuality, as well as sample statements and case studies of situations other Christians have already faced.
“Part of the reason to facilitate the conversation today … is the large volume of questions that we continue to get from our Lutheran school administrators,” Day said during the program. “Please, listeners, know that we are hearing from you … and we’re really hopeful that the document will be a helpful first step in people talking with their local legal counsel, certainly, but then having some sample statements to help think through those issues.”
“We don’t need to close our Lutheran schools, we don’t need to be afraid, but we need to be very wise and make sure that we’re taking precautions,” Day continued.
Megan K. Mertz (email@example.com) is a staff writer and managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World with LCMS Communications.
Posted June 10, 2016
Just sent a copy of this to leadership at Emmanuel in Asheville, North Carolina. Based upon my experience with this congregation and others including Trinity in Orlando, Florida there is an attitude of disrespect for having your legal house in order which permeates Syndical school administrations which in my opinion can be traced to St. Louis. A word to the wise is sufficient. Get your house in order folks or suffer the consequences. Peace, R.
First let me say thank you to President Harrison for helping the LCMS K-12 Education Dept. understand that the LCMS has got to take serious action NOW or we will find our K-12 schools gone shortly due to the federal govt’s new and ONGOING edicts. We either fight NOW or we will have no opportunity to fight in the future. The LCMS has been too slow in my opinion to address the fed’s developing control over our K-12 schools. This should have happened when Common Core was being pushed on our schools. That was not done. We now have Common Core and its sex ed, climate change, etc., embedded in various ways into our K-12 curriculum. When I tried to get the SWD education leaders and the education dept at St. Louis to address this 3+ years ago I got nowhere. When I brought this up to the head of the SWD Education Dept. I was told “we have to accept the Federal Common Core Program because our Milw. inner city LCMS schools could not survive without the WI State $$$, they would be cut off if we said NO to Common Core.” TODAY, we need to understand you CANNOT GO ALONG TO GET ALONG with the Feds without going along with the devil and what he will teach our children. The Scriptures say, “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” Let us be faithful. That means some of us will have to help more financially IF the feds / states cut off funding. I will, how about you?