Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn and his wife helped found a private school that bans faculty, students and students' parents from being in same-sex relationships.
Hagedorn and his wife, Christina, both serve on the board for Augustine Academy, a Christian school founded in 2016 that blends classroom learning with homeschooling and serves students in Hartland, Delafield, Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Pewaukee, Wales, New Berlin and Brookfield. The school teaches students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Several groups that support LGBTQ rights held a news conference on Thursday declaring Hagedorn unfit for the state's high court based on the school's standards and a set of blog posts the candidate wrote in 2005 and 2006. Hagedorn argues his personal beliefs play no role in his judicial decisions.
Hagedorn, 40, was appointed to the District 2 Court of Appeals in 2015 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and was elected to a six-year term in 2017. He is running against state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer, 61, who was appointed to the appeals court in 2007 by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and elected to the seat in 2008 in 2014.
"The participation in creating that (school) and continuing to be involved in the Augustine Academy calls into question Brian Hagedorn’s claims that he will set aside these extreme yet deeply held personal beliefs," said Joanna Beilman-Dulin, research director for the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, in a news conference at the state Capitol.
One Wisconsin Now was joined by representatives from Fair Wisconsin and the Human Rights Campaign.
Hagedorn campaign spokesman Stephan Thompson said the news conference was "just another example of attacks on (Hagedorn's) faith."
"Lisa Neubauer and her liberal allies will stop at nothing to take over the Supreme Court, even smearing Brian for founding a Christian school to better the lives of children," Thompson said in a statement.
Augustine Academy lists six guiding values on its website: The Christian Gospel, The Primacy of Parents in Training Their Children, The Classical Liberal Arts Tradition, The Joy-Filled Adventure of Learning, The Cultivation of Self-Discipline & Habits of Excellence and Commitment to Engage the World in Every Area for the Glory of God.
In its statement of faith, the school offers more details of its guiding principles.
"Adam and Eve were made to complement each other in a one-flesh union that establishes the only normative pattern of sexual relations for men and women, such that marriage ultimately serves as a type of the union between Christ and his church. In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, nor is gender subject to one’s personal preferences. It is biologically established by God for his glory," the organization's statement of faith reads.
The school also has a code of conduct that applies to students, faculty, board members and parents — the violation of which may result in dismissal.
The code of conduct bans illegal activities, requires kindness and respect, encourages the avoidance of drunkenness and requires the protection of "the dignity of human sexuality and the virtue of chastity."
The code's section on sexuality offers further instructions, banning "base jokes," pornography and any activity that could be viewed as "emotionally abusive, confusing or scandalous."
It also bans "immoral sexual activity," defined as "any form of touching or nudity for the purpose of evoking sexual arousal apart from the context of marriage between one man and one woman."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last month on a set of blog posts Hagedorn wrote in 2005 and 2006, when he was a law student.
On his blog, Hagedorn wrote that "the idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable," decried "homosexual propaganda," called Planned Parenthood a "wicked organization" and called the NAACP a "partisan hack."
In a radio interview earlier this month on WTAQ-FM, Hagedorn said he is not running to impose his personal views on the law, and argued his opponents were cherry-picking views they found politically incorrect.
"Judge Hagedorn treats everyone fairly under the law," Thompson said. "His job is to say what the law is and not what he think's the law should be. He is running for the Supreme Court to protect religious freedoms for all Wisconsinites, regardless of faith."