Conservative-backed Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn helped found a Christian academy that bans LGBT teachers, students and parents.
The K-8 Augustine Academy in Waukesha County, which Hagedorn and his wife Christina helped found in 2016, employs a code of personal conduct that lists “immoral sexual activity” by teachers, staff, board members, students or their parents as grounds for dismissal. It defines immoral sexual activity 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.”
Failure of a student to abide by the code of moral conduct could result in a student “being required to withdraw from the school.”
Hagedorn, a state Court of Appeals judge and former chief legal counsel for former Gov. Scott Walker, continues to be a board member of the academy, located in Waukesha County. The private religious school combines private and home schooling and partners with Ambleside Schools International, a network of Christian schools.
Hagedorn’s involvement with the school, first revealed by liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, has prompted criticism from human rights advocacy groups that Hagedorn, who has been critical of gay rights court rulings, can’t be trusted to treat members of the LGBT community fairly under the law.
The school’s teacher application asks candidates whether they will abide by the code of personal conduct. It also asks them whether they are in “complete agreement” with Augustine’s statement of faith, which dictates that “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.”
The statement further proclaims “men and women are not simply interchangeable, nor is gender subject to one’s personal preferences.”
Students could be dismissed if their parents have gay sex or otherwise violate the code of conduct, such as drinking excessively, viewing pornography, making lewd comments or consuming illegal drugs.
“On the campaign trail, Brian Hagedorn has asked voters to trust he will set aside his strongly held homophobic beliefs,” One Wisconsin Now executive director Analiese Eicher said in a statement. “His actions tell a different story.”
In a statement, Hagedorn spokesman Stephen Thompson described OWN’s criticism as an attack on Hagedorn’s faith, “smearing” him for bettering the lives of children.
“Judge Hagedorn treats everyone fairly under the law,” Thompson said. “His job is to say what the law is and not what he thinks the law should be. He is running for the Supreme Court to protect religious freedoms for all Wisconsinites, regardless of faith.”
Tyler Hendricks, a spokesman for Hagedorn’s opponent, liberal-backed state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer, questioned whether Hagedorn could have integrity on the court.
“From his extreme writings on constitutional issues, to his time as Scott Walker’s chief lawyer, to founding and supervising a school that discriminates against students and teachers — Wisconsinites will need to decide whether Brian Hagedorn can set aside his personal partisan views and be a fair and impartial judge on our state’s highest court,” Hendricks said.
Hagedorn documented his views against gay marriage in a personal blog he kept more than a decade ago. In it he argued a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a Texas anti-sodomy law could lead to the legalization of bestiality.
Hagedorn has described himself as a constitutional originalist or textualist, a philosophy that the Constitution should be interpreted as originally written.
Hagedorn faces Neubauer in the April 2 race to replace Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson for a 10-year term.