Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Executive Director, Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C., offers his insight on the state of religion and government in the US.
The following program is sponsored by evangelical life ministries.
Welcome to Liberty alert with great great selves sponsored by our friends at the Lutheran center for religious Liberty here in Washington, DC, a program that cuts through the chaos and confusion in the culture today by talking to kingdom, citizenship, old biblical principles for a robust public Christian life. And now you're host Dr. Gregory sells
Good day, good day, Washington DC. I'm Gregory. Seltz welcome to our program. The Liberty alert where every week we try to cut through the noise and take on the issues, especially the public issues that matter to people of faith today in our program, we are privileged to have with us Stacy McGee. Um, but maybe you remember her as Stacy Hef, is that correct? Yeah. And Stacy's the president and CEO of Lutheran special educational ministries now, but she was the principal of Taber Lutheran in Redford, Michigan. And for those of you who followed this program yes, that is indeed the Hosea Tabor case that, that set the ministerial exemption pre court precedent. And so I, when I ran into her a little while back, I said, I've gotta have you on the Liberty alert, cuz we have to talk about this. Uh, so welcome Stacy.
Well, thanks for having me.
Well, the, the pleasure is ours. And, and one of the reasons why I think it's so important to talk to you is, you know, I'm in Washington DC now and I'm basically addressing these kinds of issues, the religious Liberty issues. I'm trying to, uh, make sure that our view is, is in front of the Congressman senators, Congresswoman that kind of thing, our representatives, but there are people who say, well, why do you have to do that? And then I think of people like yourselves who got in the middle of this kind of stuff. And if you didn't, if you would've stopped or backed off, uh, the ministerial exemption, uh, president wouldn't have been set. And if you would've caved, uh, or if you would've kind of made a deal, then that would've been the precedent going forward. And so you had to kind of stay the course all the way through the end, because you're the one trying to take the politics out of this stuff and leave it in the hands of the church. So do us a favor, set the stage a little bit. What was the case about, and you know, um, what was it like to be in the middle of it?
Yeah, I mean, there's definitely a human component that I think sometimes gets lost in all of this that, you know, we were regular every day, people who loved Jesus who were trying to do yeah, it was our job, but also, um, you know, really following our hearts and knowing what was right and, you know, sticking to that. So, um, really what happened was I was just a second year principal. I wasn't even 30 years old.
Principal. Yep. Welcome to the real world. Right,
Exactly. Exactly. Um, and one of my teachers, um, was Cheryl Parrish and we were at a end of the year golf outing, just out having some fun with the teachers when she had, uh, kind of a medical emergency. And, um, then spent that summer in and out of the hospital and getting different diagnoses. And then by the fall she wasn't able to return to school. Okay. Um, so we, we had to, you know, work to get a replacement teacher because obviously having children unattended in a classroom isn't okay. Right. So, um, we did that and shortly after that, she came in and insisted that she'd be put back in the classroom. We didn't have a place for her at the time. So we asked her to just wait until the fall. She was still collecting a full paycheck and benefits and all of that. Um, but then, um, she decided that her best option was to file a lawsuit. And for us as a Christian community, we looked at that as major retaliation and something that we didn't really expect it to escalate that quickly. And, um, so at first we didn't, this wasn't a matter of standing up for anything or principal. It was just saying, you know, Hey friend, this isn't how we deal with conflict within the church. And our church had a conflict resolution policy. Our Michigan district had a conflict resolution policy. Senate has a conflict resolution policy. All of those were bypassed in favor of making this a political issue. And
So, and you had actually, and I, I tried to read back through the case a little bit too. I mean, you had made, uh, accommodations, you were working with her, you, you, you know, she wanted to come back at a certain time when she still had issues that she was dealing with. And so correct. You know, when you said, how about next year starting next year, that seemed to be a very reasonable response and, and then this still happens. Right.m, so what started in June of:
And sometimes those didn't align. And, um, at the same time we had a pastor who was diagnosed with stage four, colon cancer, and then, um, just months later passed away. So I was left to be the sole of a church and a school while we were working through, um, you know, getting a new pastor as well. Wow. And because of that, um, because he had also a, uh, medical disability at the same time, we were really trying to treat it like and kind and make sure that both of these employees were treated similarly and fairly. And, um, so I really thought that waiting until that next year and giving the students, the teacher, the consistency of the teacher in the classroom that year was what they needed. Wow. We felt like that was fair
Pretty wise for a second year. Uh, principal, I'm gonna tell you that, but let me also say this was interesting. Um, because I, I noticed that you won the first, I mean, the first round you win the case. Right? Right. And then they come back at you again and they appeal that. And then I start wondering, I start wondering, um, where's where are they getting the cash for this? You know, where's, this is what people don't understand is that when the government sues you, they they've got all day long and all the resources they ever need. And here, sometimes I think the lawyers that argue these cases, they look for schools like yourself, you know, you're a good, you're a little school, you've got a really nice staff and everything, but boy, if they can win the case against you, you can't even, you know, you don't have the resources to stand against them. And so I think they target, and this is what bothers me so much about this nonsense. Cause I see it all the time, the cake baker, I think they targeted the guy in Colorado cause they thought, oh, he'll roll. And, and people don't understand, these are fundamental constitutional cases, a traditional cases. And they picked you guys
And I'm sure you didn't appreciate that. Right.
Yeah. I mean, when you look at it is really like a David and Goliath, right? Exactly. Cause we had the E E O C versus our tiny little congregation in Redford, Michigan, you know? Yeah. They probably thought it was kind of a slam dunk and me being a naive 28 or 29 year old at the time. Um, no, I had a data in our school who was a, who was a lawyer and this poor guy, Dino, where he has a Saint. And um, I really felt like maybe if we just fired back a letter on his letterhead saying, you know, that we're actually gonna step off that maybe they would stand out
And people don't understand what you, you think what the we've got the first amendment protections. You don't have the right to actually come down on us like this for, for something that's internal to our teaching and preaching. And the answer is, well, we just wrote a law, we'll see you in court. And so you all right. So how did you feel when first you win the case, but then you lose the appeals. Tell me how you work through that. Now you don't have a pastor, your pastor's sick. Yeah. Your people are struggling. The school's not a big school, but you've got, you've gotta be faithful to your kids and parents as well.t, um, finally did hear it in:
Oh, he said that.
Yeah. And I remember pumping my fist and this being like, OK, this is great. This is, this is going in the right direction. Um, but yeah, it was definitely, um, something where, you know, it bounced back and forth where we felt like, okay, we've got this in hand and then, well, no, we don't. And, you know, thank God for the Beck fund and for the good attorneys that worked with us on that, because they did, they came in with, um, a little bit more manpower than we could have ever been able to afford or take on, on our own. And, um, they did just a really great job of, of hearing all of the information and gathering it all and then really representing us in a, a good and fair way. And I'm just very grateful for them, because for me, like you said, it's very intimidating to sit in a, in a small room, um, being deposed for, you know, eight hours at a time without any kind of a break, you can see why people, you know, break and admit to things that they never did.
I mean, it is, it is scary. It is really scary. And all at the same time, you know, I'm a mom and a wife and a principal, and there's all of these things that, you know, you're trying to juggle along with just being a, an everyday person, but then also having strength to stand up to, to things like this. And thank God I had really great, really great support and, um, some really good people, uh, who served like the errands of the world who, you know, held up the hands of right. Those of us who were, were taking on the battle. So
Have done it alone.
Yeah. Right in the middle of the cast. Well, uh, the book, um, free to believe by Goodrich, you know, he was one of your lead lawyers and we've had him on the program and he talks about, he said, this freedom and Liberty is not an American ideal. It's a biblical ideal that America has actually appropriated. And so there's, and, and the founding fathers were scared to death. Well, they weren't scared of it, but they, that's why they bound the government. Cuz they knew that when power is located in government's hands, it does things like this to principals of small schools in ho Taber in Redford.
Right. And they said, we're gonna bind them. And we're gonna put this thing called first amendment. I love, I think it was Scalia who challenged the art, the um, the E E O C lawyer. And he said, so are you telling me something like, this is not a unique case because this is a Christian school and this person said, no, it's not. And he said, well, I'm sorry, I'm seeing like you're writing black and white. It's called the first amendment. This is a different case than a labor union or something like that. And that's, what's shocking to me. People don't understand that the people we're dealing with on the hill today, they look at the first amendment, like it's incidental, uh, as long as they can get a court ruling against, you know, the people that they're after and you stood strong. Yeah. Now, were you ever, um, tempted to just kind of like take a plea or anything like that? Did they come and say, look, if you just pay her this and do that and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, just well resolve it or did, why did or were, did she say, I want to take it all the way to the parish? I mean, did she just wanna take it all the way to the Supreme court? I mean, is, this is crazy.
Yeah. You know, I, early on, I think, you know, I wanted to believe that this just kind of like maybe she wanted to make a point and then back out and right. Someone got behind her and encouraged her to, you know, just kind of keep going and it, and then it snowballed outside of what she ever thought it would be. But I don't know. I don't know that today. And yeah, we did do, um, in the, prior to the district court hearings, we did go through, um, federal mediation mm-hmm
Right. Um, but they, and then they wanted forward and back pay and, you know, pain and suffering and all of that. And they wanted right. You know, a lot, a lot more money than my tiny little church could ever authorize me to be able to, to give. So we gave as much as we could. And when that wasn't enough, we realized that this just wasn't about the money. This wasn't just about, you know, her getting her job back or anything like that. This was more about making a point and, um, right. And then yeah, after that, it, I mean, I'd be lying if I said I didn't wanna quit every day, you know, I wanted to get
And uh, yeah, I mean, even after the hearing, you know, there were months that went by from between the hearing and the ruling. Right. And in those months, I, I don't, I walked around like a zombie. I feel like, you know, I was still principal of a different school at that point, but I had no idea what was gonna happen. And I, the feeling, the weight of that was, was very, very taxing. I
Will say. Well, and, and this is what I try to make sure people are aware of today. There is a secular movement in our country, and I'm not talking about liberals, conservatives, liberals, conservatives generally believe in fundamental truths. We believe that there's right and wrong. We just have different way of getting at certain things or maybe a little different view of how the government involves itself in these things, the secularist we're dealing with today, I call 'em secular Puritans, secular status. They hate the church. Everything is about getting the church out of the business, out of school. And people don't understand, they're leveraging some of the institutions of power in our country. And then they're coming after the week they're coming after those who can't stand up against them to set these precedents. And that's, what's so troubling cuz I'm sure they knew they were causing you this pain.
But our church needs to wake up that this is, we sometimes need to fight so that we can still serve. You know, I was just thinking about your case and then the Boston flag case that just came down. I don't know if you were aware of that, but in Boston mm-hmm
And he teaches the foundations, the Christian foundations of freedom, by the way, you know, if they're talking about, she taught secular stuff, uh, there's a Christian worldview, even around secular stuff. I wish they would've understood that
Yes. Right. Exactly.
Nine to nothing. Exactly. So now that, that you're on the other side of it, you were the zombie for three months afterwards.
Yeah, I mean, there are, I mean, listen, I'm just, I'm just a girl, right?
Um, yeah, when people say going viral is a beautiful thing, I say, not in the world today.
Yeah, exactly. So I get it. And, um, there was a time when I probably didn't and then when I realized the, the gravity of it and how many people, I mean, all the Amicus briefs that were filed on our behalf, right. Um, you know, by so many different faiths, I think that's when it kind of hit me that, you know, this is bigger than my church. This is bigger than re Lutheran church, Missouri Senate. This is bigger. This is, this is spanning thousands and thousands of people that, um, could be affected by this. And so the gravity of that definitely has weighed on me over the years that, that human element. But I'll tell you what the spoiler in all of this is my strength doesn't matter because the God I serve is stronger than, uh, the E E O C is stronger than the Supreme court is stronger than anything.
And so even in those darkest moments of wondering if maybe I just, you know, turned our world world upside down with a couple of my decisions, you know, ultimately the, the real victory is, is ours in heaven and is waiting for us. So really that's the only thing that I can say, you know, all of us have to fall back on as we continue to, uh, persevere in this fight is that's what we're we're here for, right. Is, um, to represent our faith and, um, to stand firm in that. And, and as my mom always reminds me, our reward is in heaven.
What are you doing now? Just let everybody know what's going on now.
Yeah. Um, so like you said, at the top of this, um, I am the president CEO of Lutheran special education ministries. We provide special education resources and teachers to Christian schools, mostly Lutheran schools all across the world, really. And, um, just trying to help promote the, the opportunity for our kids, especially the most vulnerable, um, with learning disabilities, who would sometimes have to choose between the special education that they really need and the Christian education they desire. So, right. We're trying to, you know, eliminate them, having to make the choice between the two and still remain in their, in their church schools. And that's really, really important to, to all of us and to the health and future of our Lutheran schools as well. So just again, still committed to that and committed to bringing as many kids to, and their families to faith as possible so that we can all be there in heaven together celebrating this great victory. Yeah.
I love that. I love that. Well, I guess maybe what we'll do, Stacy is have you on, uh, for another program probably about educational choice.
All right. Well, we're gonna be there with you on that regard, but that'll be another program today. I just wanted to talk to you about Hona Taber versus the E E O C and how it was foundational to all of your liberties out there. Everybody foundational to everything you're doing. Um, because if that doesn't get set in place, it's amazing. What, what kind of nefarious activity could have happened after that? So, Stacy, thank you for standing strong. Thank you for Tabber standing strong and, um, let's just see what the Lord can do with us next. Have a great day.
Amen. Thank you. Have a great
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Next time. God
Bless you. Always I'm Gregory Rez. Have a great week. You've been listening to Liberty alert with Dr. Gregory Salz executive director of the Lutheran center for religious Liberty in Washington, DC. This program has been brought to you by the Lutheran center for religious Liberty.
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