When an elected official declares himself beyond criticism, and demands that his handling of public matters be kept confidential, and then threatens to accuse those who criticize him of violating the Law; then that elected official has become a tyrant. Elected officials are supposed to be servants, not overlords; and therefore, their job performances are supposed to be subject to review and even criticism by the electorate.
Luther, in the Large Catechism, teaches us to put the best construction on everything, while still telling the truth. He also teaches that we must honor not only our mothers and fathers, but also all those in authority over us.
However, would it really be a violation of those commandments to honestly critique the job performance of Wisconsin Governor Walker? Would it be a violation to criticize the foreign policy of President Obama? Would it be a violation to truthfully report on, and strongly disagree publicly with Obama’s intervention in Libya? His handling of the war in Afghanistan? His position on abortion?
Are we allowed to say: “Obama has been doing his job incompetently”? Do Lutherans really teach that that is inherently a violation of the Fourth and Eighth Commandments?
For now, in the United States, our elected officials do not threaten to accuse citizens of violating the law simply for reporting and criticizing. In fact, public officials have even less protection from criticism of their job performance than private citizens. This is because they are elected public officials, and therefore the electorate is entitled to engage in vigorous public job performance reviews.
Do not employers get to review employee job performance?
Jesus said to his disciples:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
— Matthew 20:25-28, NIV1984.
The Apostles are among the greatest of men in the Christian Church, and yet their Servant told them to not lord it over others.
Therefore, the elected officials in the WELS are not beyond criticism. And the elected officials in the WELS have no authority to demand that others remain silent about their inept handling of public matters. All elected officials must be answerable and accountable to those they serve. (Galatians 2:11-14).
The rights and principles of freedom were given by God to all people, including Christians. All people have the right to speak truthfully about the public matters affecting their lives, including Christians. Even more, when the gospel is at stake, all servants of the Lord must speak publicly. (Jeremiah 20:9, Galatians 2:14 & 1 Timothy 5:20).
The elected officials in the WELS need to be open and transparent about their positions and actions (or lack thereof) regarding public matters. Or they must publicly explain why such public matters should be handled privately. It is not a valid excuse to say: “Handling these matters privately makes our job easier because we do not like our job performances to be subjected to criticism.” Those who refuse to be criticized should not hold elected office. Those who refuse to serve, should not hold the office of servant.