WCCA stands for Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (formerly known as CCAP), and is the internet portal for information about Wisconsin court cases. When someone applies for a job, an apartment, or any important position; every employer, landlord, or inquirer of every denomination checks WCCA. If your name shows up on WCCA, it could have a profound long-lasting negative effect on your life. Information on WCCA lasts for decades. For example, information on a civil lawsuit is available on WCCA for 20 years.
Recently, four WELS church workers brought four almost identical civil lawsuits against a WELS layman. (See Two WELS Pastors and Four Meritless Lawsuits). They publicly accused him of harassment, they publicly said he was mentally unbalanced, they publicly said he might have a gun, they publicly implied he might use this alleged gun against them, and they publicly said they were living in fear. These accusations were made in open court, in a public hearing, and as part of a public record. Their written accusations remain a part of the public record. Their cases all appear on WCCA.
The court dismissed all four harassment restraining order petitions. But WCCA does not really explain why they were dismissed, just that they were dismissed.
So what happens when this young WELS husband, father, and layman goes out to apply for jobs? What do prospective employers see? They see four civil lawsuits against him, and not just small-claims court stuff, but harassment restraining order petitions. Harassment restraining order lawsuits are the sort of cases that usually involve stalking, threats, and/or violence. How many potential employers would stop right there? How many potential employers would interpret these public court records to mean that at a minimum this young man is a troublemaker who can not get along with others?
If a potential employer were to dig a little deeper, they could go down to the courthouse, and read the four vicious letters that the church workers filed with the court against this WELS layman. Each of those letters was a public violation of the Lutheran understanding of the Eight Commandment: each of them twisted every word and action into the worst possible construction, and those disgusting documents are all a matter of public record. They are all on file at the courthouse.
What else could a potential employer find? Nothing. Not a single word of defense from this young man appears in the public record. That is because during the court case, he never spoke in his own defense.
The court dismissed these WELS pastors’ accusations before the defense presented any evidence. Why? To find out, a potential employer would have to read the court transcript.
Some benefactors paid to have the transcript prepared to help defend this young man, so that people could see directly the vacuousness of these WELS pastors’ accusations. (For example, the pastor’s evidence for threats was that the young layman said, “I will publicly defend my wife because that’s what God demands of me.” The pastor testified, that was “a very open-ended statement,” thus the pastor was concerned what the young husband would do. Court transcript, pages 45 & 47. The pastor’s evidence for the young layman being mentally unbalanced was his pastoral knowledge that the layman had suffered trauma in combat while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. The pastor’s evidence for the layman possibly having a gun was that the layman had served in the U.S. military. So there was no evidence of any wrongful threats. There was no evidence of anyone being mentally unbalanced or dangerous. And there was no evidence that anyone had a gun, as if that should matter anyway). Because some people paid to have the transcript prepared, now a potential employer could at least go to the courthouse, and read the 80 page transcript of the proceedings. But realistically, who would do that?
WCCA is society wide, and can destroy a man’s reputation far beyond the WELS. Who will defend the reputation of our young Christian brother?
Some people tried to discuss this case on a WELS Lutherans Facebook group, but WELS pastor administrators deleted comments and entire threads. Some WELS pastors have said that discussing this public case on the internet is profoundly wrong because it doesn’t go through the right channels, it aligns one with the tools of the devil, it leads to false rumors, and it hurts Christians because they might lose trust in their WELS pastor.
Unfortunately, this concern is all focused on the WELS, but the WELS does not exist for its own sake. The good news is not that the WELS is perfect, but rather that Christ is perfect. The WELS is supposed to be brothers and sisters walking together in truth and repentance, but anytime someone says, “Here is the truth, we need to repent,” the WELS minders shout “No! You are harming the WELS’ reputation.”
A WELS pastor posted on Facebook that if we post truthful negative things about the WELS on the internet, then we are aligned with the tools of the devil. However, this is not true Lutheran teaching. Lutherans don’t believe in a holy WELS Synod, instead we “believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church.” (Nicene Creed). He who speaks against the one holy Church is aligned with the devil, but he who exposes sin in the visible church is not aligned with the devil. It is false teaching to confuse the WELS with the one holy Church.
Further, if talking truthfully on a little WELS Facebook page or blog is communicating with an audience too large, then what does it mean when WELS church workers put undeserved black marks against a WELS layman on WCCA, the Godzilla of reputation destroyers?
Is it the reputations of only WELS pastors that matter?
When these church workers brought their unfounded allegations against this young man to the WCCA and the public court system, they forfeited their claim to privacy. Even then, all of this could have remained “private” for the sake of the visible church. However, when the Northern Wisconsin District publicly declared one of the pastors who brought these meritless lawsuits to be “blameless” and “above reproach,” then the District also forfeited its claim to privacy. The Church calls pastors to the public ministry (Power and Primacy of the Pope, paragraphs 23-24), and the Church is composed of every baptized believer. Everyone in the WELS is now involved. Everyone in the WELS should know what is happening.
We need to collectively repent, and make restitution to this young couple we have victimized. We in the WELS need a genuine culture of repentance. And the Northern Wisconsin District needs new leadership. The Church calls and ordains, but the District leadership does it directly for the sake of good order. If they cannot uphold good order, then the leadership must be removed.
The Northern Wisconsin District convention will be held in Appleton, Wisconsin on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 17 & 18, 2014 A.D.