MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn helped create and serves on the board of a private Christian elementary school that prohibits anyone working there from being in a same-sex relationship and could expel students who are LGBTQ, documents released Thursday show.
Groups that advocate for gay rights in Wisconsin said Hagedorn’s involvement with the Augustine Academy in Waukesha disqualifies him from being able to serve as a fair, impartial judge on the state Supreme Court. Hagedorn dismissed the concerns as part of a “smear” by his opponents.
Hagedorn, a state appeals court judge, faces chief Appeals Court Judge Lisa Neubauer in the April 2 election. The winner will serve a 10-year term. The race is officially nonpartisan by Hagedorn is the choice of conservatives while Neubauer has backing from liberals. Conservatives currently have a 4-3 majority, and the race is to replace retiring liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
Liberal Group One Wisconsin Now presented details of Hagedorn’s involvement with the school at a news conference. Hagedorn helped found the school in 2016 and, according to its website, is a board member along with his wife, Christina.
On the school’s website, it says Hagedorn and his wife “are excited to be a part of building a school that, by God’s grace, will assist parents in raising up the next generation to know Him and serve God’s purposes in the years to come.”
The school’s code of conduct covering employees, board members, parents and students prohibits “immoral sexual activity,” defined as anything “apart from the context of marriage between one man and one woman.”
The code says failure to adhere to the code of conduct is grounds for dismissal for staff and expulsion for students. The school is for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“Judge Hagedorn treats everyone fairly under the law,” his campaign said in a statement. “He is running for the Supreme Court to protect religious freedoms for all Wisconsinites, regardless of faith. Yet the latest smear is just another example of attacks on his own faith.”
Hagedorn helped found the school to “better the lives of children,” the statement said.
Revelation of Hagedorn’s work for the school comes after blog posts he made while in law school in 2005 and 2006 came to light during the campaign. In those writings, Hagedorn said “The idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable.”
Hagedorn, 41, has insisted his personal views won’t affect his judicial rulings.
But One Wisconsin Now, FAIR Wisconsin and the state chapter of the Human Rights Campaign all said Thursday that Hagedorn can’t be trusted and is disqualified from serving on the state’s highest court.
Neubauer campaign manager Tyler Hendricks cited Hagedorn’s blog writings, his work as then-Gov. Scott Walker’s chief lawyer and founding of the school “that discriminates against students and teachers” as examples of “partisan views.” It will be up to voters to decide whether Hagedorn can be fair and impartial, Hendricks said.