By Megan K. Mertz
What are the Title IX implications for LCMS schools that accept state or federal funds? Can schools continue to make employment decisions based on their religious principles? What should schools do when a same-sex couple tries to enroll a child?
These are a few of the questions addressed on Worldwide KFUO’s “Faith’n’Family” program June 7-8.
During the show, host Andy Bates talked with guests Gregory S. Baylor, senior counsel and director of the Center for Religious Schools for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF); the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission; and Terry Schmidt, director of LCMS School Ministry, about such critical issues facing Lutheran schools today.
Advice for Lutheran schools
“The No. 1 issue far and away … is the application of nondiscrimination rules that impair your ability to be who you are,” Baylor said. “You don’t need me to tell you that an institution maintains its character, maintains its fealty to its faith through the people it hires. If it hires people who reject that faith or who reject the moral standards that come with that faith, it quickly becomes something different than what its founders wanted it to be.”
“There is enormous pressure being placed on educational institutions — more at the higher-ed level, frankly, but also at the K-12 level — to relinquish these distinctives,” he continued.
So, what’s a faithful Lutheran school to do in this rapidly changing political landscape?
Baylor’s advice is to “stay the course.” Don’t withdraw from any government funding programs and don’t change any religious beliefs.
Baylor also recommended that schools prepare for any possible legal controversies by making sure their policies — such as those on Christian conduct, employment and facility use — are in order and then sharing them with faculty, parents and job applicants.
“Don’t be shy about this,” he counseled. “Talk about who you are right from the beginning and that there are expectations for students and families.”
A helpful resource coming mid-July
To help the Synod at-large prepare for any potential legal troubles, the LCMS Office of the President will be mailing a new LCMS-specific version of ADF’s “Protecting Your Ministry” resource to every congregation and school in mid-July.
The resource contains a checklist of things ministries can do to protect themselves from legal entanglements related to the changing political views on marriage and sexuality, as well as sample statements and case studies of situations other Christians have already faced.
“Part of the reason to facilitate the conversation today … is the large volume of questions that we continue to get from our Lutheran school administrators,” Day said during the program. “Please, listeners, know that we are hearing from you … and we’re really hopeful that the document will be a helpful first step in people talking with their local legal counsel, certainly, but then having some sample statements to help think through those issues.”
“We don’t need to close our Lutheran schools, we don’t need to be afraid, but we need to be very wise and make sure that we’re taking precautions,” Day continued.
Megan K. Mertz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff writer and managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World with LCMS Communications.
Posted June 10, 2016