Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Rich Schmidt recorded religious podcasts telling women in “disastrous” marriages to submit to their husbands and challenging their right to reproductive freedom.
Another one of his sermons posted on sermonaudio.com spoke out against same-sex marriage.
All of his sermons, however, were deleted following a press conference yesterday during which they were revealed to the public.
Schmidt’s views are of interest not only due to his current position but also because of the one he seeks. After serving for years as former Sheriff David Clarke’s right-hand man, he’s running as a Democrat in the Aug. 14 primary that will determine Clarke’s permanent successor.
Schmidt’s controversial positions were brought to light at a press conference yesterday organized by Voces de la Frontera, Women’s March Wisconsin and other progressive groups. They provided links to the podcasts in question, which Schmidt created for Brookside Baptist Church in Brookfield.
All of the sermons were deleted overnight.
Brookside Baptist adheres to a fundamentalist view of Christianity. Its website states, “We believe the Holy Scriptures in its entirety, both the Old and the New Testaments, are revelation breathed out by God. All of its parts, even to the very words of the original writings, are inerrant in every area, including doctrine or matters of history, geography, or science.”
Press conference organizers, who have endorsed Earnell Lucas in the sheriff’s race, focused on Schmidt’s suggestion that victims of domestic abuse should “submit” to their husbands. Law enforcement officers are frequently called upon to respond to domestic violence incidents.
Sarah Pearson read a statement on behalf of Women’s March Wisconsin that said:
“The remarks made by Sheriff Schmidt in recordings that have recently surfaced suggest he is not the kind of sheriff that women in Milwaukee County need to take a solutions-based and violence-ending approach to domestic abuse. In a sermon in which domestic violence is discussed, Schmidt urges anyone in a ‘disastrous marriage’ to submit to their spouse. He does not mention contacting law enforcement, seeking refuge at an emergency shelter, or removing oneself from an abusive environment.
“We know it is not enough to submit to and love one's spouse or partner when abuse occurs. Action is required. Milwaukee County needs a sheriff who will take tangible steps to stop domestic violence.
“These recordings of Sheriff Schmidt, in addition to the abuse scandals that occurred in Milwaukee County jails on his watch, do not give Women's March Wisconsin confidence in his leadership of the department.”
Schmidt told Fox 6 Now that his words in the sermon were misinterpreted. He said that he would never advise an abused spouse to remain in a violent situation. Schmidt said the podcast urging submission was intended only for couples who had decided to remain together.
In his sermon against same-sex marriage, Schmidt told listeners not to attack people who accept it. But he made it clear that he considered same-sex relations sinful.
“When we look at these things (same-sex marriage) as Christians and from the Bible, we certainly have some issues with things that have recently been approved,” he said. “We must as Christians decide to take a stand on these biblical principles as inconsistent with Christian values.”
“We as Christians, we look at the Bible and say, ‘Is this exactly what the Lord would have us to do?’”
Schmidt successfully has concealed such views from progressives. He was not confronted when he campaigned at a recent fundraiser for the Cream City Foundation, an LGBTQ philanthropy.
Some progressive leaders have endorsed him.
In his sermon that addressed reproductive rights, Schmidt condemned abortion as mass slaughter and suggested that contraception is unacceptable in biblical terms. He quoted the Book of Jeremiah, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb,” suggesting that life is preordained and not to be thwarted.
Although Schmidt and Clarke are very dissimilar in their manner and style, it appears they worked well together. It was Clarke who appointed Schmidt to the position that enabled him to succeed the sheriff.
Like Schmidt, Clarke managed to keep his inflammatory views largely under wraps at the outset of his tenure. Also like Schmidt, Clarke ran on the Democratic ticket, which signaled to many voters that he did not fall on the far right of the political spectrum.
Editor's Note: WiG has endorsed Earnell Lucas for Milwaukee County sheriff.