Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Rich Schmidt, who came under fire yesterday over controversial religious sermons that he recorded for sermonaudio.com, is today caught in the crosshairs of yet another public relations crisis — the revelation that his vaunted academic credentials are from unaccredited Bible schools.
In fact, Schmidt’s educational background could be seen as an explanation for his most inflammatory sermon — one in which he suggested that women in abusive relationships should “submit” to their husbands. The fundamentalist view of Christianity proffered by the kind of schools he attended adhere to the belief that wifely submission is essential in a biblical marriage.
Schmidt, however, denied that he thought wives should remain in abusive relations in a subservient position. He claimed that his critics, including Voces de la Frontera and Women’s March Wisconsin, misunderstood his words.
Still, he quickly removed his podcasts from the site, including one that characterized abortion as murder and same-sex marriage as immoral.
Schmidt, who served for several years as former Sheriff David Clarke’s second in command, is under scrutiny because he’s campaigning for the job as Clarke’s permanent replacement. His name appears on the Aug. 14 primary ballot as a Democrat.
On his original campaign web page, Schmidt used the title of “Dr.” before his name and claimed to have Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees, along with a PhD. There was no mention that his education focused solely on the Bible.
No references to the nature of Schmidt’s education appear on his new campaign site either.
But his campaign signs refer to him as Dr. Schmidt, as does his website Prophecy Focus Ministries, which also tells the story of how he served as an assistant minister at the same time he worked for the Sheriff's office.
While he presents himself as an academic, Schmidt doesn’t talk much about the colleges he attended. But Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigative journalist Daniel Bice reported today that Schmidt’s “bachelor’s” and “master’s” degrees are from Hyles-Anderson College, an independent Bible college operated as a ministry of a megachurch in Hammond, Indiana.
For men, the college provides degrees related to Bible studies. Women can obtain degrees in marriage and motherhood. Their coursework, including classes in crock-pot cooking, prepare them for lives as subservient fundamentalist Christian wives. In that light, his critics have cause to question how he would handle domestic violence, which is the most frequent reason for calls to the sheriff’s office.
Milwaukee’s LGBTQ citizens also have reason to wonder how they’ll be treated.
The Bible schools Schmidt attended are not respected religious institutions such as Brigham Young University or Wheaton College. They’re the bottom of the barrel.
In his research, Bice found a 2012 article from Chicago Magazine noting that a number of previous graduates of Hyles-Anderson landed in jail. Included in the article are the mugshots of nine graduates who’d been charged with rape and sex crimes, including physical abuse of minors.
Schimdt’s doctorate is in ministry and it’s from Northland International University, a now-shuttered Baptist institution that was not eligible for student financial aid.
Schmidt’s dissertation, Bice reported, examined the Old Testament’s “Book of Daniel” for clues to explain what’s holding up the Rapture and the Apocalypse.
Schmidt now says he’s working on yet another degree through yet another unaccredited college that offers degrees my mail and online.
[Editor’s Note: Wisconsin Gazette has endorsed Earnell Lucas for Milwaukee County Sheriff.]