UPDATED: ‘Police lives matter’ pastor resigns after being accused of rape threats
A Wisconsin blogger said this week that she received rape threats — possibly from a pastor — after she wrote a column describing how the world could be a better place without law enforcement as it is implemented today.
“Whether we call them because of a dispute between neighbors or a robbery, a shooting or sexual violence, the police rarely meet our needs,” Claire Van Fossen wrote on the Journal Sentinel’s The Collective blog last week. “Rather than serve as advocates for true justice, they use their nearly limitless power to reinforce the oppressive status quo. They threaten us with violence and incarceration and target the most oppressed and vulnerable people in our society.”
“By targeting low-income individuals and people of color, the police maintain a racial and economic system of social stratification that is profitable and beneficial only for the ruling class,” she asserted. “And unlike basically every other institution in our country, they do this while safely insulated from competition, market feedback, the price mechanism, and the profit-loss system.”
According to Van Fossen, “mediation, dialogue, and reconciliation” provide superior conflict resolution to traditional policing.
“Whatever our chosen alternatives to calling the police, we all deserve a conflict-resolution and crisis management process that is democratic, accountable, transparent, and over which our communities have the ultimate control,” she concluded. “Our humanity, our justice, and our freedom depend on it.”
In a tweet on Monday, Van Fossen posted an email from someone named “Dave Wendt” who expressed opposition to her column with violent rape rhetoric.
“OMG, you have to be the dumbest f*cking liberal c*nt I’ve heard yet,” the email said. “Get off the drugs bitch, and go check yourself into rehab. LOL.”
“Or better yet, you’re pretty hot,” the letter continued. “So how about if I come over and rape you with a few of my friends. WHEW! At least I won’t have to worry about you calling the police.”
Through a little sleuthing, several Twitter users speculated that the author of the email may have been Pastor David Wendt of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His Facebook page features the pro-law enforcement slogan “police lives matter,” support for gun rights, and frequent criticism of President Barack Obama. Church records obtained by Raw Story also showed that his wife’s name matched a name on the email address that targeted Van Fossen.
“[It] always amazes me how bold men will be when they make rape threats with their actual name,” Wisconsin resident Stephanie Pistachio observed in a Twitter message.
Calls to Wendt’s church were not returned by the time of publication.
Update (3:45 p.m. ET): Claire Van Fossen told Raw Story that Wendt confirmed that the email came from his account, but she said that the pastor denied that he was the one who sent it.
Update (4:45 p.m. ET): Onalaska Police Chief Jeff Trotnic told the La Crosse Tribune that Wendt had reported to officers on Monday that he had not sent the email, although it was sent from his account. Trotnic said that Wendt was instructed to bring his computer to the police station. A police report had not been made available by Tuesday afternoon.
“We are concerned for the pastor and the congregation,” First Evangelical congregation President Mick Schwedler explained to the La Cross Tribune on Tuesday. “It was my responsibility as president to ask him if he did it, and he said no.”
The paper also reported that the Journal Sentinel planned to take down Van Fossen’s blog post.
Update (7:20 p.m. ET): First Lutheran congregation President Mick Schwedler confirmed to the La Crosse Tribune that Wendt had resigned as pastor of the church on Tuesday.
Schwedler, however, would not say if that meant Wendt had admitted sending the email.
“This is a personnel matter for the congregation to deal with,” Schwedler said. “That’s all I can tell you.”