VCY America Founder sends letter threatening legal action to his daughter, Ingrid Schlueter, via attorney Patrick Russell
There’s a section in the bible on civil lawsuits in 1 Corinthians. I remember looking up this passage after I was sued by my former pastor and church. I wondered how he could call himself a pastor and still be able to preach this passage from the pulpit with honesty and integrity after suing five former church members. Here is the passage on civil lawsuits:
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Lawsuits Against Believers
6 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
Now, what’s interesting is the following paragraph is also part of the “lawsuits” section. Why would this paragraph be included under Lawsuits Against Believers? The word, reviler, is one of the choice words my pastor used against me, yet he was the one who filed a lawsuit, going against clear biblical teachings. Perhaps this passage is saying that my pastor, the initiator of the civil lawsuit against Christians, was the true reviler:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Vic Eliason Threatens Lawsuit against Family Members
Today I share with you a very sad story of another threatened lawsuit brought on by one man against his adult Christian children. We’ve seen this before in the case of Pastor Bob Grenier of Visalia Calvary Chapel who filed a civil lawsuit against his son, Alex Grenier and Tim Taylor. The Grenier case is not over. It is two years old and is currently in appeals. Can you imagine the emotional toll on Alex and Tim and their families as they have this dark cloud and financial burden hanging over their heads?
But now that brings me to this very sad situation between Vic Eliason and his daughters, Ingrid and Lisa, and their extended family (be sure to check out the comments here to see the extent to which this conflict has affected even the extended family). It’s important to note that Schlueter has sought Christian mediation to help get resolution to these conflicts to no avail (see: Of Bullies, Cowards and Decapitated Squirrels).
Vic Eliason Background
Some may be unfamiliar with Vic Eliason, so here’s some background:
In 1973, Eliason led the Milwaukee Youth for Christ chapter out of the national organization, renaming it “Voice of Christian Youth.” Now known as VCY America, it is a Christian broadcasting ministry based in Milwaukee. VCY currently oversees 15-20 stations mostly across the Upper Midwest, depending on the source, not including its Internet site, a 24-hour a day, seven days a week, television station in Milwaukee, which is WVCY-TV 30, began in 1982, as well as several “translator” and “satellator” stations. The ministry is 100 percent funded through listeners’ and supporters’ donations. (Source).
That last line about donors is important to note – more later on that. Wikipedia also adds this info in the personal section:
Eliason is married to Freda M. Eliason (born 1935), and the father of three adult children – Andrew Carl Eliason (born about 1964), who is employed as an engineer at VCY; Ingrid J. Schlueter (born about 1966), former producer and co-host of the Crosstalk Radio Talk Show on the VCY America Radio Network (resigned from VCY America in May, 2011) ; and Lisa C. Turner (born about 1968), both of whom formerly worked at the radio ministry.
Notice the key phrase in the bottom line: “both of whom formerly worked at the radio ministry.” In addition to Ingrid and Lisa formerly working for Eliason, Lisa’s husband, Russ was fired after working for Eliason for 24 years, and Ingrid’s husband, Tom, also worked for the ministry for 20 years. If you’ve been counting, we’re now up to four family members no longer working for Vic Eliason’s ministry. When you look at the length of time these family members worked for Eliason and now have left or been fired, it makes one question: what is really going on?
Ingrid Schlueter Background
Some may be familiar with Ingrid Schlueter’s ministry work. Here is part of her bio from her blog:
My name is Ingrid Schlueter and I am a wife to Tom, mother of six children and former talk radio host of 23 years. I also published the Slice of Laodicea news and comment blog for 7 years covering some of the big issues within evangelicalism. (Source)
In my opinion, Ingrid has had solid understanding of biblical truths and a keen sense of spiritual discernment, especially when it comes to corrupt Christian leaders. Some blog readers might remember when she commented on my blog about resigning from the Janet Mefferd show after Janet Mefferd confronted Mark Driscoll about plagiarism. Schlueter has seen and studied spiritual bullies and abuse in church and Christian groups. She has written some wonderful articles and produced videos helping others understand it (Ingrid’s The Hope Blog has been listed in my blog’s side bar for quite some time.)
Ok, back to the threatened lawsuit situation – take a look at the letter Russell Law Associates, LLC, sent to Ingrid and Tom Schlueter (I have redacted personal home address):
Letter from Attorney
Family disputes are very complicated. But to file a civil and very public lawsuit against your own adult children? Please, Mr. Eliason, let’s use some common Christian sense here.
First of all, if you’re going to find an attorney, find a good one with no baggage – I’m assuming this is the same attorney, it’s the same state.
Defamation – What does it really mean?
I sometimes have to laugh when attorneys use the “defamatory” word. It is up to the courts to decide what word or phrase is defamatory or not, not some podunk Wisconsin lawyer throwing around legalese to threaten (disclaimer: this is JA’s opinion, lest some whacknut attorney try to sue me for defamation). Mr. Russell, you would be wise to look up defamation lawsuits and see how many cases are in fact successful. In my lawsuit, there were twenty-something alleged defamatory phrases and in order to meet the court’s definition of defamatory, two things had to be proven:
1) that I was intentionally lying, and
2) that my intentional lying was done with malice – the intent to harm.
Disclaimer: I am no attorney, but the words I share are based on information I learned during my defamation lawsuit (from my attorney who is a leading attorney on First Amendment in Oregon, and other sources).
Now, if Ingrid Schlueter is telling her story as she see it, that is her perceived truth. In court, Ingrid’s perceived truth would not be judged as a lie (even if it is in fact a lie). The plaintiffs in a defamation lawsuit would have to prove that Ingrid (and her sister, or anyone else named in the lawsuit) intentionally lied. I happen to believe Ingrid is telling the truth, but of course my opinion doesn’t matter in court. Okay, this is only the first level of the legal definition of defamation. We now move on to the next part, malice.
Let’s say that it is proved in court that Ingrid has lied (again, very difficult to prove), now the plaintiff must prove the intent of Ingrid’s heart – or malice. How in the world do you prove that? Again, in my case, not one of the alleged defamatory comments met even the first-level criteria of the court’s definition of defamation. If one cannot prove that someone intentionally lied, it’s going to be very difficult to prove in court someone had the intent to harm. Good luck with that one, Mr. Eliason and Mr. Russell.
Legal Letter: Really a legal matter or form of bullying or reviling?
Let’s just cut to the chase. This letter from Attorney Patrick Russell is a farce. He is throwing around big words acting like he’s going to make a real case over this situation. He doesn’t have one. It’s a bully method to tell someone to shut up (disclaimer: Julie Anne’s opinion). Abusers and bullies use all sorts of methods to control and using civil courts and threatening letters is just one more method. It happened to me, it happened in the Grenier lawsuit, and now we see it here with Ingrid Schlueter’s father.
It’s important to acknowledge what this really is and what it is not. This letter is Vic Eliason’s attempt to control who can talk. It is not an honest attempt to resolve conflict in a Biblical fashion (as the Schlueters have attempted to do via a mediator). It is certainly not appropriate behavior for a Christian to sue another Christian. It is not loving and gracious. Is this what the 1 Corinthians passage is referring to when they use the word reviler? There is no humility in paying an attorney to bully family members. Imagine what family times might be like with the Eliason, Schlueter, and extended families. I suspect Thanksgiving and Christmas will be a bit solemn as this fractured family reels with a pending lawsuit over their heads.
This shameful situation is now public. I hope Mr. Eliason will retract his attorney’s ridiculous letter and handle his family conflict using appropriate Biblical methods. This public display of suing family members in the civil courts makes him look like a fool and a bully.
Note to VCY America Donors
An important note to VCY America donors: I sure hope VCY America donors realize that hiring an attorney costs quite a lot of money. If this threatening letter results in a court case, it will likely be a lengthy one. Unfortunately, Wisconsin does not have anti-SLAPP laws to protect private citizens from frivolous defamation lawsuits, so this could drag on for years, incurring quite a bit of legal costs. The price tag of my very short defamation lawsuit was around $100,000 with combined attorney fees and court costs. A lengthy court case could easily be much more. Mr. Eliason will most likely lose the case, as most defamation lawsuits are lost. When he loses, he will probably have to pay for the defendants’ attorney fees, as well as his own. When you donate, will your money go to support this unbiblical lawsuit? Is this where Jesus would have you send your money?
Of Bullies, Cowards and Decapitated Squirrels
This blog article outlines important details of ongoing struggles in this case:
“Vic Eliason recently sent a job termination letter to his son-in-law, Russ Turner, who has worked at VCY America for 24 years as a quiet, faithful and honest employee who is loved and respected by his co-workers. The letter of termination was laughable, particularly the claims that the buildings and grounds department (Russ and Paul) was being “decommissioned” (right as the snow season starts), and is being replaced with a “highly skilled team.” Vic signed the letter “the Governing Board.” The letter contained not a single thank-you for 24 years of faithful service.” ~Ingrid Schlueter
“My sister called tonight and asked if I’d checked the mail. I hadn’t. Vic Eliason, our father, is threatening to sue us for attempting to get this shameful situation into biblical mediation with Peacemakers. He is characterizing all we have spoken, the truth, as defamation.” ~Ingrid Schlueter
“The present scenario facing our families has resulted in Vic and VCY America rattling legal sabers in an attempt to scare away natural consequences. The old secular TV game show of the 60’s and 70’s had it right–“Truth or Consequences.” The truth, which has slowly been coming out over the past three and a half years (actually over 25 years), is taking its natural course, shedding light on shadowy things–things that in the world of narcissism ought never be spoken.” ~Tom Schlueter