An Illinois pastor and 18 others were indicted alongside former President Donald Trump in a case involving alleged interference in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election.
According to Religion News Service, a grand jury in Georgia indicted Rev. Stephen Cliffgard Lee, a pastor within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod denomination and 18 others who “unlawfully conspired and endeavored to conduct and participate in criminal enterprise in Fulton County, Georgia, and elsewhere.”
Lee was specifically charged with attempting to influence witnesses and conspiring to solicit false statements and writings. In December 2020, Lee went to Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman’s house, about two weeks after Trump accused her and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, of pulling out fake ballots from a suitcase in Georgia. At the time, the former president claimed that they committed election fraud.
According to the indictment, Lee knocked on Freeman’s door, left and later parked his car in her driveway. Concerned, Freeman called the police. Once the police arrived, one officer approached the pastor in his vehicle.
“I’m a pastor, and I’m also working with some folks who are trying to help Ruby out – and also get to some truth of what’s going on,” Lee told the officer, according to police body cam footage.
Lee went on to admit that he knocked on Freeman’s door. He also said he previously worked in law enforcement and was a “sergeant in California.” As reported by Reuters, Lee previously served as a police officer in California and later as a police chaplain in New York City.
Lee then asked the officer to let him speak with Freeman because he had some “pro-bono service for her.”
Freeman, however, turned down Lee’s request, adding, “I have a pastor.”
The indictment claimed that Lee’s attempt to contact Freeman was part of a larger effort to “influence (Freeman’s) testimony in an official proceeding in Fulton County, Georgia, concerning … the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia.” The grand jury also indicted Willie Lewis Floyd III, the head of Black Voices for Trump, and Chicago-based publicist Trevian Kutti for attempting to influence Freeman and conspiring with Lee.
After Freeman refused Lee’s offer, the pastor allegedly told Floyd that she would not talk to him because he was white. Weeks after the incident, Kutti met with Freeman and threatened her with jail time if she did not share information on the alleged election fraud.
Before the indictment, Lee preached a sermon on the book of Job on Sunday at Living Word Lutheran Church in Orland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the church noted that Lee served in an interim capacity and was no longer the pastor.
Mike Behr, head of communications for the LCMS, also confirmed that Lee is a pastor but noted that he is retired. His current status is “emeritus.” Both the spokesperson and Behr declined to comment on Lee’s indictment.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/William Potter
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.