In the same police footage, Lee is seen explaining he is also “prior law enforcement,” saying he was a “sergeant out in California.” According to Reuters, Lee served as in the Mendocino County, California, sheriff’s department and provided chaplaincy support to police officers in New York City. However, an NYPD spokesperson clarified to Religion News Service earlier this month that Lee “has not been employed as an NYPD Chaplain.”
His lawyer has said Lee is innocent of the charges, telling reporters that Lee’s actions don’t amount to a crime. “You have a pastor being indicted for knocking on a door,” attorney David Shestokas told CBS News. “For them to try and tie him to this criminal enterprise is just an incredible, incredible stretch.”
Nearly 20,000 people have signed a petition organized by the advocacy group Faithful America calling on Lee’s denomination, the second largest of three major Lutheran groups in the U.S., to expel Lee because of his arrest, but it’s unclear whether Lee will face any repercussions.
Reached by RNS on Friday, after Lee surrendered to Georgia authorities, a spokesperson for the LCMS Northern Illinois District — the body that oversees Lee’s church — noted that Lee is “a retired pastor in the LCMS,” which the denomination refers to as “emeritus status.”
The spokesperson did not comment on whether Lee will continue to serve as a pastor in the district, saying only that “with respect to what is going on in the investigation, we have a policy of not commenting on any investigation.”
A spokesperson for the LCMS’ national office did not respond to inquiries.
Shortly after Lee was indicted in mid-August, a person answering Living Word’s phone line told RNS Lee was no longer the church’s pastor. However, Lee appeared in the pulpit later that week as well.
At the end of the church service this past Sunday, a church leader noted that the congregation is actively searching for a permanent pastor.
This article originally appeared here.