New bill in Lansing would ban clergy from having sex with church members
PORT HURON (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) - A new bill would ban clergy from having sex with church members.
Political Reporter Nick Minock traveled to Port Huron, to find out why lawmakers introduced this legislation.
The new bill that would prohibit clergy from having sex with church members stemmed from a case in Port Huron, where a local pastor allegedly touched the genitals, breasts, and buttocks of a female church member.
A 19-year-old Port Huron woman accused Pastor Mitch Olson of touching her inappropriately after she sought religious counsel.
The case caught Republican Senator Rick Jones' attention.
"He says 'I'm going to take some oil and anoint you.' And then during that he proceeded to massage her breasts and her vagina. She went to the prosecutor and asked for charges! The prosecutor said I really can't do anything because he's not a mental health professional," Sen. Jones said.
"We determined we were not able to charge that case because that relationship alone is not enough to charge a criminal sexual conduct in the state of Michigan," said St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling.
Wendling is working with Sen. Jones to rectify the problem.
Right now, doctors, teachers, and physiologists aren't allowed to have sexual contact with patients even under consent, but that's not the case for pastors.
"If we have clergy that is going to do counseling, they need not to touch the patient. And so what I'm seeking to do is to put clergy in the same spot as physiologist are, don't touch the patient," he said.
Democrat Sherry Gay Dagnogo is supporting the bill.
But some people feel the current language of Senate Bill 607 can be interpreted too broadly.
"My concern is not so much that those relationships are inappropriate, but when consensual they are not a licensed professional and also clergy and religion is very broad," said Wendling.
Sen. Jones says his bill will make clergy think twice before doing something they may regret.
"They could face a lot of time," he said.
According to the church's Facebook page, Pastor Mitch Olson is now on sabbatical.