Black Collar Crime: Michigan Senator Rick Jones Looks to Add Clergy to Sexual Conduct Law

pastor mitch olson

If you are not familiar with this story, please read, Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mitch Olson Accused of Sexually Assaulting Church Member and Black Collar Crime: Pastor Mitch Olson Slips Out of Criminal Charges.

Thanks to Pastor Mitch Olson, pastor of Grace Ministry Center in Kimball, Michigan slipping free on criminal charges for inappropriate sexual behavior with a female church member, Michigan Senator Rick Jones is working to add clergy to the sexual assault law so it:

afford [s] children, students of a certain age, patients of medical doctors and clients of mental health professionals, among others, special protection. The law states these victims cannot give consent because of the authority the perpetrator has in the relationship.

Astoundingly, clergy are not considered authority figures under Michigan law.

Nicole Hayden, a reporter for The Times Herald, writes:

Senate bill is being drafted in Lansing to address clergy members and sexual assault laws.

The action is being taken after Sen. Rick Jones, Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, read a story in the Times Herald detailing a prosecutor’s decision to deny criminal charges against a pastor who put his hands on the breasts, buttocks and genitals of a female member of his church.

“I am angry this could happen and that this pastor could get away and not be charged,” Jones said. “I think that it very inappropriate and in most cases a pastor has just as much power over a person as a teacher or a doctor. I have requested a bill be written by the Legislative Service Bureau to address this situation.”

Pastor Mitch Olson, of Grace Ministry Center in Smiths Creek, was investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman, who was 19 years old at the time, during a religious ceremony.

he prosecutor’s office called Olson’s actions “morally reprehensible,” but concluded no criminal activity took place as the victim consented to the act.

Michigan’s criminal sexual conduct laws afford children, students of a certain age, patients of medical doctors and clients of mental health professionals, among others, special protection. The law states these victims cannot give consent because of the authority the perpetrator has in the relationship.

Jones said he believes the law should be clarified to say that a pastor giving counseling services should be regarded in the same way a therapist or psychologist giving counseling services is.

The victim said she felt happy to learn that a bill would be drafted to protect others from experiencing the same trauma she did.

I feel rewarded and happy that even though justice was not served for me, in the future it will be served for other women,” she said. “I’m happy I was able to protect (others) and made a difference.”

Jones said the bill will take a couple months to write before the bureau introduces the language to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Jones said because he is the chairman of the committee, he will make sure there is a hearing to review the bill.

“I suspect the bill will get a lot of support,” Jones said.

Jones said, as a former police officer of 31 years, he feels legislators should do everything they can to protect victims of sexual assault.

Klint Kesto, Michigan House of Representatives Law and Justice Committee chairman, said he is also reviewing the case involving Olson.

“Overall, non-consensual sexual touching is definitely a crime,” Kesto said. “I don’t know enough about the facts of this case … but I have a call into the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. They are getting me case law that will hopefully shed light on the issue.”

David Moran, University of Michigan clinical law professor and co-founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, said he is less optimistic about the proposed bill.

Moran said he would be surprised if an amendment to the law actually happened.

“Where the lines have been drawn so far makes sense because the law is typically talking about children or prisoners – someone who is under complete control of an authority figure,” Moran said. “Once you start expanding the (special victims) list, it gets hard to draw the lines of who is an authority figure and who is not. You also run the risk of getting into constitutional issues as well, as churches and religion are protected under the First Amendment, so it’s dicey.”

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6 Comments

  1. Brian

    What a horrible laugh this one gave me, the simply stupid statement that preachers are not considered authority figures in the law. Of course they aren’t! Oil is a slippery thing and can cause some misunderstandings during annointings!
    Pastor Olsen will be too busy to comment much on these developments as he is concerned not with the affairs of man but with serving his boss, God. He is probably annointing some other lucky believer right now. God is Great! At Olsen’s Grace Ministry Center you’ll surely be touched by a slippery, oiled-up holy spirit. Gives a whole new twist to Billy’s altar call hymn: Oh lamb of God I come….
    You know, it does not matter how many charlatans are displayed for all to see: A believer believes because they have a deep need to believe. The need creates the stage where all this theatre occurs. Olsen abuses young women and believers just believe all the more. It is not about evidence or lack of it but something else entirely.

    Reply
  2. Autumn

    AUthority figures? Umm I’m a mandated reporter in my state and I think that clergy ought to be authority figures and mandated reporters!!!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I totally agree.

      Reply
  3. Emma

    Clergy are mandated reporters and authority figures here in Australia, and also in my home country of the United Kingdom. Hell, I worked at a university here for three years and I was a mandated reporter. We had to declare any family or sexual relationships with students, and we couldn’t date any students that we met at the university after our employment date. I had just turned 19 when I started work there, so almost all of my students were older than me. Even so, I was still considered an authority figure.

    Reply
  4. Reverend Greg

    Heck, most clergy are not qualified counselors. Unless someone comes to me with a minor problem, I refer them to licensed counselors with a college degree.

    Reply
  5. Troy

    There is an issue of separation of church and state here. While the voodoo “anointing” ritual does seem like an underhanded way to “cop a feel”, it seems to me that the state has no business telling pastors that they must use an efficacious and proven therapy. I have no doubt the woman relented to the violation because she trusted the pastor as an authority. (To me it is significant that she didn’t know she was violated until she talked to her mother about the ritual.) Of course the first amendment swings both ways. I certainly thing the woman is within her rights to speak about her experiences with the pastor without being sued for libel or slander.

    Possibly the law could be rewritten so that clergy merely had to issue informed consent before counseling any person. This would disclose that they are not licensed as therapists with the state and are immune to the normal prohibitions that licensed therapists submit to when they practice.

    Reply

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