Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Minister Receives Two Life Sentences
Clergy face significant liability for acts of sexual misconduct.

A minister was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for 3 acts of rape and 8 first-degree sexual offenses perpetrated on 4 women. The minister professed his innocence during his trial, but the prosecutor introduced into evidence several "love letters" the minister had written to at least one of the victims, along with several pornographic magazines and videos found in the minister's apartment. The magazines and videos were introduced by the prosecutor to rebut the minister's attempt to portray himself as an exemplary "family man" and minister. A North Carolina appeals court rejected the minister's claim that the 2 consecutive life sentences constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Constitution. This case illustrates the significant criminal liability that clergy face for acts of sexual misconduct. Of course, this is in addition to civil liability. State v. Woodard, 404 S.E.2d 6 (N.C. App. 1991).

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Posted: May 1, 1992
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