Monday, March 24, 2014

TX: a state in which it is a crime for clergy to have sexual relations with a congregant

In my last post, I discussed the recent departure of longtime Prestonwood Baptist music minister Todd Bell due to what several sources say is an affair with a choir member.

Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators left this comment on that post:
Hi Amy. Just want to share a bit of Texas law with you. Under the Texas Penal Code, section 22.011, a sexual assault is considered to be “without the consent of the other person if… the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman's professional character as spiritual adviser…” I have no clue what happened with Todd Bell and his reported “unfaithfulness” to wife, church and ministry… and from the reported statements here, it is impossible to know. But I do know that, if a minister engages in sexual “unfaithfulness” with an adult congregant, it is sometimes more properly viewed under the law as a “sexual assault” rather than as a “consensual” relationship. But of course, given how often we have seen Baptist leaders minimize the horrific abuse of kids as mere “moral failure,” it’s not surprising that, often, they are also quick to minimize the sexual abuse of adult congregants as “affairs” or “unfaithfulness.” Whether or not that is what happened here is something I don’t know. 




More from Julie Anne on this TX law:
One important note: This illicit relationship occurred in Texas, and Texas is a state in which it is a crime for clergy to have sexual relations with a congregant. The relevant section of the Texas Penal Code are below (emphasis added).
Texas Penal Code Chapter 5. (22.011)
Title 5. Offenses against the person.
Chapter 22. Assaultive Offenses.
Sec. 22.011. Sexual assault.
(b) A sexual assault [...] is without the consent of the other person if: [...] 10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser …
Texas Penal Code 22.011(b)(9): “by exploiting [the patient or former patient's] .  .  . emotional dependency”; and (b)(10) “by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual advisor”
So, while Victim said her involvement with Doug Phillips was consensual, by law, it was not consensual in that Doug Phillips, acting as clergy, was in a position of trust to “do no harm,” but he violated this position of trust over her.

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