Senate committee OKs Jones’ clergy sexual assault bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to crack down on sexual assaults by members of the clergy.

“Pastors are supposed to be servants of God guiding the spiritual and personal growth of their parishioners,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Unfortunately, all too often we hear about clergy members taking advantage of vulnerable members of their church. This measure is about cracking down on sexual assaults by pastors by treating them criminally the same way that we do counselors, doctors and psychologists who abuse individuals who come to them for help.”

Jones said the legislation is in response to a recent case of a young woman being sexually assaulted by her pastor while he was performing a “religious” anointing ceremony.

Senate Bill 607 would prohibit a member of the clergy from sexual contact or sexual penetration of a person who has sought religious or spiritual advice, aid or comfort. Under the proposed legislation, a violation would be entered as a charge of third- or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Sexual penetration is third-degree criminal sexual conduct and is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Sexual contact is fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and is punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.

SB 607 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.