Libel

Minister Has Sex with Married Parishioner—Can Church Be Liable for Saying the Parishioner Committed Adultery?

No, says the Iowa Supreme Court, rejecting the claim that such statements (labeled "counterculture practices" by the plaintiffs) were libelous or negligent.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

A very interesting decision today from the Iowa Supreme Court, in Bandstra v. Covenant Reformed Church. A short and oversimplified summary:

[1.] Two married women, the Bandstras, were parishioners of the Covenant Reformed Church who (separately) went to their minister, Pastor Edouard, for counseling. They say that he pressured them into having sexual relations with him. In each relationship, at least some (and perhaps all) of the sex was not physically coerced, but Iowa law takes the view that such sex between a counselor (religious or not) and a client or parishioner is improperly exploitive. Pastor Edouard was indeed ultimately convicted of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist, and sentenced to five years in prison.

[2.] The women and their husbands sued on various theories, but in this post I'll focus on two claims. First, they claimed that various statements by the church, such as labeling their conduct "adultery," and arguing that they were partly responsible for their conduct, were defamatory. Second, they claimed that the statements blaming the women negligently caused the women emotional distress, because they ran contrary to "accepted mental health treatment concepts"; in the words of their brief,

[W]here a reasonable church would seek assistance for parishioners and would not label victims "adulteresses," but the Elders of the Covenant Reformed Church do, they can be held liable for failing to meet the ordinary standard of care. The Elders of the Covenant Reformed Church have every right to believe as they see fit, but counterculture practices such as those posited above will often be accompanied by negative legal consequences.

[3.] No, said the court; here's a sample of its reasoning as to the libel claims, which are mostly rejected on the grounds that, in context, they are opinion:

[On one occasion, the husband of one of the women] was experiencing significant distress from the circumstances and threatened to hurt himself. He reached out to [the other woman's husband, who was his brother], who called several individuals to come and stay with [the first husband]. That evening, Elder Hettinga told the plaintiffs, in front of the other third parties present, that "you are not victims." Plaintiffs allege this statement is defamatory…. [But] the statement was made in the context of the dispute between the parties as to whether the women should be referred to as "victims" by the elders when communicating with the congregation. While many may find Hettinga's statement offensive, whether the women are victims or sinners in need of forgiveness is not objectively capable of proof or disproof….

[On another occasion,] Elder Van Donselaar further stated, "If Edouard goes to jail, there are four women who should go to jail as well." This statement is a nonactionable opinion. Whether the women are morally deserving of criminal punishment is not objectively capable of proof or disproof and is therefore protected by the First Amendment.

[In a phone call], Elder Van Donselaar stated, "Edouard is more repentant than any of the women will ever be." At first glance, it appears the statement is nonactionable because it is not false. [The women] have always maintained they have nothing to "repent" as they were victims in Edouard's sexual exploitation scheme. Yet, given the context of the statements, the true message here is not that the women are factually unrepentant, but rather that they should be repentant because they too sinned. However, the latter notion is similarly nonactionable for the same reasons as the first communication. Whether, in the eyes of an elder, the women are victims or sinners in need of forgiveness is not objectively provable.

The libel claims as to some of the other statements were dismissed largely on the grounds that the defendants sincerely believed they were true, so the court didn't have to decide whether or not they were opinion.

[4.] The court likewise rejected the claims that some statements negligently distressed the women:

Following Edouard's resignation, the elders sought to help the congregation move forward and heal. The means by which they chose to counsel and advise the congregation is outside the purview of the government. Plaintiffs argue "a reasonable church would seek assistance for parishioners and not label victims 'adulteresses.'" Yet, that is precisely the type of determination that the Religion Clauses prohibit. The elders determined that certain speakers and mental health resources were outside of their faith. A court cannot dictate what teachings and services a church offers its parishioners. Nor can we disapprove of the elders deciding, pursuant to their duty as religious authorities, that the women would be best healed by simply confessing their "sins." Because plaintiffs' first two negligence claims go to the very heart of religious decision-making, they are barred by the First Amendment.

[5.] My students Jennifer Milazzo, Joshua Ostrer, and Furqaan Siddiqui and I filed an amicus brief in this case—with the invaluable pro bono help of local counsel Jason Walke (many thanks for that!)—on behalf of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc.; here is the heart of our argument, which I think largely coincides with the court's:

Summary of Argument

When Covenant Reformed Church described the lead plaintiffs' conduct as adulterous, it was expressing a moral evaluation of uncontested facts—an opinion based on those facts. It is a fact that each of the plaintiffs had a sexual relationship with the pastor. Whether this sexual relationship should be labelled adultery, though, is an opinion, which turns on Covenant's moral and religious beliefs that the plaintiffs were morally culpable (though of course the pastor was even more morally culpable).

This expression of opinion is protected under the First Amendment:

[1.] It is protected free speech, even without regard to Covenant's being a religious institution. Covenant believes the women's conduct is adulterous even though the women were subject to psychological pressure. The women believe that the psychological pressure sufficiently nullified their consent that their actions thus were not adulterous. Both sides have a Free Speech Clause right to express their opinions.

[2.] Covenant's speech is also protected under the Religion Clauses because it is a religious evaluation of how conduct should be labeled. Secular courts may not decide whether religious opinions are true or not. Some churches, for instance, may define "marriage" to include same-sex marriages; some may define them to exclude such marriages, or even exclude remarriages after a divorce. If those churches want to label some secular marriages as not true marriages, they are free to do so. Likewise, if they want to describe conduct as adultery, under their religious definitions, they are free to express that opinion (at least so long as the audience knows the underlying historical facts, as the audience here did).

[3.] The First Amendment also precludes negligence liability imposed on the theory that the expression of opinion negligently distresses the listeners. The First Amendment protects the expression of opinion against tort lawsuits, regardless of the tort around which the plaintiffs frame their arguments.

[4.] The First Amendment protects "counterculture" religions and ideologies as well as ones within the mainstream culture. Plaintiffs might view the church's statements as "counterculture practices" that "fail[] to meet the ordinary standard of care." Appellants' Proof Brief 24. But even if jurors agree with plaintiffs on this, a church's expression of moral and religious views cannot lead to financial liability, regardless of whether the views adhere to the majority culture or the "counterculture."

This Court should therefore affirm the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Covenant.

Argument

[I.] Covenant's speech is protected opinion under the Free Speech Clause.

The word "adultery" generally means voluntary sex between two people, at least one of whom is married (but not to the other participant). There is a factual core to the term: Calling someone an adulterer even though she never had sex with anyone who was not her husband would indeed be a false factual assertion. When it comes to this factual core, though, Covenant's speech was accurate. The women had indeed had a sexual relationship with the pastor.

But "adultery" also, in many instances, represents a personal opinion about what counts as sufficiently voluntary behavior to merit moral condemnation. If a married man has sex with his boss, fearing that she might fire him if he refuses, is that adultery? What if he has sex with a prospective business client, in order to close a deal that means the difference between success and ruin? What if he has sex with his psychotherapist, who seduces him when he is emotionally vulnerable? What if he has sex with the minister who is counseling him? What if he was seduced by a close friend who targeted him when he was emotionally vulnerable, and used the friendship to figure out how to emotionally manipulate him?

Different people can answer these question differently. One way of seeing that is to consider how someone one knows might react if she learned that her husband was having sex with his pastor and spiritual counselor.

Would she view this as adultery? Would she be forgiving—or even feel that there is nothing to forgive—because the husband was under the pastor's psychological pressure? Or would she be angry at her husband (of course, as well as at the pastor), because she viewed the husband as sufficiently morally responsible for his actions?

Different wives would react differently, which reflects the difference in moral judgment and moral opinions. People's use of the word "adultery," which suggests a moral and religious transgression, reflects this difference in opinion. And it is precisely this difference in opinion that rests at the heart of plaintiffs' objections to Covenant's statement.

This Court's decision in Yates v. Iowa West Racing, 721 N.W.2d 762 (Iowa 2006), further illustrates these two aspects of the word "adultery." [Details omitted. -EV]

[II.] Covenant's speech is protected under the Religion Clauses, because it is a religious evaluation about how conduct should be labeled.

Covenant's speech is thus protected under the Free Speech Clause, and would have been protected even had it been said in a secular discussion. But this protection is especially clear within a religious discussion.

Church leaders and congregants must be free to discuss what they view as adultery in God's eyes, not just theoretically but with respect to events in their community. They have to be able to define terms in accordance with their religious doctrines, free from interference by the secular legal system.

Consider, for instance, the word "marriage." Some people define this to include same-sex marriage; others define it to cover only opposite-sex marriage. Some define it to include polygamous marriage; others define it as purely monogamous marriage. The secular legal system today defines it one way; until recently, it defined it another way; and different religious groups define it in still other ways.

The Religion Clauses, as well as the Free Speech Clause, protect churches' ability to use any of these definitions. Say, for instance, that a minister faults two people for having sex even though they are not married to each other, but listeners know that the people are a same-sex couple in a civilly recognized same-sex marriage. The statement, in context, is a statement of religious opinion—in God's eyes, the minister is saying, this relationship is not a marriage, regardless of what it might mean to the secular legal system.

The change in meaning of "marriage" within the legal system leaves "[r]eligious doctrine and views contrary to this principle of law … unaffected"; "people can continue to associate with the religion that best reflects their views," and presumably to express those views. Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862, 906 (Iowa 2009). This Court has thus recognized that two definitions—secular and religious—may simultaneously exist, one for use in secular institutions and another in churches. Id. Likewise, even if "adultery" had a clear secular definition applicable to this case (which it does not, for reasons given in Part I), churches would still have a right to use the definition that they see as God's will rather than Caesar's.

Likewise, say that a church calls someone a "murderer," in a context where it is clear that it is referring to that person having performed an abortion (which the person did indeed perform). In context, this is a statement of opinion—that abortion is murder. Many people do not share this opinion. The secular legal system does not share this opinion. But the Religion Clauses protect the rights of churches to express this opinion (just as the Free Speech Clause protects the rights of others). The same is true for the opinion that sex with one's pastor is voluntary enough to constitute "adultery."

Nor does Kliebenstein v. Iowa Conference of United Methodist Church, 663 N.W.2d 404 (Iowa 2003), call for a different result. [Details omitted. -EV]

[III.] The First Amendment protects Covenant's speech from a finding of negligence liability by a jury.

Just as Covenant cannot be held liable for defamation based on its religious speech, so it cannot be liable for negligence. Indeed, even when speech has led to physical injury, courts have found it to be immune from negligence claims. Thus, for instance, broadcasters and film distributors cannot be liable on the theory that their speech negligently provoked some viewers into copying the crimes that the speech depicts. See, e.g., Olivia N. v. NBC, 178 Cal. Rptr. 888, 894 (Ct. App. 1981); Yakubowicz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 536 N.E.2d 1067, 1071 (Mass. 1989). Magazine publishers cannot be liable on the theory that their speech negligently provoked some readers (even children) into doing dangerous, even deadly things. See, e.g., Herceg v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 814 F.2d 1017, 1024 (5th Cir. 1987).

This protection exists because the government may not impose liability based on its judgments about what artistic, moral, and religious expression is "unreasonable." Speakers "[can]not properly be found to have violated their duty of reasonable care by exercising protected rights of free speech," Yakubowicz, 536 N.E.2d at 630. And "[i]n any event, the [speakers] cannot be liable for exercising those [free speech] rights." Id. at 630 n.4.

The same is true of religious speech. Reasonable people disagree about whether various religious teachings can cause harm, including physical or emotional harm (and not just theological or spiritual harm). Is it harmful to teach that homosexuality is evil, given that gay children (or even adults) could find that distressing or even emotionally traumatizing?

Is it harmful to teach that premarital sex is evil, on the theory that such teachings can lead people to feel guilty about natural human desires? Is it harmful to teach that premarital sex is acceptable, on the theory that such teachings can lead people to engage in behavior that can cause disease or unwanted pregnancy? Is it harmful to deny the existence of Heaven and Hell, on the theory that lack of concern about divine justice will encourage people to commit crime?

Whatever disputes there may be about these questions, judges and juries should not resolve those disputes, or decide which position is unreasonable. Likewise, it is not for judges and juries to decide whether it is reasonable for a church to use the word "adultery" to refer to congregants' being seduced by their pastor, regardless of whether this distresses those people. "It is not the province of the courts to inquire as to the soundness or reasonableness of religious beliefs." Wilmes v. Tiernay, 174 N.W. 271, 272 (Iowa 1919) (quoting Moran v. Moran, 73 N.W. 617, 621 (Iowa 1897)). The "reasonableness of [religious] statements is protected from judicial scrutiny by the First Amendment," including in tort lawsuits alleging negligence. Smith v. Tilton, 3 S.W.3d 77, 85-86 (Tex. Ct. App. 1999) (rejecting negligent misrepresentation claim based on such religious statements); see also, e.g., Braverman v. Granger, 844 N.W.2d 485 (Mich. Ct. App. 2014) (jury in negligence cases may not, in determining whether Jehovah's Witness defendant reasonably refused a blood transfusion, evaluate the "reasonableness of the tenets of the person's religion or the reasonableness of the person's decision to abide by his or her religious beliefs").

And liability for allegedly unreasonable religious statements is foreclosed even when the statements seriously distress people. Religions deal with matters that are deeply important to their members, both because they can touch on eternal life or eternal damnation, and because people's family and social lives are often centered on the church. Religious teachings, as well as related practices such as excommunication, shunning, prohibition of interfaith marriages, and more, can thus often deeply distress some members or ex-members of a religious group. Nonetheless, these religious teachings and practices are protected by the First Amendment. See, e.g., Sands v. Living Word Fellowship, 34 P.3d 955, 959 (Alaska 2001) (religiously motivated shunning cannot form the basis of a negligence claim, even when it led plaintiff to a suicide attempt that left him permanently paralyzed).

[IV.] The First Amendment protects "counterculture practices" as much as it protects the mainstream culture.

Plaintiffs argue that "counterculture practices" such as Covenant's "will often be accompanied by negative legal consequences." Appellants' Proof Brief 24. But the First Amendment protects countercultural speech and religious belief as much as it protects the mainstream culture. Indeed, countercultural speech and beliefs especially need constitutional protection. "The First Amendment protects the right of individuals to hold a point of view different from the majority …." Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705, 715 (1977).

Conclusion

Covenant has a free speech right to voice its opinion about what constitutes adultery, even when such judgments are disputed. Covenant's speech is protected under the Religion Clauses because it is a religious judgment about moral responsibility. The First Amendment precludes negligence liability for such speech, even if it emotionally distresses plaintiffs. And there is no "countercultural practices" exception to the First Amendment. This Court therefore ought to affirm the District Court's decision to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims.

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  1. Some people/cultures/societies have or have had the notion that a woman who is not seriously injured or killed in resisting rape was insufficiently forceful and thus is partly complicit. Some have held that how woman (or girl) dresses, i.e. chooses to dress, incites the perpetrator.

    So by the rationale in this case, wouldn’t it extend to even such situations, e.g. a church saying that a woman led the man on by how she dressed and she wasn’t injured enough to need medical treatment so didn’t fight back and thus was willing, she should have known the gun or knife wasn’t going to be used? Or there was no gun or knife, her fear was no excuse not to fight and therefore she’s an adultress? What about publicly calling someone who kills in self-defence a murderer, because based on their doctrine killing even in self-defence is the sin of murder?

    I mean, it may very well be that on principle avoiding religious questions means even this much. But if not – if there is some extreme at which the courts would find liability and damages – then what is that point?

    1. Well, such a church could probably make a credible argument that they had a scriptural basis for their belief. For example, Deuteronomy 22:23-24 states:

      If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death?the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

      In case it’s not abundantly clear from this passage, in ancient Hebrew culture, a betrothed couple was considered to have a certain measure of conjugal rights; hence, to sleep with a woman betrothed to another man was an offense tantamount to adultery and subject to the same penalty.

    2. For a similar reason, in Matthew 1:19, when Joseph discovers that Mary, his betrothed, is pregnant, he decides to “divorce her quietly,” so as not to expose her to public shame; despite the fact that the marriage had yet to be formalized, it still required a certificate of divorce to effect the separation. Incidentally, if this passage is any indication, people were people even in ancient Mesopotamia, and capital punishment wasn’t necessarily the remedy sought by every cuckolded man. I’m no expert on Near East culture (though I did study under someone who is), but I’m guessing stoning, although the allowed by law, was the exception rather than the rule, just as handing out maximum penalties today is rarely automatic for most crimes. In fact, to my knowledge, there is no documented case of an Israelite virgin ever having been stoned for premarital sex. Even the most fanatically sanctimonious prick probably didn’t have it in him to watch his little girl pummeled to a bloody pulp by a rabid mob for the offense of falling in love.

      1. “Even the most fanatically sanctimonious prick probably didn’t have it in him to watch his little girl pummeled to a bloody pulp by a rabid mob for the offense of falling in love.”

        Are there historical accounts of the Jews stoning seduced girls to death? I dunno, but there are plenty of accounts honor killings that happen today among another religion that shall not be named by dad.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..again.html

        1. Yes, there are certainly honor killings that occur in isolated, fanatical tribes to this day. Curiously, though, they often seem to be carried out by brothers, cousins, and the like. I haven’t read many stories in which girls were killed at the behest of their fathers. Which raises an interesting question: how were sexual indiscretions prosecuted back in the day? Could any concerned (presumably male) relative bring charges, or did it have to be the party whose property interests were most most directly violated (i.e., the father or husband)? I wish I knew more about these issues.

          1. I’m not sure they are that rare. I just did an internet search, and a 2016 NPR article says: That a 2013 opinion study in Jordan had 1/3 of respondents saying that honor killings were “morally right” and that there were an estimated 5,000 honor killings are committed every year, mostly in Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities, according to a 2000 report from the UNFPA ? the most recent compilation of data. But the number could in fact be far higher. Barr says the killings are frequently not reported to authorities by the victims’ families…..

            As for your point about it not being the father, but cousins, and bothers…I am not sure there is data to make that claim. Though there is certainly a deep attachment between parent and child and that makes it less likely for one to kill the other (though it doesn’t preclude it). The link was from a father killing his three daughter in Ontario in 2009 and the NPR story cites a case from 2010 where an Iraqi immigrant father in Arizona ran over his daughter for getting too Westernized.

            Considering the specificity of things in the Code of Hammurabi, and that it was found outside a temple, and that at the time the state was (generally) combined with religion, one would go to the temple and plead their case. No so different from today in filing a claim in court I suppose.

      2. “… there is no documented case of an Israelite virgin ever having been stoned for premarital sex.”

        Well… duh.

        1. Facetious. Jesus is well-documented as having stopped such a stoning in progress.

    3. All of the examples in your list have in fact been argued by some religious organization or leader at one time or another. If I wanted to, I could add a number of other examples just as or maybe even more egregious. And all have been found to be protected.

      So, no, there is no extreme at which the courts should find liability or damages for the expression of “hurtful” opinions.

      1. From skimming the defamation portion – it sounds like it’s one of those it’s depends situations. Like maybe if you refer, in church, in the context of discussing sinfulness, someone as an adultress, it’s not actionable, but if you took out newspaper ads saying the same thing it would be? Referring to someone as a murderer perhaps likewise?

        I’m not an Iowa lawyer so by no means rely on this as a guide! I’m just concerned if there’s a double standard, call someone in your workplace an adulterous murderer and get successfully sued, do so in church and you’re fine (if you’re part of that church’s hierarchy, at least?).

        Non-US, the Canadian Supreme Court just reached (decision released yesterday) a similar conclusion to the US doctrine about staying out of religious disputes:

        http://nationalpost.com/news/r…..reme-court

        1. No double-standard. It’s protected opinion either way.

    4. For that matter, what about a Quaker or Mennonite who refers to a soldier as a “murderer?” Should these peaceniks be allowed to get away with such slander?

    5. Yes, the church is free to say this. People are free to decide they don’t want to be a member of a church who’d say such things. None of your examples seem particularly extreme to me. Saying that certain behavior isn’t acceptable even if general society thinks it is seems to be one of the basic concepts of religion.

  2. (1/3) This is one of the many reasons why I think the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. I have always believed that parties on both sides of the single-sex marriage divide made a fundamental mistake in resorting to the state to impose their definition of marriage. As we have seen over the past two decades, the state giveth and the state taketh away (and then sometimes giveth back again). Back in 2003, a coalition lead by conservative Christians succeeded in outlawing single-sex marriage in Minnesota. Barely 10 years later, the law was overturned, and single-sex marriage was legal again. Now under the dictates of Obergefell v. Hodges, legalized same-sex marriage is the law of the land. But who’s to say that with a solid conservative majority, this ruling couldn’t be overturned at some point in the future?

    1. (2/3) From my perspective as a layman, although I agreed philosophically with the outcome, I thought the legal reasoning of the majority opinion was questionable at best, if not downright spurious in places, and I couldn’t help thinking that Kennedy may have left the decision vulnerable to a future challenge.

      As far as I am concerned, gay-marriage opponents and advocates alike should have banded together to oppose the concept of state-licensed marriage altogether. That would allow anyone who wants to get married to do so in whatever manner they wish to define for themselves, while at the same time reducing the risk of government interference in religious affairs. Religious organizations should be free to define marriage how they see fit. If a Catholic church wants to refuse remarriage to divorced people, let it. If a Baptist church wants to refuse to marry two men, more power to them. If a fundamentalist Mormon church wants to consecrate a polygamous marriage, by all means proceed. If a pagan priestess wants to unite three women in holy matrimony, that should be her prerogative.

    2. (3/3) I am not a lawyer, so maybe this question is ludicrous on its face, but I have been wondering if the post-Obergefell legal landscape opens churches to the possibility of discrimination charges if they refuse to consecrate marriages to which they have sincere religious objections. Could, for example, Congress pass a law mandating that in order to retain their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, churches must make their facilities (and possibly their clergy) available for legally sanctioned same-sex marriages? Would such a bill pass constitutional muster, and if not, on what grounds would it be struck down?

      1. Roman Catholic priests and many orthodox, or even conservative, rabbis, and probably other clergy as well, have long refused to perform interfaith marriages without encountering any legal problems.

        1. True, but my question is could Congress pass legislation outlawing this practice, or more precisely, making 501(c)(3) status contingent on performing same-sex marriage?

          1. Short answer: No. First Amendment, state-constitution freedom of religion, RFRA. All will go to protecting all manners of religion-based discrimination–a very good thing, I think.

      2. Could Congress pass such a law? Of course. Congress can pass any silly old thing they want – and often have.

        Would such a law pass constitutional muster? I’d like to say absolutely not. It would be a clear violation of the First Amendment and nothing in the Obergefell decision weakens that protection. The reasoning in Hobby Lobby, Westboro Baptist and a number of other decisions clearly support that analysis. Depending on how Masterpiece Cake comes out, however, that reasoning could be either supported or dramatically weakened. And I’m not about to try to bet on how that decision is going to come out.

    3. I have also come to the conclusion that marriage should be outside government regulation or interference, including the tax code. Let each person live as they wish associate with who they wish.

      1. Not rock throwing, but wondering, how would you deal with government benefits and plural marriage?

        1. Well, if we’re nondiscriminatory, then that means a husband could sponsor all of his 4 wives for immigration purposes.

          Or else spouses should never be allowed to sponsor each other.

          Either way it would be equal.

      2. >I have also come to the conclusion that marriage should be outside government regulation or interference,

        State marriage is just a contract. Having the state get out of contracts would seem to be fraught with difficulties. The idea of marriage as a *religious* ceremony seems to me a completely separate thing, and I think the problem is that people conflate the two (and enter in the two at the exact same time).

        1. Agreed, having the state get out of contracts would be a problem, because it is the state as the enforcer of contracts is what allows for contracts between two or more parties. If my roofer fails to roof my house after the down payment, then I take him to court, and he would take me to court likewise if I refused to pay him if he had done the work. Without the state are arbiter and enforcer of contracts, the only other options are either interpersonal violence, or loss of property, if one party does not abide by the contract.

          So since we are not going to throw the basis of western rule of law out the window (i.e. get rid of the state as enforcer of contracts), then “getting the state out of marriage” would consist of individually drawn up contracts for each union, rather than the blanket contract that it involves now. Things would get interesting.

    4. “This is one of the many reasons why I think the government should get out of the marriage business altogether.”

      Counterpoint: Custody.

  3. Back in my believing days, I went to a PCUSA church whose head minister ran off with a woman who came to him for marital counseling. The church covered up why he was leaving so they could sue to leave the PCUSA because they wanted to keep sexual sinners (gays, not adulterers) out of the ministry.

    Hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits and a million dollar payout to the Presbytery later, they left then sent out “trust God and send us some cash” videos.

  4. “One way of seeing that is to consider how someone one knows might react if she learned that her husband was having sex with his pastor and spiritual counselor.”

    You could ask the same thing of the feminists who favor redefining the concept of consent. Suppose someone’s husband comes home and says, “Honey, I had sex with another woman, but it’s OK, my consent was ambiguous and unenthusiastic” or “I was intoxicated so my consent doesn’t count”. Would feminists be all, “That’s OK, honey, you were the victim. Let me support you through the PTSD.”

    1. my consent was ambiguous and unenthusiastic

      This might be the greatest handle in the history of internet handles.

    2. Putting aside your usual ham-fisted argument style…yes, if a man came home and said, “I was raped. A woman slipped me something in my drink and took advantage of me sexually.”…I think many feminists would be very supportive.

      And many others would not. They would not get over the fact that their husband had slept with another woman, whether voluntary or not. Just as many men would (sadly) not get past their wife/girlfriend being sexually assaulted.

      Was your point: Man, sexual assault is a real issue, since victims run a real risk of being stigmatized–even by their loved ones? Or was your point: Ha ha ha. Feminists are dumb and the say/do dumb things? Given your history of posting; I am assuming the latter. But maybe not…maybe you’re actually making a trenchant and cogent point about how society treats victims of sexual assault.

      1. Or maybe you could read TwelveInch’s post honestly and realize that his point is that self-proclaimed feminists have repeatedly and publicly supported other women on the low standard of “my consent was ambiguous” and/or “I drank myself blind” but hold men to a higher standard such as your “she drugged me”.

        Sexual assault is a real issue. But a worse issue is the hypocrisy of those who attempt to exploit tragedy for their own personal or political gain.

        1. There’s no double standard you fucking idiot. We may want society to a higher standard than we enforce against spouses. It might be ok for the state to say “Intoxicated sex is non-consensual” but still believe that a wife (or husband) can tell her spouse “I’m blaming you for being wasted.”

          1. “There’s no double standard you fucking idiot”

            Wow. Tough words coming from a guy who is too stupid to understand what a double standard is.

      2. “yes, if a man came home and said, “I was raped. A woman slipped me something in my drink and took advantage of me sexually.”…I think many feminists would be very supportive.”

        You’re certainly correct that drugging someone and having sex with them is rape. I will assume from the fact that you felt it necessary to change my scenario that you are not defending some of the nuttier feminist redefinition of consent, “consent is unambiguous, sober, enthusiastic”, etc.

  5. 1. I’m loving all the Dutch names in this case.

    2. Ooph, 5 years. I mean, it’s nice to know that it happens to white people too, but in many countries you could kill someone and not get 5 years. For something fairly close (but not quite close enough) to sex between consenting adults, it seems wildly disproportionate.

    1. “know that it happens to white people too”

      What does the race of the people have to do with anything?

      It was not “fairly close” to consensual because of the fiduciary relationship. Good to know that its no big deal in Europe for counselors to exploit the people they counsel.

    2. “…Ooph, 5 years…”

      Ooph??? Is this an acronym or abbreviation? I tried Googling, but no help. (In context, I am pretty sure you did not mean “object-oriented photography.”

      https://www.abbreviations.com/OOPH

      1. Presumably, by now, you recognize this is an onomatopoeia. Perhaps not standardized, but pretty obvious.

    3. Interesting bit of trivia:

      Until 1974, Texas Penal Code included “Homicide is justifiable when committed by the husband upon the person of any one taken in the act of adultery with the wife, provided the killing take place before the parties to the act of adultery have separated.” [Tex. Penal Code, Art. 1102 (1916), Shaw v. State, 510 SW2d 926 (Ct.Crim.App. 1974)]

      1. How separate did they have to get?

      2. How separate did they have to get?

      3. Snipers motto: one shot, one kill.
        Cuckold’s motto: one shot, two kills?

      4. Mad_Kalak, layman’s version: Some SOBs just need killing.

        1. Longtobefree, if he went to the trouble to get one shot, two kills, I wouldn’t call him a cuck (at least not to his face).

          1. Sorry. Replied to the wrong person. Well, he will see it.

  6. Interesting post, good analysis, but perhaps some sloppy verbiage:

    “Two married women . . . say that [the pastor] pressured them into having sexual relations with them [sic].”

    “[On one occasion, one of the women’s husbands [sic]] was experiencing significant distress . . . ”

    Or maybe the facts were racier than I thought/

    1. I thought that very same thing. Shows us where our minds are at, eh?

  7. Blessed and wise are those spiritually wedded to reason.

    Gullible and lost are those who consort with superstition.

    Organized religion needs special rules because faith healers, televangelists, predatory priests, philandering pastors, and just about everyone else who makes a living from religion could not operate in compliance with any decent standards or rules.

    Choose reason. Every time.

    So sayeth the Congregation Of Exalted Reason, the one true way to adult standing.

    (Those under the age of 12 or so are spared by grace, especially if subjected to childhood indoctrination.)

    1. Couldn’t agree more, those preaching leftwing superstition such as the idea that the way to grow wealth is through government confiscation, men and women are identical down to the atom, and the right to government sanctioned ssm marriage is written in invisible ink somewhere in the Constitution should be closely watched and regulated. Especially when they attempt to promulgate their creed while being publicly funded to sway young impressionable minds in the name of ‘education’.

  8. When you dig into the case you find it seems less and less a horrifying legal morass and more a cheesy interracial cuckold fantasy flick. Bored middle upper class white cougars older than some people posting here ‘exploited’ by a ‘rapist’ so adept at his craft he got one to lend him 70K after her supposed rape and another he kept ‘raping’ over and over in different locations over an extended period until the hapless husband caught them. The only difference is that the perpetrator is just a frumpy middle aged black dude. This pudgy guy is pulling it in left and right without a sweat and he even got a twofer this time…er…nonconsensually I’m sure. Man, where are gals like these where I’m at?

  9. It appears that the statute of limitations had passed the “real” tort claims. I agree the First Amendment bars defamation for torts of this nature, however self-serving it would appear when a minister behaves like this.

    In general, juries, even in fairly liberal areas, have historically been willing to let it fly when people who are nominally brought in to help marriages have affairs.

    https://www.leagle.com/decision /19831133300se2d83311045

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    1. “No, honey, I said you should marry a *rich* doctor!”

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