Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Priest's Conviction Was Based On Excessive Religious Evidence

In State of Minnesota v. Wenthe, (MN Ct. App., Nov. 26, 2012), a Minnesota appeals court held that the state's clergy sexual conduct statute is not facially invalid under the Establishment Clause.  However, the court upheld the as applied challenge to the law raised by a priest who had been convicted under it for having sex with a woman for whom he served as confessor. The court held that the conviction was invalid under the Establishment Clause because it was based on excessive religious evidence:
the religious evidence provided the jury with religious standards for judging appellant’s conduct.  It invited the jury to determine appellant’s guilt on the basis of his violation of Roman Catholic doctrine, his breaking of the  priestly vows of celibacy, and his abuse of the spiritual authority bestowed on Roman Catholic priests; additionally, the evidence invited concern about the response of church authorities to the victim’s complaint.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports on the decision.