LANSING — State Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio) introduced House Bill 5054 yesterday to ensure that clergy members who commit sexual assault could be charged with criminal sexual conduct under Michigan law. The bill was inspired by events involving a pastor in Smiths Creek who could not be charged for sexually assaulting a woman during a supposed religious ceremony.

“People with certain titles or professions oftentimes have authority or special influence over those who go to them for help. Unfortunately, sometimes these people use their status to trick and victimize unsuspecting or vulnerable people in need,” Faris said. “We already hold doctors, therapists, corrections officers, teachers and others who have special relationships with their victims to a higher standard. The fact that Michigan law failed to protect this woman is unacceptable, and the loophole needs to be closed immediately.”

In July 2016, a 19 year old Michigan woman was sexually assaulted during a supposed religious ceremony. The victim did file a police report. Under current Michigan law, however, a pastor who lies to get consent of the victim cannot be charged if there is not also force or coercion. House Bill 5054 would allow prosecutors to charge clergy who deceived and abused their victims.