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Decision No. 789

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October 24 1996
In Re: Referral From the Tennessee Annual Conference Concerning Legality of "Sexual Misconduct Policy" Adopted by the Conference

Digest of Case

The policy adopted by the 1996 Tennessee Annual Conference at its regular annual session entitled "Policy on Professional Sexual Misconduct for the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church" does not violate constitutional or disciplinary provisions of The United Methodist Church.

Statement of Facts

At the regular 1996 session of the Tennessee Conference, the conference adopted a policy on sexual misconduct by church professionals for the Tennessee Conference. Following the adoption, the conference approved a motion to refer the adopted policy to the Judicial Council for review. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2611 of the 1992 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale The Judicial Council reviewed the policy in question and finds its provisions are not in violation of the Constitution nor the Discipline. Judicial Council Decision 736 sets forth general guidance in dealing with sexual harassment policies. The Tennessee policy complies with that decision. The only specific question to the policy arose from the use of the phrase "questions or comments about sexual behavior or preference" (emphasis added by person raising the objection) in defining the term "sexual harassment". The Judicial Council finds the phrase "questions or comments about sexual behavior or preference" or the word "preference" as used in the policy not inconsistent with the general definition of the term "sexual harassment". The council, however, does note that an Annual Conference may not enlarge or expand chargeable offenses as set forth in ¶ 2623 of the 1992 Discipline.

Decision

The policy adopted by the 1996 Tennessee Annual Conference at its regular annual session entitled "Policy on Professional Sexual Misconduct for the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church" does not violate constitutional or disciplinary provisions of The United Methodist Church.

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