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Decision No. 868

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October 28 1999
In Re: Review of the Sexual Harassment Policy of the Minnesota Annual Conference.

Digest of Case

The Sexual Misconduct Policy of the Minnesota Annual Conference is not in violation of the 1996 Discipline. It carefully notes that the Discipline defines the standard of conduct and reporting process for clergy and limits these sections of the Policy to the laity.

Statement of Facts

Minnesota Annual Conference, at their 1999 session, adopted a Sexual Misconduct Policy and submitted it for review by the Judicial Council to determine its compliance with the 1996 Discipline and relevant Judicial Council decisions. The Policy is not violative of the 1996 Discipline. The Policy specifically notes that the entire section covering the Standards of Conduct applies to "lay employees and volunteers in the Annual Conference, such as committee members, camp counselors and conference youth workers"; the section specifically does not apply to ordained clergy whose standard of conduct is found in the Discipline. It must be pointed out that the Discipline also provides for standards of conduct for local pastors, associate members, probationary members, as well as members in full connection, but the failure of the section to list these clergy does not invalidate the Policy. In the Standards of Conduct section the Policy is careful to quote definitions from the Discipline where possible, with other definitions coming from the Minnesota State criminal code. The Policy defines "Sexual Misconduct", but does not imply in any way that this is a chargeable offense, since it is not a chargeable offense for non-clergy. The Policy's paragraph on "Sexual abuse" does make a statement about the inability of a child under 18 years of age and of a vulnerable adult to be able to legally consent to sexual acts, and then indicates that the Discipline affirms this moral standard. While the Discipline could be read to affirm this statement, it does so indirectly at best. Again, this would not invalidate the Policy. The Policy's Section IV, the reporting section, is limited in its application to the individuals named above, thereby again excluding any and all clergy for whom the reporting procedure is found in the Discipline.

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