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St. Louis pastor accused of sexual harassment of subordinate

Ministers and priests entrusted with the spiritual well-being of their church's followers must conduct themselves without reproach and should be held to a very high standard, as people approach them at their most vulnerable points and turn to them in confidence.

A pastor at the Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis has been named a defendant in a suit filed by a former associate minister of the same church. A lawsuit filed in St. Louis Circuit Court accuses the minister of sexual harassment toward his female associate pastor, who accuses him of making unwelcome sexually explicit remarks to her, reaching under her skirt, inappropriately touching and grabbing her and attempting to kiss her. The man also stands accused of forcing his subordinate minister to view a photo of his genitals.

Co-defendants in the lawsuit are the national African Methodist Episcopal Church, the current prelate of the 4th Episcopal District of the AME Church, the 5th Episcopal District of the AME Church and Wayman Church.

The plaintiff is seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages in a jury trial.

The woman had initially tried to resolve the situation with her pastor by filing a written complaint to the church, but was mocked by him from the pulpit with a biblical reference implicating that she had attempted to seduce him but had been unsuccessful. She had been forced to give testimony against the pastor before a panel of church members in two formal hearings. He received a suspension for six months for behaving inappropriately, which was a deviation of standard operating procedures for the church in such cases.

Her suit alleges that the church had foreknowledge that the pastor was a sexual predator, having behaved inappropriately with a minor female and making comments of a sexual nature to another female pastor. Other allegations are made that he behaved inappropriately with women in Nebraska and Georgia.

Being subjected to unwelcome sexual behavior by one's supervisor is reprehensible. If you find yourself in an untenable position with your supervisor or co-worker, document the instances and your response, i.e., human resources complaints, internal memos, etc. If your concerns are not satisfactorily addressed, consult with a Missouri attorney who works in the field of employment law. You may be entitled to compensatory damages.

Source: stltoday.com, "Lawsuit alleges sexual harassment by minister at AME church in St. Louis" Lilly Fowler, Jan. 30, 2014

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