In January, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that allowed churches to be forced to pay exorbitant amounts to lock up people who are accused of sexual misconduct.
That decision came amid a wave of church abuse cases that have led to an avalanche of lawsuits.
Now, a new lawsuit claims a pastor in Texas has been locked up for allegedly having sex with a teenager.
The Rev. Michael C. Anderson Jr. was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday for having sex and having sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl who was in the care of his church.
Anderson was a pastor at the First Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas, until he was fired from the church last year for allegedly abusing a teenager while the two were in the same school.
The judge ordered Anderson to spend at least five years in state prison for the charges.
The case has also prompted a civil lawsuit by the girl’s mother who said the church violated the girl and her mother by not disciplining him after he sexually abused her.
“There are two ways you can look at this: 1) the church was negligent in allowing him to have sex with the child; and 2) that there were other inappropriate activities that occurred with this individual as well,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said at a news conference on Tuesday.
“This was a situation where the church made a decision that was contrary to the law and in violation of their oath to uphold the law, and that they acted with criminal negligence,” Paxton added.
The church’s lawyers argued that Anderson had not violated church doctrine by having sex or engaging in other sexual conduct with the girl in her care.
The lawsuit claimed that he had sex with two teenage girls in the 1970s while they were at the same church, but that the church has never publicly acknowledged that.
Anderson has maintained his innocence, and his attorneys have also maintained that the girl is not the victim in the lawsuit.
In his original sentencing, the judge said the actions by Anderson “were not isolated incidents, and the church had no reason to believe that he was a victim of any crime.”
Paxton has previously told the Houston Chronicle that the district attorney’s office did not follow the law.
Paxton also said that the attorney general will review the church’s conduct policies to ensure they are fair and equitable.
Paxton also announced Tuesday that a criminal investigation is under way by the state attorney general’s office into the alleged sexual misconduct by Anderson.
Paeson said that he has ordered a forensic psychologist to review the allegations against Anderson.
The Texas attorney general said in a statement that the investigation is ongoing and that “we will not tolerate criminal activity of any kind.”
“I will not allow the lawlessness of sexual predators to continue to fester and to foment in the Texas justice system,” Paeson added.
“We are committed to protecting the integrity of our criminal justice system and to ensuring that the people of this state know that the criminal justice process is the ultimate check on our law enforcement officers and our justice system.”
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