- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2017

A Michigan woman has alleged her pastor inappropriately touched her during a visit to her home last summer, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported recently.

According to St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office documents obtained by the Times-Herald, in July 2016, Mitch Olson, a pastor at the Grace Ministry Center of Kimball, Michigan, suggested to the then-19-year-old woman that he anoint her with oil in a prayer service, but said he had no oil at the church and asked instead to visit her at her residence.

The Times Herald does not disclose the names of alleged sexual assault victims, but the woman, Justine Morden, has since gone public on a local TV station with her story.

“Later on that night, around like 8 or 9, he texted me and asked what my address was,” the woman, the newspaper reported on Wednesday. “I gave him the address and didn’t think anything of it since I trusted him … He got there and said, ‘I have the anointing oil if you want to be anointed,’ so I said ‘OK.’ “

“I trusted him. He has been my pastor since I’ve been in sixth grade,” she told Detroit’s WXYZ-TV.

It was at Miss Morden’s residence, according to the police report, that Mr. Olson proceed to anoint the woman, first on her head and shoulders, but then working down her body, allegedly touching the woman’s breasts, buttocks and pubic region, slipping his hands under her pants.

Miss Morden says at the time she consented, believing it was needed for the forgiveness of her sins, but that a subsequent discussion with her mother made her reconsider what had happened that night.

“When I explained it to my mom, she said it wasn’t right,” she told the Times Herald. “I believed it was what really had to be done, but he grabbed, groped my boobs.”

Grace Ministry Center board member Gordon Farnsworth does not dispute that Mr. Olson anointed the victim and touched her on her breasts and pubic region, but said that “the intent and extent of the touching” is in dispute, according to the police report.

Grace Ministry’s board conducted a disciplinary hearing in March attended by Mr. Olson, the alleged victim and the victim’s stepfather, and the resulting action was a mere “slap on the wrist,” according to the stepfather, who recorded the proceedings.

WXYZ reported that Mr. Olson in the same board meeting described the anointing ceremony as an exorcism as he considered Miss Morden possessed.

“Do you want your daughters coming to this church where this could possibly happen … I feel like it (has) been covered up,” he said, the Times Herald reported.

According to the police report, Mr. Olson’s misconduct may not be an isolated incident of impropriety involving a member of his flock: Another young woman has come forward to relay an incident from four years ago when the pastor attempted to record her changing her clothes on a cellphone left in a church changing room. 

Prosecutors are currently reviewing the evidence and will decide on whether to move forward on the case in the next few weeks, WXYZ reported last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Times Herald is requesting that other individuals who have either a “story of sexual assault or of an inappropriate occurrence” to contact the paper’s investigative reporters.

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