Minn. Supreme Court Upholds Clergy Sex-Misconduct Law

Updated: 11/07/2013 7:31 AM KSTP.com By: Jay Kolls

The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned an Appeals Court decision granting a new trial for a former Catholic priest convicted of criminal sexual conduct in 2011.

Former Catholic Priest, Christopher Wenthe, admitted in court he had sex with a 21-year-old woman who attended his St. Paul Parish.

But, his attorneys argued the relationship was consensual and was not in the context of his role a religious counselor. The Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial saying there was an entanglement of law and religious doctrine protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

But, the state appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court and Wednesday the state's highest court struck down the Appeals Court ruling and upheld Wenthe's conviction.

The Ramsey County Attorney prosecuted Wenthe and was pleased by the Minnesota Supreme Court's ruling. Ramsey County Attorney, John Choi, says he is pleased the Supreme Court justices sided with prosecutors and, essentially, gave a green light to other prosecutors across Minnesota to pursue similar criminal sexual conduct cases against clergy regardless of religion.

Attorneys for Wenthe say they might appeal his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court.