Court: Iowa church didn’t defame women exploited by pastor

The Iowa Supreme Court says an all-male church board’s characterization of female congregants who were pressured into sex with the pastor as sinning “adulteresses” who gave into “temptation” was constitutionally protected religious speech.

In a ruling Friday, the court held that members of the Covenant Reformed Church’s board of elders didn’t defame the two women because they were expressing their religious beliefs. The court also found that the Pella church wasn’t obligated to provide counseling to the women that went against its religious teachings.

The pastor, who was later removed from the ministry, was convicted of sexual exploitation by a counselor. Iowa law treats religious leaders as counselors and bars them from having sexual contact with congregants they’re counseling.

Attorneys for the two sides didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.