A Hennepin County court recently awarded a Winona victim of clergy sexual abuse more than $1.4 million.
Former United Methodist Minister Donald Dean Budd will owe more than $1 million for the abuse the court said he committed while counseling the woman. Budd served at McKinley United Methodist Church in Winona before the church merged with Central United Methodist.
Suffice it to say, any clergy member or church leader having sexual contact with a parishioner outside of marriage is completely and always inappropriate.
In this case, it was against civil law.
Yet, the more notable decision the jury made was splitting $410,000 portion between Budd and the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the governing body of the former McKinley United Methodist Church. The conference and Bishop Sally Dyck oversaw Budd and subsequently tried to keep the victim from coming forward, the judgment determined.
We hope the court’s award serves notice to other churches and leadership.
While abuse involving Catholic priests has made headlines, this instance shows that all churches, all denominations are vulnerable and it can happen whenever there’s a person in a place of public trust.
It’s sad the Minnesota Annual Conference hierarchy decided to walk in the footsteps of so many other religious institutions.
The court’s ruling said it was holding the conference in part responsible for the way it tried to cover up the abuse. It tried to stop the victim from going public, instead trying to push the accusations behind closed doors, with the church itself being the arbiter.
Clearly, the Methodist Church was more concerned with its image than doing right or healing.
— Winona Daily News