Religious Horror Story|Ends With HIV Infection

     JACKSON, Miss. (CN) — In a religious horror story, a woman sued the United Methodist Church of Mississippi, claiming it knew her HIV-positive pastor husband used church computers and “mini sabbaticals” to hook up with gay men, but concealed it, and now she has HIV too.
     Kim Miller, a mother of two daughters and a former Sunday school teacher, says the church knew about her now ex-husband’s “high-risk sexual activities,” but actively covered it up.
     She sued the Mississippi United Methodist Conference, her ex-husband Charles Andrew “Andy” Johnson, the Rev. Susan Woodard, and the First United Methodist Church of Gulfport, on Tuesday in Hinds County Court.
     Miller claims her husband used church computers to feed his porn addiction, arrange gay sex romps, and that the church knew he was “addicted to pornography and was using church computers to engage in such correspondence and covered it up.”
     The 44-page lawsuit claims that a church policy banning gay men from serving as ordained ministers forced gay and bisexual clergy “into a closet of secrecy and/or into heterosexual relationships of convenience; and created a ‘don’t tell’ environment.”
     Johnson told his wife his trips were “Sabbath leaves” or “mini sabbaticals.” She says the church encouraged the trips, during which he had unprotected sex with men from at least 1999 until 2012, when he contracted HIV.
     She claims her husband knew he was infected but continued to have sex with her, “even when Pastor Johnson knew the plaintiff had been having some residual bleeding from her hysterectomy.”
     During a six-week sabbatical after his mother died in 2012, Johnson rented a condo in Orange Beach, Ala., where he had sex with men, his ex says.
     “On information and belief, Pastor Johnson contracted HIV as a result of high-risk sexual encounters with men during the six week sabbatical insisted upon by MUMC’s District Superintendent for the Seashore District,” the complaint states.
     Miller says in 2011 or 2012, at least two church officials received information about the pastor’s sexual behaviors but did nothing to report or investigate the allegations.
     “First Church neglected to fulfill its duty to investigate and to warn the plaintiff of the danger and exposure to harm that MUMC and First Church knew or should have known she faced,” she says.
     Miller says her ex-husband came clean about his sex life and HIV status in July 2013, but not until she had developed a fever, joint pain and unusual rashes. That led him to admit he was HIV positive and had been having unprotected sex with gay men. On July 27, 2013, Johnson brought an oral swab HIV test to the parsonage for her to use, Miller says.
     “Pastor Johnson was clearly familiar with how the test worked, and admitted he had tested himself regularly over a period of years. Pastor Johnson stated that during the first part of the November 2012 week in Orange Beach, before the plaintiff and their daughters arrived, that he had gotten high on marijuana and had unprotected sex with a man he met in the hot tub. Pastor Johnson also admitted that during November 2012 he had sexual relations with a man at the First Church parsonage in Gulfport,” according to the complaint states.
     It adds: “Plaintiff did not discover, and could not reasonably have discovered without outside help, that Pastor Johnson was engaging in high risk sexual encounters with men until July 27, 2013.
     “Plaintiff was absolutely devastated by the news that her husband and pastor had been engaging in high-risk sexual relations with men and had contracted HIV; and that he had infected the plaintiff with HIV, a terminal illness. Plaintiff had to deal with this while continuing to care for her two young daughters. Despite the fact plaintiff’s very world was falling apart, the response of the MUMC and First Church was focused almost entirely on Pastor Johnson and/or First Church’s congregation (excluding the plaintiff). Little or no support was offered to the plaintiff.”
     She says her husband resigned his credential as an ordained minister at the church, “rather than face formal charges and be subjected to a process of rehabilitation.”
     He continued to receive “support and healing from MUMC and First Church,” including a salary and benefits, until at least May this year, Miller says.
     But she has received no financial support from the church other than an offer to pay for no more than 18 counseling sessions for herself and her daughters.
     The United Methodist Conference did not return a voicemail seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.
     Miller seeks compensatory and punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and interference with a civil action.
     She says that computer hard drives owned by the church were “wiped clean” at a time when “Rev. Woodard, Pastor Johnson, MUMC, and First Church knew, or reasonably should have known, the files of those computers contained recoverable files which represent material evidence of Pastor Johnson’s sexual misconduct.”
     Miller is represented by Christopher Van Cleave with Corban, Gunn & Van Cleave, in Biloxi.

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