A Minnesota pastor, husband, and father of three could face up to 35 years in prison and $90,000 in fines for allegedly engaging in a sexual relationship with a teenage intern during counseling sessions at his former church.
According to The Christian Post, pastor Nathan Van Alfred Luong, 36, faces charges stemming from claims that from October 2019 to February 2020, he engaged in sexual relations with a 16 or 17-year-old girl while counseling her at Trinity Lutheran Church in Minnesota.
According to Minnesota law, clergy members can be charged with criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if a complainant is not their spouse or if the incident occurred during a meeting where the complainant sought or received spiritual advice, aid or comfort from the perpetrator. Consent by the complainant is not a defense against the charge.
Luong is charged with one count of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree and is punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. Luong is also charged with another count of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree during religious advice meetings, which also carries a possible five-year prison term and/or a $30,000 fine.
Finally, he was charged with a third count of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree for engaging in sexual relations with a minor when he was supposed to be counseling.
The church has not responded to requests for comment.
Police say a witness told them the pastor and teenager engaged in sexual relations at “multiple different locations, including the youth room, Defendant’s Office, and while on a youth trip in Montana,” court records say.
Luong also allegedly created a position at the church for the teenager to be an intern where she had an office inside his office and worked from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m, The Christian Post reports.