The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a ruling that blocked a former Catholic priest accused of sexuall abuse from taking the bar exam. Michael Nash, a third-year law student at Creighton University, was denied permission to take the bar by the Iowa Board of Law Examiners after a hearing as to whether Nash could demonstrate the moral character and fitness needed to practice law.
In the hearing Nash disclosed he was accused in 2002 of sexually abusing a minor some twenty years earlier while he was employed as Catholic priest and youth ministry leader in Juneau, Alaska. A Diocese review board found the accusations against Nash were lacking in credibility. During that review Nash admitted he used spanking, tickling, push-ups, and sit-ups as disciplinary techniques for the kids. Nash also said he sometimes required the boys to remove their trousers prior to the discipline.
Nash denied he was sexually motivated by using this type of disciple, but stated he intended the experience to humiliate the children and encourage them to modify the behaviors and said he had experienced similar forms of punishment as a kid at a Catholic summer camp. Nash later underwent a Catholic training program on the appropriate use of discipline and was reassigned to an area where he would not work with children.
The Iowa Supreme Court opinion says, while they certainly do not condone Nash’s disciplinary techniques, "we do not believe such non-criminal acts from seventeen (or more) years ago reflect poorly on his present moral character and fitness to practice law." While those methods of discipline would certainly be considered inappropriate by today’s standards, when viewed in the social and historical context in which they were applied, they appear significantly less sinister. The court said it believes Nash’s conduct over the past seventeen years is the best indicator of his present moral character and fitness to practice law.
You can view the Supreme Court opinion here: Nash Supreme Court opinion