A choir member of St. John’s United Church of Christ in DuQuoin filed suit against the church and its pastor, Paul Schultz, accusing him of sexual assault and battery.

Grace Strenge is seeking at least $400,000 in damages which include "religious and spiritual confusion."

According to the complaint filed in Madison County Circuit Court Aug. 5, Schultz repeatedly made improper physical contact with Strenge at church functions.

She claims Schultz greeted her with “bear hugs,” and on several occasions Schultz allegedly placed his hands on her breasts acting like the contact was incidental.

During a meeting to explain why she and her husband were leaving the congregation on Aug. 9, 2003, Schultz allegedly blocked Strenge from leaving the room and pressed her up against the door.

Strenge claims as she tried to escape, Schultz tripped her and knocked her to the ground.

“Paul Schultz then restrained Strenge and attempted to sexually penetrate her,” the complaint states.

Strenge claims Schultz used his position as a moral and spiritual leader in order to gain the trust of his church members in order to posture his sexual advances in a non-dangerous way, used his position to perpetrate the unwanted sexual contact and manipulated the emotions and spiritual trust of his followers.

The suit also accuses St. John’s and the Illinois South Conference of the United Church of Christ of negligent hiring, claiming Schultz was hired after his fitness to serve as church pastor was called into question by members of the church.

Strenge claims she sustained severe and permanent injuries to her physical and psychological health, suffered severe pain and mental anguish, became liable for medical expenses for doctor, hospital and psychiatric attention, lost wages and profits, and has been hindered, hampered and prevented from carrying on her ordinary affairs and duties to same extent and in the same manner she was able to do prior to her alleged injuries.

Represented by Jack Davis of Springfield, the case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian.

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