Complaint Made Against Orthodox Official
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A former Russian Orthodox missionary has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the faith’s second-highest-ranking official in Alaska, an attorney said Thursday.
The complaint, filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleges that Chancellor Archimandrite Isidore sexually harassed Paul Sidebottom while he was working on the island of Kodiak, said James Spencer, a lawyer with the Wichita, Kan., law firm Hinkle and Elkouri.
The complaint also accuses Bishop Nikolai, the highest-ranking official of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of Alaska, of helping Isidore fire Sidebottom for filing a complaint with Metropolitan Herman, who as leader of the Orthodox Church in America oversees the diocese.
The diocese, through its attorney Jim Gorski, said it was premature to comment.
“We’ve not been served with anything from the EEOC or received any other legal filings, so we really can’t comment on what we haven’t seen,” Gorski said.
However, Nikolai has previously said Sidebottom’s position had been slated for elimination as part of budget cuts and had nothing to do with the alleged incident in May 2007.
Sidebottom, now 31, had been a teacher of religious classes and assistant to the seminary dean at St. Herman’s Theological Seminary on the island in south-central Alaska.
The alleged harassment happened one time and involved “unwanted touching of a sexual nature,” Spencer said.
The EEOC and the Russian Orthodox Church are conducting two separate investigations, Spencer said. The diocese consists of 97 parishes, missions and institutions throughout Alaska, according to its Web site.
Spencer said damages could be awarded but stressed that his client, who is still a member of the church, is not interested in money.
“Mr. Sidebottom is not pressing his complaints in the spirit of vindictiveness,” Spencer said. “The reason he is pressing onward is because he wants to make sure that the things that happened to him do not happen to other people.”
Although The Associated Press does not generally identify people alleging sex offenses, the lawyer said his client did not object to his name being published.