Pastor claims ‘French kisses’ were mutual

A married pastor has denied groping a female church member, claiming he was guilty of a “moral failing” but not a crime when he kissed the woman at her West Bay home.

Felix Manzanares accepted that he had “French kissed” the 41-year-old woman on three occasions during a visit to her home in December 2011. But he said the kisses were mutual and the woman, who he described as a friend, had given him no indication that he had “crossed the line.”

The 26-year-old, who denies indecent assault, took the witness stand in Grand Court on Tuesday to give his version of events.

Manzanares accepted that he had kissed her but claimed she kissed him back. He denied fondling her, as she had claimed in court Monday, but said he had played with her toes, to which he claims she said, “Stop, because if you continue, clothes are going to come off.”

He claimed she had acted “flirtatiously” throughout their encounter and seemed to encourage his advances.

He said she had made several suggestive comments and he felt there was a “sexual tone” to the exchange.

After she received a call from a mutual friend who was coming to her home so they could go to dinner, Manzanares claims he asked if he should leave, but she indicated he should stay until the friend arrived.

When the friend came to the house, the pastor said he chatted with him for 20 minutes while the woman showered and got ready to go out. He claims she hugged him before all three left the house together.

Under cross-examination, the pastor again denied fondling her and said if she had told him to stop kissing her and asked him to leave, he would have done so.

“My action was in response to comments and body language that she showed me clearly,” he said.

He said he had been a youth pastor at the church, responsible for ministering to young people, until he resigned in the aftermath of the incident in February 2012. He said his relationship with the complainant was as a friend, a peer and a member of the same church, but he was not directly her pastor and the meeting in December 2011 was not connected to his role with the church.

The trial continues.