A Minnesota pastor has been arrested for sexually assaulting two gay men while counseling them about their "homosexual tendencies."
Charging documents released this week indicated that 55-year-old Rev. Ryan J. Muehlhauser was accused of eight felony counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct on at least two men during sessions about how to "escape the gay lifestyle," according to KARE.
Muehlhauser was a pastor at Lakeside Christian Church in Cambridge, but met the men through Outpost Ministries, which claims it was "formed over 30 years ago to meet the needs of men and women making the decision to break away from gay life."
The first victim told authorities that Muehlhauser had "blessed" him by cupping his genitals. The pastor required the victim to arouse himself for "spiritual strength" and later instructed the man to get naked and masturbate in front of him, calling it "spiritual guidance."
Muehlhauser told a second victim that he would "loose everything" if details of the abuse became public.
"To seek comfort and advice and to help address the pain they were experiencing only to have them experience a more horrific type of pain, sadness," Isanti County Attorney Jeffrey Edblad said.
The alleged abuse began as early as Dec. 31, 2010 and continued until at least Oct. 31, 2012.
"You have a defendant who spends a significant amount of time working with and grooming victims, these are often cases that take place over a period of months and years. They don't happen in a vacuum," Edblad explained.
Muehlhauser appeared in court on Tuesday and was free pending a second hearing next month.
"As a church, we are deeply saddened by the report by certain inappropriate behaviors during counseling sessions by one of our pastors, Ryan Muehlhauser," Lakeside Christian Church said in a statement. "At this point we do not believe that there has been any involvement with minors. We ask that if you are aware of any others that may have been abused, you immediately report that to the Isanti County Sheriff’s Department at 763-689-2141."
Attorney Sherwood McKinnis, who is representing Muehlhauser, suggested that criminal punishment would not be necessary.
“Mr. Muehlhauser has made significant contributions to the community, he’s married and has a good and solid clergial support,” McKinnis insisted. “We can certainly expect that group of people to hold Mr. Muehlhauser accountable for his actions.”
(h/t: Ex-Gay Watch)