A Minnesota pastor who participated in an "ex-gay" ministry that tries to "pray away the gay" has been charged with sexually assaulting two men he was counseling, reports the Star Tribune.
The Rev. Ryan J. Meuhlhauser, 55, is the senior pastor at Lakeside Christian Church in Cambridge, Minn. and was a counselor for Outpost Ministries, based in Robbinsdale, Minn., reports the Star Tribune.
Citing the criminal complaint that landed Meuhlhauser in court on Tuesday for eight felony counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, the Star Tribune reports:
"One of the men told investigators that Meuhlhauser has 'blessed' him by cupping his genitals outside of his clothing several times and that Meuhlhauser asked the man to masturbate in front of him for 'spiritual strength.' Meuhlhauser would also fondle the man at times. Their encounters occurred over a period of nearly two years."
The criminal complaint also details similar allegations of sexual assault made by another man, who claims the assaults took place at the church, in a "prayer cabin" belonging to the church, and at the home of a relative of one of the victims.
According to its website, Outpost Ministries "exists to help the sexually and relationally broken find healing and restoration through relationship with Jesus Christ," and regularly refers to same-sex desires as "sin."
"Outpost Ministries is deeply grieved over the allegations regarding Ryan Meuhlhauser," said a statement on Outpost's homepage. "Outpost fundamentally stands against sexual abuse and exists, in part, to minister to those who have been wounded by such violence. Ryan is not and never has been a member of Outpost staff nor was he a pastor to whom we referred clients. We continue to stand with the two young men who experienced this atrocity and we desire to help them in any way we are able. Our sorrow and prayers go out to all who have been sexually violated."
Aside from distancing itself from Meuhlhauser — without actually confirming that he never worked for the "ministry" — Outpost's statement recycles false claims often used by antigay pundits who claim that same-sex attraction is a result of suppressed sexual trauma, incest, or a lacking relationship with a parent of the same sex. Additionally, every major psychological and medical association has disavowed "ex-gay" treatments, also known as "reparative therapy," calling the practice harmful and based in prejudice against LGBT people.
Lakeside Christian Church told the Star Tribune that it was "deeply saddened" by the allegations, and urged any potential victims to contact police.