The Isanti County News reports
that 55-year-old Ryan Muehlhauser, senior pastor at Lakeside Christian Church in Cambridge, was arrested and charged with eight counts of felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the abuse of men seeking spiritual advice on how to "cure" themselves of homosexuality.
The abuse allegations surfaced when a counselor at Outpost Ministries
, which bills itself as a resource for those who "want to break away from the gay life," came forward to report that two young men he was counseling accused Muehlhauser of sexually assaulting them.
One of the alleged victims told authorities that the pastor placed his hands on his genitals on multiple occasions, calling the touching "blessings."
That same victim said he recalled other incidents of abuse, including one that occurred while he and Muehlhauser prayed together.
According to KARE
, Muehlhauser also asked at least one of his victims to strip naked in his presence for "spiritual guidance" and masturbate, calling it "spiritual strength." The pastor allegedly prayed over the victim while he masturbated.
The alleged abuse took place over a period of two years at Lakeside Christian Church and at the church's prayer cabin as well as at the home of one of the victim's relatives.
Assistant Isanti County Attorney Stacy St. George called Muehlhauser's alleged crimes "predatory" in nature.
"[He] preyed on these young men during a time when they've been rejected by their friends, family and religion," St. George told the Isanti County News
. "These young men trusted him with their deepest thoughts and vulnerable feelings and the defendant used his power to sexually abuse them for two years."
Each of the eight counts against Muehlhauser carries a potential 10-year prison sentence and $20,000 fine.
Conversion, or "gay cure," therapy is overwhelmingly considered to be 'junk science'
and has been banned
for minors in the state of California. Still, many gay and lesbian Christians attempt to "pray away the gay," and in Minnesota an undercover investigation revealed
that Marcus Bachmann, husband of Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann, offered "gay cure" therapy at his Christian counseling clinic.