Ryan Jay Muehlhauser, 55, of Cambridge, Minnesota, senior pastor at Lakeside Christian Church, and church associate for 22 years, has been accused of sexually abusing men who came to him for counseling. Muehlhauser worked with Outpost Ministries, a group dedicated to helping “the sexually and relationally broken find healing and restoration through relationship with Jesus Christ.” This includes people with homosexual urges, who wanted to move past them. Neither victim was a minor. Even so it is disturbing that Muehlhauser was counseling his victims in this capacity when he allegedly exploited his position and their vulnerability. Both men went on to another counselor within the same organization, whom they told about Muehlhauser’s alleged activities. That counselor notified authorities.
According to the criminal complaint, one of the victims told police that over the course of the two years in which Muehlhauser counseled him, he was “blessed” on more than one occasion by Muehlhauser’s cupping the man’s genitals (outside his clothing). He also said that Muehlhauser asked to see the victim masturbate for “spiritual strength.” It is not clear who was supposed to gain spiritual strength from the act, Muehlhauser or the victim. Muehlhauser also allegedly fondled the man on several occasions.
Another victim reported similar experiences with Muehlhauser that went on for about a year. He told investigators that Muehlhauser had fondled him prior to an outing with Muehlhauser’s wife, afterwhich the pastor allegedly said that he feared he would “lose everything” if anyone found out. The victim reportedly told police that he went along with the abuse because Muehlhauser was his minister and spiritual advisor. The complaint states that because Muehlhauser is a clergy member, “consent by the complainant is not a defense.”
Assistant Isanti County Attorney Stacy St George called Muehlhauser’s actions predatory saying, “Mr. Muehlhauser preyed on these young men during a time when they’ve been rejected by their friends, family and religion,” St George said. “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.”
Muehlhauser is charged with eight felony counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and remains free pending another hearing next month. The judge set unconditional bail at $50,000 and conditional bail at $20,000. In order to remain free through the trial, Muehlhauser is to remain in Minnesota, have have no contact with the victims and no possession of firearms. He must submit to a random urinalysis prior to his release from jail, and refrain from using any non-prescribed mood-altering substances, including alcohol. He must report to Isanti County Probation within 24 hours of his release, and must remain law abiding and in good behavior, making all future court appearances.
Muehlhauser is next scheduled to appear in court on December 12, 2012.