A Minnesota pastor was arrested, and appeared in court, after two men who were receiving counselling as “treatment” for their “homosexual tendencies,” reported sexual assault.

Reverend Ryan J Muehlhauser, 55, appeared in court on Tuesday, charged with eight felony counts of forth degree criminal sexual conduct on two men whilst helping them “escape the gay lifestyle,” reported KARE.

The accused was a pastor at Lakeside Christian Church in Cambridge, Minnesota, however he met the two men through Outpost Ministries, an organisation which aims to “meet the needs of men and women making the decision to break away from gay life,” according to their website.

The first of the two victims told the police that Muehlhauser “blessed” him by cupping his genitals. He said that the pastor said he was required to arouse himself in order to find “spiritual strength” and that in an act of “spiritual guidance,” Muehlhauser told him to strip naked, and masturbate in front of him.

The second victim accused Muehlhauser of saying that he would “lose everything” if details of the assault became public.

The abuse allegedly began as early as 31 December 2010, and continued until at least 31 October 2012.

During proceedings, Isanti County Attorney Jeffrey Edblad said:

“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.”

Sherwood McKinnis, defending Reverend Muehlhauser, suggested that it may not be necessary for the defendant to receive criminal punishment for his actions. He said:

“Mr. Muehlhauser has made significant contributions to the community, he’s married and has a good and solid clergial support,”

“We can certainly expect that group of people to hold Mr. Muehlhauser accountable for his actions.”

Lakeside Christian Church also released a statement:

“As a church, we are deeply saddened by the report by certain inappropriate behaviors during counseling sessions by one of our pastors, Ryan Muehlhauser,”

“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.”

A statement also appeared on the Outpost Ministries website, looking to distance the organisation from the accusations against Reverend Muehlhauser. It read:

“Outpost Ministries is deeply grieved over the allegations regarding Ryan Muehlhauser. 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 has never 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 our prayers go out to all who have been sexually violated.”

Reverend Muehlhauser has been released, pending a second hearing next month.

The case continues.