A pastor in the US state of Iowa was arrested on suspicion of sexual exploitation after several  victims said he had sexual contact with them when they were teenagers to help them gain “sexual purity”, in the eyes of God.

The youth pastor in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said he had sex with teenage boys because he felt he was helping them “with homosexual urges by praying while he had sexual contact with [them]”.

The 31-year-old pastor, Brent Girouex, was arrested on 60 counts of suspicion of sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist, after authorities were alerted to his actions.

Girouex confessed to Council Bluffs police detectives that he had sexual relations with four teenage victims beginning in 2007, but at least eight other men have come forward with complaints that the pastor molested them.

He told investigators that the longest relationship he had with any of the victims had been four years, and that it started when the boy was 14 years old. He said the “mutual” contact had taken place between 25 and 50 times. The victim told authorities the number of times had been more like between 50 and 100 times.

“When they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind,” Girouex told detectives, reported UPI.

Girouex has been freed on a $30,000 (£19,000).