An Isanti County pastor who has been serving the community since 1989 has been accused of engaging in sexual contact with young men seeking spiritual counsel.
Ryan Jay Muehlhauser, 55, of Cambridge, was charged by complaint this week with eight counts of felony, 4th degree criminal sexual conduct. He made his first appearance Tuesday, Nov. 6, before Judge P. Hunter Anderson in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge.
Muehlhauser has been serving as senior pastor at Lakeside Christian Church in Cambridge since January 2012. Prior to that he served as the church’s associate pastor for 22 years.
Lakeside Christian Church released the following statement regarding the charges:
“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.”
According to the criminal complaint:
Muehlhauser, in his role as a clergy member, engaged in sexual contact with young men. Consent by the complainant is not a defense.
The eight different felony charges show the sexual conduct occurred from March 4, 2012 through Nov. 4, 2102; Dec. 1, 2010 through Dec. 31, 2010; Feb. 1, 2012 through March 31, 2012; July 1, 2012 through July 31, 2012; Aug. 1, 2012 through Aug. 31, 2012; and Oct. 1, 2012 through Oct. 31, 2012.
The sexual acts occurred at a time when the victims were seeking or receiving religious or spiritual advice, aid or comfort in private. The acts took place at the church in Cambridge, at the church’s prayer cabin and at one of the victim’s relative’s home.
These relations surfaced when a counselor with Outpost Ministries — a group that assists individuals who “want to break away from the gay life,” according to its website — reported that two young men he was counseling advised him of sexual activity between them and Muehlhauser.
One of the alleged victims met with authorities Nov. 4 and said Muehlhauser would minister and mentor him, and help him through his “homosexual tendencies.”
The victim said on multiple occasions Muehlhauser would place his hands on his genital area and call the sexual occurrences “blessings.”
In the fall of 2012, the victim recalled another sexual episode that occurred while Muehlhauser prayed with him.
The victim said me met the defendant through another victim at Muehlhauser’s home in March 2012. Muehlhauser had a spiritual retreat with six young males from Outpost Ministries.
At this time, the victim noticed that Muehlhauser was extremely physical with both him and the other victim. He said Muehlhauser would constantly put his hand on his shoulder, thigh and give hugs to the victims.
On at least one occasion, Muehlhauser said he didn’t want people to see them because they wouldn’t understand. Muehlhauser also said he would “lose everything” if anyone found out what they were doing together.
The victim said he went along with the acts because Muehlhauser was his minister and spiritual advisor.
Comments from the attorneys:
Assistant Isanti County Attorney Stacy St George said even though Muehlhauser has no prior convictions, the public’s safety needs to be taken into consideration.
“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.”
St George said the crime is predatory in nature.
“The defendant will most likely say he has the support of his family, church and community, and will ask you to trust him,” St George said. “But he also asked his victims to trust him.”
Representing Muehlhauser, attorney Sherwood McKinnis said the defendant has no prior convictions and has lived in the community for over 25 years.
“Mr. Muehlhauser has made significant contributions to the community, he’s married and has a good and solid clergial support,” McKinnis said. “We can certainly expect that group of people to hold Mr. Muehlhauser accountable for his actions.”
Judge Anderson set unconditional bail at $50,000 and conditional bail at $20,000. Muehlhauser’s next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 12.
As part of his conditions of release, Muehlhauser has to submit to a random urine analysis prior to release, and refrain from using any mood altering substances including alcohol unless medically prescribed; no contact with the victims; no possession of firearms; report to Isanti County Probation within 24 hours of release from jail; remain law abiding and in good behavior; make all future court appearances and he can’t leave the state of Minnesota without a court order.