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USA News

Pastor apologises as comments about rape victim’s clothing sparks protest

by Heather Preston

A US pastor has apologised after he said he would let a rapist go free if the female victim was wearing shorts, in a sermon clip that has since gone viral online.

Pastor Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle, Monroe in North Carolina expressed his “deep regret” for the controversial comments made in a recorded sermon from 2023, that sparked fierce backlash after being recently shared on social media.

Referring to women wearing shorts rather than pants and dresses, the 85-year-old told parishioners that “If you dress like that and you get raped and I'm on the jury, he's gonna go free...I can't help if you don't like it, I'm right… a man’s a man.”

Responding to the outrage the clip received online, Pastor Leonard issued a statement of apology on the church's website on Saturday: “I am only beginning to understand the hurt and offense caused, and I take full responsibility for my words.

“As a pastor, I failed to uphold the biblical values of love and compassion. I apologize for the pain caused and commit to learning from making this foolish and sinful statement.

“Bible Baptist Tabernacle and I unequivocally stand on the biblical position that rape under any circumstances is a heinous crime to be punished severely and is never excusable.”

Pastor Leonard went on to ask for those he has hurt to forgive him as he seeks to serve his community with “integrity, humility and love.”

Prior to this, Leonard posted an apology on the church building's sign, which read, “I am sorry for any hurt. I was wrong.”

In response to the pastor’s “regrettable” sermon, abuse advocates and survivors staged a protest outside the church on Sunday.

Organiser Jason King said via social media: “You can’t stand behind the pulpit…and teach the word of God and claim that you believe it is ok for people to go around raping people for what they wear.”

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