JOIN US MAY 20-21 FOR RESTORE CONFERENCE

Mary
DeMuth

Scot
McKnight

Screenshot 2023-01-13 at 1.50.18 PM

Naghmeh
Panahi

Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

N.C. Pastor Whose Rape Comments Sparked National Outrage Apologizes

By Julie Roys
bobby leonard women shorts rape
A video clip has gone viral of Pastor Bobby Leonard preaching on Aug. 16, 2023, at Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe, North Carolina. (Video screengrab)

A pastor whose comments on rape sparked national outrage has apologized, saying he failed “to uphold the biblical values of love and compassion” and feels “deep regret for the statements made from the pulpit.”

Earlier this week, video of Pastor Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe, North Carolina, defending men who rape women in shorts went viral on social media.

Commenting on seeing women wearing shorts at an outlet mall, Leonard said, “If you dress like that and you get raped, and I’m on the jury, he’s going to go free. You don’t like that, do you? I’m right, though. Because a man’s a man.”

Video of that comment I posted Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter, currently has 3.4 million views and 2.5K comments.

People in the pastor’s community saw Leonard’s statement on social media. And on Wednesday evening, Jason King, a truck driver from nearby Wadesboro, North Carolina, organized a small protest of a half-dozen people outside the church during a midweek service.

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Hurt and Healed by the Church” by Ryan George. To donate, click here.

The next day, the church posted an apology on its marquee, saying, “I am sorry for any hurt. I was wrong. -Pastor Leonard.”

WBTV News Charlotte picked up the story and included a report in its Thursday newscast.

In the report, King said he planned a larger protest on Sunday. And he called on Pastor Leonard to issue a public verbal apology.

“You can’t stand there and teach the Word of God and claim that you believe it’s okay for people to go around raping people for what they wear,” King said.

By Friday, national media outlets were running the story, including Newsweek and Huffington Post.

On Friday night, Bad Preacher Clips (@badsermons), which was the first to publish the clip of Leonard’s comments, posted a letter of apology by Leonard on X.

“I want to express my deep regret for the statements made from the pulpit,” Leonard stated in the letter. “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
Letter dated Feb. 23, 2024, from Rev. Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe, North Carolina. (Courtesy image)

‘We need a complete mindset shift’

In the comment thread to @badsermons’ post on X, some called for forgiveness and for the public to accept the apology. However, others called for Leonard’s resignation.

Nathan Beasley, a sales manager who says on his X profile that he “tweets about church life from a layman’s perspective,” noted that the video clip was from a sermon Leonard gave six months ago (in August).

“The statement is good but that doesn’t change the fact that it took them SIX months to address it and it never would have happened if not for @badsermons,” Beasley wrote.

Author and podcaster, Sheila Wray Gregoire, who spoke at last fall’s Restore Conference on “How Christian Teachings on Sex Enable Abuse,” said she believed Leonard needs to do more than apologize.

“We need a complete mindset shift, and a dedication to addressing the higher rates of abuse that his congregation will have, and the trauma the women are more likely to have experienced,” Gregoire wrote.

She added that “women in abusive situations tend not to realize it. They have internalized misogyny and blame themselves—because that’s what they’ve been taught to do. This is very common.”

‘It’s time to start healing’

The Roys Report (TRR) spoke with Jason King this morning, who said he believes Leonard’s letter is a “sign of humility,” showing that the church is moving in the right direction.

King said he had also spoken with a leader from the church just this morning. He said it was “a deep discussion” and ended with the two of them praying together.

King told TRR he became a Christian when he was 21 but then backslid. But about 10 years ago, he came back to God, and experienced a radical transformation in his behavior.

He said this conviction—that “the restraint of God is powerful”—was one of the things that compelled him to confront the message communicated by Leonard in the video. He said the message that men can’t control themselves is wrong and sinful.  

“We cannot tolerate standing in the pulpit and saying statements such as that,” King said. He added, “I’m trying to represent what being a man is all about . . . The real evidence of God is a changed lifestyle.”

King said he believes God is working in the current situation with Leonard and Bible Baptist Tabernacle. He said he hasn’t decided yet whether to hold another protest on Sunday or call it off.

King said he’d still like to see Leonard apologize verbally—either from the pulpit Sunday or in front of news media. But he added that he believes healing will take time and will be a process.

“I believe we can get this thing going in the right direction,” Leonard said, comparing what’s happening now to the process of recovery after surgery. “When you get out of that surgery, it’s time to start healing.”

Julie Roys is a veteran investigative reporter and founder of The Roys Report. She also previously hosted a national talk show on the Moody Radio Network, called Up for Debate, and has worked as a TV reporter for a CBS affiliate. Her articles have appeared in numerous periodicals. 

SHARE THIS:

GET EMAIL UPDATES!

Keep in touch with Julie and get updates in your inbox!

Don’t worry we won’t spam you.

More to explore
discussion

34 Responses

  1. Too many sermons in churches like these are “off the cuff” and involve very little preparation. Perhaps this situation could have been avoided if the pastor has carefully thought out what he was going to say in advance.

    Sadly what he said is a symptom of a greater problem in many fundamentalist church like these where women take a second class role and are blamed when they become victims.

    1. I’m not sure I followed you, so if the pastor had better prepared then his misogynistic comments could have been more smoothly delivered and maybe unnoticed for longer than 6 months but as it is the abundance of his heart came out fully through his mouth as Scripture promises it will… did I understand you correctly? Because – and I’m not condemning him completely – but if this weren’t already a culture in his church someone would’ve called him on this immediately and he would’ve had any recording of the sermon deleted and if necessary given a heartfelt apology immediately. People say what they believe. With preparation or off the cuff. I’m not sure what “off the cuff” has to do with this at all. Maybe I misunderstood you? In churches that require more education there is less sin on people’s hearts? That wasn’t what you were saying, I don’t think. So I’m struggling to understand, because it sounds like you’re saying if he prepares more his heart would change. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he’d just get better at hiding it. I know I’ve slipped up and when I’ve been called on it I own it immediately. Im not perfect, but it is because it was a slip up of words and not just getting caught letting my heart slip out.

      1. I made myself clear and Vance understood me quite well. Preparation gives one a chance to pre-think what one wants to say as opposed to saying it impulsively since most inappropriate things are that way.

    2. He said this because he believes it. It’s not an issue of sermon prep (although that’s probably lacking), it’s an issue of misogyny. All the sermon prep in the world might keep him from saying awful things out loud, but it won’t stop him from believing them.

      1. I completely agree, Jen. Julie was right in her original tweet – he needs to resign. There is simply no way to walk back these comments. Many thanks to the Roys Report for covering this important story.

    3. But the mouth speaks out of the fullness of the heart. We can all make mistakes, but if I think of the Christian men that I have respect for, they could get up and shoot their mouth off randomly for months without saying anything like what this man said. That kind of comment comes out of a whole worldview. I really hope he is starting to realise that, and is genuinely going to work towards renouncing the lies that he clearly believes, and turn towards the truth.

  2. Too little too late. In addition to grossly insulting women and blaming the victim of causing the crime of rape, what exactly is “a man’s a man“ supposed to mean? That a male is unable to control himself? And if so, naturally it’s a female’s fault that he assaults her? This was typical thinking in some circles decades ago. Though some Christians don’t acknowledge this, there are valid, real-life reasons for women’s movements.

    1. Was Jesus a man’s man?

      I hope this pastor has wise elders over him who have been shook awake and who now can discern what is right to do.

    2. “… what exactly is “a man’s a man“ supposed to mean? That a male is unable to control himself? And if so, naturally it’s a female’s fault that he assaults her?”

      Yes, I think that is exactly what it is supposed to mean. In Mr. Leonard’s view, a man is an absolute slave to his genital urge.

  3. Because it is pretty much impossible to squeeze toothpaste back in the tube, sometimes consequences still follow forgiveness. How about a leave while submitting to something like mandatory training in how to help sexual assault victims find true healing?

  4. Anyone that is believing this guy and his nonsense, has consented to the evil he represents. As for his apology, if he truly believed what he wrote, he would step down, and walk away. If he did not believe what he said, he would not have said:

    “If you dress like that and you get raped, and I’m on the jury, he’s going to go free. You don’t like that, do you? I’m right, though. Because a man’s a man.”

  5. The correct way to apologize for such a monstrous statement, that was obviously heartfelt when made, is to resign from ministry.

  6. Any discipline for the pastor will have to come from the church. Regardless of its merit, those sort of opinions have no claim on the pastor’s employment or correction. I think the congregation is in the best position to evaluate whether this was a truly awful fumble or a representation of who he is as a minister, and whether they approve or not.

    That being said, it was one of the better apologies I have read. It came across as authentic and I might actually believe it.

  7. The man started this church 40 years ago and has been their only pastor. He’s a simple guy, elderly, without much education and now, in his final years, he has ruined his life’s reputation and possibly his life’s work by saying something incredibly stupid, harsh, unBiblical and irresponsible. Then he was called to account for it and apologized. Some, who have never set foot in his church, want him gone. I say show him a little grace and compassion. Enough of the cancel culture.

    1. you are free to express your opinion, yet, what you “say” is wrong, re this man meriting “grace/compassion”; nor are the negative responses to him, to be written off, as “cancel culture”! (nice try!)….rather, the man is an absolute DISGRACE and needs to GO!! (he could maybe work at Walmart as a “greeter” or something; no wait, they sell ladies shorts…)…what he said, and HOW he said it, indicate this was NOT “off the cuff”, but thought out and defended by him: “you don’t like that? Well I am right, a man’s a man!” – his statements are like finding a WORMHOLE on an apple; “cut away” until you find the worm, and then eat the apple? NO, I don’t think so, and if a mere, worm-infested apple, what of a “pastor” (?); with a “pastor” (?) like him,, WHO NEEDS WOLVES???

      1. Wow. You are so very angry and harsh. I pray that you are never in need of grace or forgiveness over the course of your life. Sadly, I suspect you already are.

        1. Mr. Leonard is held out as a pastor, so he’s supposedly a shepherd to his community. The issue many of us have with the “grace and forgiveness” message in this context is that it encourages granting grace and forgiveness to the person making the statement (Mr. Leonard) without acknowledging that the reason he is needing grace and forgiveness is because he wasn’t granting mercy and justice. Is Mr. Leonard in need of grace and forgiveness? Certainly. However, a rape victim (someone who has had a felony committed against him or her) is in need of justice and mercy. As a shepherd in the community, Mr. Leonard should be held to a high standard in the area of granting justice and mercy.

    2. I have some sympathy for a person who becomes the subject of a pile-in instigated by a “badsermons” person on X. However, I have even more sympathy for those who have been taught, presumably for 40 years, that being a man means you are not responsible for controlling your genital urge: women have all the responsibility.

      One wonders what else a simple, uneducated man has been teaching his congregation.

      On the other hand, the congregants are there of their own free will.

    3. DL,

      The man that believes a woman deserves to be raped based on her clothing, (and will acquit any man who has committed this crime if he is on the jury), started a church, that has been led by one who has no moral compass or understanding of the God’s standards. After 40 years, he has shown the community his true face, and one of the the standards he judges women by. Instead of preaching about modesty from a Biblical perspective, and trying to protect those without proper leadership in their lives.

      “I say show him a little grace and compassion. Enough of the cancel culture.” ? Really? Cancel culture is based on rumors, without a trial, or proof. He cancelled himself.

      1. Rob, allow me to suggest that the underlying problem could be better described as criminal perversion rather than sexual morality. Mr. Leonard wrongly assumes, as many do, that sexual assault is about satisfying sexual desire. Instead, rapists are often motivated by hatred of women and thus seek to humiliate and injure victims in the worst possible way. Assailants mentally associate erotic arousal with violence and find pleasure in dominating their targets.

        A sixteen-year-old’s attacks on children who were six and seven years of age, as the linked article details, are not the result of adolescent hormones gone wild. He is criminally perverse. Hence the issue is far deeper than the “hurt and offense” for which the pastor apologized; it’s a misunderstanding of the twisted psychology behind rape.

    4. I agree Daniel Lee.

      At least he shows enough humility and care to take action and speak a public apology.

      And he is not a public figure, just a one church pastor.

      Shows more character and integrity than the SBC and leaders such as Dr Albert Mohler of SBTS who still eulogise Paul Pressler and can’t believe he is a sexual predator.

      Instead they hypocritically double down and covertly spend $ millions on an Amicus Brief to block action on historical CSA and deny a voice to victims.

      Leaving no $$ funds at the SBC for an offender register etc…

    5. a guy who’s willing to excuse rape and blame it on women wearing shorts should not be in leadership anywhere, let alone spiritual leadership. Grace and compassion do not negate that fact. His age or tenure do not negate that fact. There can be grace in how they walk him out, and recognize his years of service, but seriously, men who think rape is EVER justified have no business being in charge of any people ever. This isn’t “cancel culture”, it’s accountability. If you believe dangerous things, you don’t get to be in charge of people because you’re dangerous.

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

    I’m not sure that’s actually the Bible’s position on rape…

  9. This man is a Pastor of a church?
    He should be fired ASAP, no pension either.
    What he said was pure EVIL.
    He is only sorry because his evilness came out in his words.
    Listen intently to was this evil man said.
    Fire him now.
    Thank you

  10. Another vip thing for everyone to understand about what this man said is this,
    “ What he said was sinful and according to Hashems Word, there are consequences to our sin.”
    I don’t want to hear more of,”mistakes were made and we must forgive,”
    This man must suffer the consequences of his sin or he will never learn.
    Read Hashems word on Sowing and Reaping.
    Thank you again Roy’s Report!
    Fred Shaw

    1. There are consequences and scars from sin.
      What about King David’s adultery and murder of the husband.
      King David suffered for what he did and although Father forgave him, the consequences of his sin followed him for a long time.
      Perhaps this so called Pastor should study what James has to say about an uncontrolled mouth.
      This Pastor sounds like a bully and uses the pulpit to push his bulliness on others.
      Wolves in Sheep’s clothing Yeshua sez.
      Thank you

  11. The “pastor” apologized only because he was caught. He said what he said because he believes it. He said so. Also, his church has a history of sexual abuse and coverup which seems to go hand in hand with those types of belief.

  12. What this person said from the pulpit was a complete statement. Period. That alone should have emptied the room and voided his career immediately. Apology does not equal new mindset, repentance or the fact he spoke these disgusting beliefs of his heart from a place of power. Spiritual abuse at its finest.

  13. Leonard stated in the letter. “I am only beginning to understand the hurt and offense caused…”
    Sorry, pal, at your age you’re “only beginning to understand…” Where have you been the last 60 years! You have no place in the pulpit – period!

  14. This evil which became widely exposed, is typical of what goes on in these ” independant fundamental baptist churches “. This pastor was not doing anything different than what the usual pastor of that particular denonmination.
    There are many similar abusive things that regularly go on. I,m glad this singular event has been made widely known.
    I had to flee such a ” church ” 38 years ago.

Leave a Reply

The Roys Report seeks to foster thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Toward that end, the site requires that people register before they begin commenting. This means no anonymous comments will be allowed. Also, any comments with profanity, name-calling, and/or a nasty tone will be deleted.
 
MOST RECENT Articles
MOST popular articles
en_USEnglish

Donate

Hi. We see this is the third article this month you’ve found worth reading. Great! Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation to help our journalists continue to report the truth and restore the church?

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Hurt and Healed by the Church” by Ryan George.