Union Co. pastor faces backlash after blaming rape victims for attire

MONROE, N.C. (WBTV) – A Union County pastor is under fire after a clip of his sermon went viral online, in which he blames rape victims for their attire.

Pastor Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle can be heard saying that he wouldn’t convict a rapist if the victim was wearing shorts.

The clip, which has been viewed millions of times, sparked outrage and condemnation online. Many have called Pastor Leonard’s words “disgusting,” “disgraceful,” and “dangerous.”

In the clip, Leonard talks about how many women wear shorts nowadays rather than dresses or pants.

“If you dress like that and you get raped, and I’m on the jury, he’s going to go free,” Leonard said. Later, he adds, “I’m right, you know, because a man’s a man.”

After Leonard’s comments went viral this week, Jason King, a Monroe resident, formed a protest outside the Church during their Wednesday service. He spoke with WBTV and said that he believes strongly in integrity and accountability.

“We don’t let people stand around in Union County in the pulpits and say something like this. That is wrong,” King said in a livestream of his protest Wednesday. ”You can’t stand there and teach the word of god and claim that you believe it’s ok for people to go around raping people for what they wear.”

Christian Investigative Journalist Julie Roys shared Leonard’s message this week in hopes that it would raise awareness.

“I mean, I just couldn’t believe that any pastor would actually think these things, let alone say them out loud in a sermon,” She said. “There have been so many victims of messages like this. And they’ve seen the danger that it can have in the community. And so I wanted to put it out there to say, ‘hey, this is not you know, 50 years ago, this is now. Pastors are saying this now, and it needs to be confronted.”

In her work with the Roys Report, Roys has worked frequently with whistleblowers in churches across the country and said Leonard’s words were dangerous for multiple reasons. They can make men think they are not responsible for controlling themselves and are ultimately most harmful to women in the congregation.

“They’ve listened to these messages and been taught that they’re to blame if somebody rapes them,” Roys said. “It’s telling the woman it’s her fault. It’s how she dresses, and I just think it needs to be countered.”

Pastor Leonard released the following statement on Friday, Feb. 23: