Pastor apologizes for saying he wouldn't convict rapist if woman was wearing shorts

Pastor Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe, N.C.
Pastor Bobby Leonard of Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe, N.C. | Screenshot/Instagram/badsermons

Pastor Bobby Leonard, the longtime leader of Bible Baptist Tabernacle in Monroe, North Carolina, has apologized after a clip of a sermon in which he said he wouldn't convict a man for raping a woman who was wearing shorts went viral, sparking a local protest and triggering widespread backlash online.

“I am sorry for any hurt, I was wrong,” a message on Bible Baptist Tabernacle’s marquee sign along with the pastor’s name said on Thursday, according to a WBT video.

Calls by The Christian Post to the church seeking further comment on Friday went unanswered and the church disabled all of their social media profiles.

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The clip of Leonard’s sermon, which was reportedly recorded in August 2023, was first shared by Bad Sermons on Instagram, but it went viral after it was shared by The Roys Report founder Julie Roys.

“Yes, a man is a man--not an animal. And HE is responsible for controlling himself. This pastor needs to resign,” Roys wrote in a post on X, reacting to Leonard’s suggestion that if a man was charged with raping a woman while she was wearing shorts and he sat on the jury, he would vote to let the man go free.

In the extended version of the clip shared by Bad Sermons, Leonard, who is an 85-year-old great-grandfather, recalled how he lamented to his wife about how women like to dress in a vacation area of eastern Tennessee known as Pigeon Forge. The area is the home of Dollywood, country singer Dolly Parton’s Appalachian-themed park.

“This is the kind of preaching we need. I told my wife, I said, mama … when we go to Pigeon Forge to the outlet malls … you'll find more women gonna have shorts on than you will have pants and dresses put together,” he lamented.


He then explained that he decided to do a quick self-study of the mall at one point where he counted the number of women wearing shorts while in a parking lot in the area.

“I wanted to see if that's right. And I counted. Try that. You find more women going to those places with shorts than you will women with pants and dresses put together. Try it. If you got time, try it,” he recommended to his congregants before making his rape comment.

“You know I used to say this. I haven't said this [in a] long time, you ready? I said if you dress like [this] and you get raped and I'm on the jury, he's gonna go free.”

The reactions to Leonard’s comments were swift. Jason King, a Monroe resident, formed a protest outside the church during their Wednesday service, WBTV reported, and called for Leonard to be held accountable.

“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 Facebook Live recording of his protest. ”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.”

According to the church’s website, Leonard founded the ministry more than 40 years ago it produced many missionaries and pastors.

“He never dreamed that years later many missionaries and pastors would be called and sent from this ministry that the Lord used him to start in a town that was then known as ‘a preacher's graveyard.’ By much prayer and much labor under the anointing of the Spirit of God, it has been all but that. He has seen hundreds of people saved around the altars of Tabernacle and has had the joy of seeing many of them go on to spiritual maturity,” the church said.

For more than 30 years beginning in the 1920s, women wearing shorts in public spaces was a controversial issue, Fast Company reported.

It wasn’t until about 1955, according to Esquire, that it became acceptable for men and women to “wear shorts for sports and informal business anywhere the weather’s hot.”

For Leonard, however, his standards have not changed.

“When I was a boy, 85 years ago, 80 years ago … I don't remember women wearing anything but dresses back then,” he said.

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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