By: Jeff Miller Re: Garner Ted Armstrong steps down DALLAS (ITN) * Television evangelist G

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By: Jeff Miller Re: Garner Ted Armstrong steps down DALLAS (ITN) * Television evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong has stepped down as head of his ministry amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a masseuse. Suerae Robertson sued Wednesday in Tyler state court seeking unspecified damages from Armstrong and his church for emotional distress and mental anguish she says she suffered that left her unable to work. Ms. Robertson contends that during two visits last summer, Armstrong made a series of lewd requests, fondled himself, grabbed her and bit her, and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him. At one point, he allegedly told her that "his execution of the Lord's work was so vital that any transgressions on his part would be overlooked by God." Armstrong stepped aside Nov. 11 as head of the Church of God International and his weekly television program, which is carried nationally by cable and about 30 stations, said his administrative assistant Charles Gross. "He felt there would be some impending negative press coverage that he did not want the church to be subjected to," Gross said. No successor was immediately appointed. Ms. Robertson, 48, is a licensed vocational nurse in Tyler, 95 miles east of Dallas. She claims Armstrong, 64, began to visit her home in March for massage therapy after she ran a newspaper ad for her services. She claims Armstrong "insisted that he receive his therapy in complete nudity" and that Ms. Robertson "concentrate her therapy on the area of his groin, lower back, inner thighs and buttocks because of stiffness he purportedly felt from his driving." During a July 4 session, the lawsuit contends, Armstrong said he needed some "relief," grabbed Ms. Robertson's breasts and genitals and tried to bite her breasts. Then he put her in a head lock and tried to force her head toward his genitals, but she broke free and fled the room. The suit contends that similar behavior occured during the next session July 15, which she secretly videotaped at the suggestion of a private investigator. Armstrong said the allegations are "totally false." Armstrong's father, Herbert W. Armstrong, was head of the 80,000-member Worldwide Church of God until his death in 1986. Garner Ted Armstrong was the heir apparent of the Pasadena, Calif.-based church until the two had a falling out in 1978 and the elder Armstrong excommunicated and banished his son. The younger Armstrong has conducted an independent ministry since then based in Flint, about 10 miles south of Tyler.

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