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
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
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.