MEDFORD — The church pastor accused of sexually assaulting four minors over a 16-year period has been suspended from church duties.

The Come Alive Church said in a statement it was "with deep regret and saddened hearts" that its board "suspended Pastor Harry Thomas from all leadership positions with the church festival and all associated ministries."

"While the allegations are unrelated to his roles in these ministries, leadership has determined this to be the proper course of action at this time until there can be a full investigation," the church and's board, and its elders and trustees wrote. "It is requested that all pray for the parties involved and refrain from speculation regarding the circumstances."

Harry L. Thomas
Harry L. Thomas (Burlington County Prosecutor's Office)

Thomas, 74, was charged with assaults that Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said took place between 1999 and 2015. Details of the assaults were not disclosed to protect the identity of the people assaulted.

Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Joel Bewley said police were notified by the parents of one of the victims which triggered the investigation.

Thomas was charged with one first-degree count of aggravated sexual assault, three counts of second-degree sexual assault and four counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of children. He was being held under guard at a Burlington County health facility with a first appearance yet to be scheduled.

Gannett New Jersey, citing other online reports, said Thomas founded the church in 1983, first holding services in a township school building. It also said he launched a rock radio show, the Come Alive Show, in 1973, and organized the Creation Fest, billed as the nation's larges Christian music festival.

And in 2003, he served as an advocate for a Collingswood couple accused of starving four foster children, Gannett reported. The boys, ages 9 to 19, weighed less than 50 pounds when first removed from the home. During a congressional hearing on the case, he reportedly minimized their weight gain after, suggesting they might have been weighed with their shoes on.

Medport Diner owner Dino Originos told 6 ABC she had known "Pastor Harry" for nearly 30 years.

"I've seen him with children, with my children, and there is no way. I can't believe it," Originos said. "He doesn't seem to fit that profile. He is such a nice man and a Godly man and he has grandkids himself."

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