Sunday, September 26, 2010
Bishop Eddie Long, senior pastor of Atlanta’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, spoke in front his congregation Sunday for the first time since he was accused of sexual exploitation in law suits filed against him several days ago. During his sermon, he vowed to fight allegations from four male members of his church, who claim that Bishop Long coerced them into sexual relationships by bribing them with cars, clothing, electronics, jewelry, money, and trips.
“I’ve been accused, I’m under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, that I am not a perfect man. But this thing, I’m going to fight,” said Bishop Long. He went on to say, “And I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”
To go along with his denial of the sexual exploitation allegations, Bishop Long asked for worshipers to pray for him and vowed not let to the case be tried in the media. The plaintiffs in the case, Maurice Robinson, 20, Anthony Flagg, 21, Jamal Parris, 23 – as well as a fourth man, from a satellite church in Charlotte, North Carolina, who stepped forward on Friday – are seeking unspecified damages (read money). They are popping up faster than Tiger Woods' accusers.
Two of the young men claim they were members of the church's LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that mentored young men, when Bishop Long gave them gifts and took them on trips to seduce them. The lawsuits claim the pastor abused his “spiritual authority.” But federal and state authorities have said they will not investigate the allegations because all four men said they were 17 or 18 years old when the relationships with the bishop began. Georgia's age of consent is 16 years old.
Over the past 20 years, Bishop Eddie Long became one of the most powerful church leaders in the U.S. He led the church as it grew from a congregation of 150 to a 25,000-member powerhouse with a $50 million building and a membership that includes athletes, entertainers and politicians. One of his pastors is Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bishop Long told the congregation that his lawyers had advised him not to “try this case in the media.”I like to give the benefit of the doubt, but I have a problem when you don't flatly deny such allegations. The very first thing out of my mouth would be that this is a flat out lie.