Georgia Megachurch Pastor Eddie Long made headlines across the national news landscape in the last week after four young men came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the self-proclaimed bishop. The young men, who are former members of Long’s 25,000 member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia Georgia, proclaim that the pastor wooed them with gifts and trips in exchange for sexual favors.
CNN, which has provided extensive coverage of the story, recounts the lawsuit’s most damning allegations:
“Defendant Long has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using his authority as Bishop over them to ultimately bring them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship,” the suits allege.
The pastor took one plaintiff, Anthony Flagg, 21, on overnight trips to a half-dozen American cities in recent years, Flagg’s suit alleges.
“Long shared a bedroom and engaged in intimate sexual contact with plaintiff Flagg ...” the suit says.
Long took the other plaintiff, Maurice Murray Robinson, 20, to Auckland, New Zealand, in October 2008 for his 18th birthday and engaged in oral sex with him, Robinson’s suit alleges.
“Following the New Zealand Trip, Defendant Long regularly engaged in sexual touching, and other sexual acts with Plaintiff Robinson,” Robinson’s suit alleges.
Long spokesman Art Franklin said Tuesday that “we categorically deny the allegations.”
“It is very unfortunate that someone has taken this course of action,” he said. “Our law firm will be able to respond once attorneys have had an opportunity to review the lawsuit.”
Long, who said in a Sunday sermon to his congregation that he will "fight" the charges, has has a history of anti-gay speech, and was deemed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the most virulently homophobic Black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.
In his 1997 book I Don't Want Delilah, I Need You! Long writes: "It is the most unattractive thing I have ever seen, when I see women wearing uniforms that men would wear, and women fighting to get in the military!" Long shouted to his congregation then. "The woman gets perverted to turn towards woman … and everybody knows it's dangerous to enter an exit! And everybody knows, lady, if you go to the store and buy these devices [marital aids], it's Memorex! It ain't real!"
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that in 2004: Long held a torch, lit from the tomb of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and led thousands on a downtown Atlanta march in support of a constitutional amendment opposing same-sex marriages. With him was Bernice King, the slain civil rights leader’s daughter.
For some civil rights figures, the march was about as welcome as rebel flag hoisted over King’s church, Ebenezer Baptist.
“If Dr. King were here today, he wouldn’t participate in this march,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat and a longtime civil rights activist, said at the time. “During the civil rights movement, we were trying to take discrimination out of the Constitution.”
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, opposed the march, too.
National and local media have for the most part covered this story with fairness and accuracy, except for a few problematic headlines and terminology missteps. We continue to contact any news outlets that require our guidance and will stay with the story as it evoloves to ensure the coverage stays on track.