- Getty Images / By Frank Mullen
Atlanta-based megachurch pastor Eddie Long has released a statement denying he had coerced young church members into sex, as alleged in three lawsuits filed against him.
“I have been through storms and my faith has always sustained me,” Long, pastor of the 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia said in the statement. “I am anxious to respond directly to these false allegations, and I will do so. However, my lawyers counseled patience at this time.”
“Let me be clear: The charges against me and New Birth are false,” the statement said. “I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply, but my faith is strong and the truth will emerge.”
Long asked for patience “as we continue to categorically deny each and every one of these ugly charges” and requested prayers for himself, his family and the church.
He said he will respond to his congregation from the pulpit on Sunday.
“These false allegations are an attack on Bishop Long personally,” Long’s attorney Craig Gillen said. “They are an attack on New Birth, the entire church and all of its 25,000 good people who attend that church, and it’s an attack on the mentoring program that has helped thousands of young men. It is deeply, deeply unfortunate that these allegations have been made. They will be met.”
Long spokesman Art Franklin said late Wednesday that a press conference featuring Bishop Long at New Birth was canceled because of the third suit against Long, which was filed on Wednesday.
The third lawsuit joined two that were filed on Tuesday, all of them in DeKalb County. It was brought on behalf of Jamal Parris, now 23, who like the others was a teenager when he joined Long’s church.
The suit, which claims Long encouraged Parris to call him “Daddy,” also names the church and Long’s LongFellows Youth Academy as defendants.
Franklin told CNN on Wednesday the suits, which allege Long coerced young male church members into sex, are “a case of retaliation and a shakedown for money by men with some serious credibility issues.”
The new lawsuit gives intimate details about Parris and his alleged relationship with Long.
Parris joined New Birth in 2001, when he was 14. Long counseled Parris when the latter talked about his strained relationship with his father and got him a job as a summer camp counselor at the church, the suit states.
The suit, which like the others was filed by Atlanta attorney B.J. Bernstein, claims Long engaged in sexual acts with Parris. The young man eventually became a church employee and served as personal assistant to Long and traveled with him, the suit says. The pastor continued to engage in sexual activity with Parris and gave him money, trips and gifts, the suit says.
It says Parris left the church in late 2009, “disillusioned, confused and angry about his relationship with Defendant Long.” The bishop manipulated and deceived Parris into thinking that the acts were a “healthy component of his spiritual life,” the suit states.
The allegations are similar to those contained in the Tuesday suits, filed on behalf of Anthony Flagg, now 21, and Maurice Murray Robinson, now 20. All three contend the LongFellows Youth Academy and New Birth knew or should have known of Long’s behavior and that they failed to warn the young men.
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