28 Dec 2010

Fourth lawsuit filed against prominent Baptist pastor for sex abuse of teen boys, says he will fight allegations



CNN - September 24, 2010

Fourth lawsuit filed against Georgia pastor

By the CNN Wire Staff


A fourth lawsuit has been filed against Atlanta-area pastor Eddie Long, alleging he coerced a 17-year-old into a sexual relationship during a 2005 trip the two took to Africa.

The suit -- filed, like the others, in DeKalb County, Georgia, State Court -- claims Long invited Spencer LeGrande, now 22, on a trip to Kenya.

On the first night in Nairobi, Long asked LeGrande to come to his room, where the youth told the pastor he was having difficulty going to sleep, the suit states. Long provided Ambien, a sleep aid, and they both took the drug, according to the suit.

Long then gave LeGrande a hug, kissed and licked the youth's lips and rubbed the teen's chest, according to the lawsuit. They slept in bed together that evening and during the rest of the Kenya trip, the lawsuit states, adding they went on shopping sprees.

In a statement released by his spokesman, Long denied the allegations.

"Our position about the lawsuits has not changed. Bishop Long categorically denies the charges," said spokesman Art Franklin. "We believe that it is unfortunate the young men have chosen to take this course of action. The defense team will review the complaints and respond accordingly at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum."

In a statement issued Thursday, 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. [see article below]

He also spoke during a Friday conference call, saying "we will arise through this situation," an Atlanta TV station said.

Long's church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, also is a defendant in the civil action filed Friday.

The men who brought lawsuits this week claim Long took them on overnight trips to various locations within the United States and beyond, sharing a room and engaging in sexual contact with them, including massaging, masturbation or oral sex.

Friday's action, which does not ask for a specific amount of damages, claims Long manipulated, coerced and deceived LeGrande by convincing him that a sexual relationship was "a healthy component of his spiritual life." It says Long uses church money and other accounts to entice young men with cars, clothing, jewelry and electronics.

According to Friday's court filing, LeGrande and his family in March 2003 joined New Birth-Charlotte in North Carolina, a satellite location of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. LeGrande approached Long after a 2005 sermon at a "Men of War Conference" at the Charlotte location.

LeGrande was moved by Long's message of forgiving fathers who had been absent because his father had not been active in his life, the lawsuit states. Long told the plaintiff, "I got you. I will be your dad."

Long initiated phone calls and LeGrande would see him in Charlotte and Atlanta, the lawsuit states. It said Long took LeGrande on trips to South Africa -- where he met Winnie Mandela -- Zimbabwe and Kenya in 2006, when LeGrande graduated from high school. The pair engaged in "intimate sexual contact" during the trips, the suit alleges.

The pastor encouraged LeGrande to move to Atlanta to attend Beulah Heights University to prepare for the ministry. Long told the young man to have no girlfriends, the suit says, adding Long paid the tuition, bought him a car and gave him cash.

The lawsuit says Long had sexual contact with LeGrande in his private church office in October 2008. LeGrande lived in several residences and eventually began to separate from Long, the suit states.

The two had occasional sexual relations through most of 2009, the suit states.

"In or about the spring of 2009 plaintiff LeGrande began to become disillusioned and confused by defendant Long's actions and began pulling away from defendant Long," the suit states.

LeGrande quit Beulah and moved back to Charlotte, where he currently lives, in October 2009.

New Birth had a duty to warn and protect LeGrande, according to the suit, which claims negligence, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and failure to supervise.

Long made a conference call Friday to pastors and supporters around the country.

"We will arise through this situation, and go forward, and we are moving forward," Long said, according to CNN affiliate WGCL-TV, which monitored the call.

"I have never dealt with anything like this before. I have been under attack before, but everything else has been different levels and different challenges," Long said. He took no questions.

This article was found at:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/09/24/georgia.pastor.lawsuit/index.html

********************************************************************

CNN - September 26, 2010

Televangelist Eddie Long: 'I'm going to fight' sex allegations


By Ashley Fantz | CNN


Lithonia, Georgia (CNN) -- Baptist televangelist Eddie Long said Sunday he will fight allegations that he coerced young male church members into having sex with him.

"I am not the man that has been portrayed on television," he told his congregation.

Speaking publicly about the accusations for the first time, Long did not address the specific allegations contained in four lawsuits filed against him earlier this week.

"I've been accused, I'm under attack," he said, lowering his head and softening his voice behind the pulpit at the New Birth Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta.

"I want you to know, as I said earlier, that I am not a perfect man. But this thing, I'm going to fight," he said. "I feel like David against Goliath, but I've got five rocks and I haven't thrown one yet."

With that, the 57-year-old pastor put down his microphone and walked off stage, receiving deafening applause from the thousands who had come to hear him.

The lawsuits accuse Long of using his power and influence within the 25,000-member church to lure young male church members into sexual relationships. The suits allege that the relationships, which began when the men were in their teens, lasted over many months.

Long took the young men -- all of them teens at the time -- on trips, including to Kenya, according to the suits. Long allegedly paid for their hotel rooms, and gave the young men gifts, including a car, cash and jewelry -- all in exchange for sexual favors such as massaging, masturbation and oral sex.

The accusations were particularly controversial because Long, who is married, has preached passionately against homosexuality over the years.

In 2004, he led a march to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s grave in Atlanta in support of defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. He once declared that his church had created a ministry that "delivered" people from homosexuality. He has a national presence, has been invited to the White House, runs a popular television ministry, and oversees a worship campus that includes a school.

In the parking lot after the 8 a.m. service Sunday, congregants politely declined to comment to reporters. Three parishioners simply said, "Innocent," and ducked into their cars.

On Saturday, New Birth members voiced support. "I stand behind the bishop because of the leader that he is. He is a true leader. The word that he gives is so rich, it is so life-changing," church member Gary Foster Jr. told CNN.

Gabrielle Richards, who has attended New Birth for nearly eight years, said she has seen no evidence that Long is a sexual predator.

A former New Birth employee, Kevin Bond, said he hopes the allegations are not true. "The evidence ... all of that is very troubling to many of us in the gospel community, the Christian community," said Bond.

Long gave 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. sermons on Sunday. They were essentially the same. Eliciting chuckles from the audience, Long began both by joking, "I gotta talk to my family" of worshippers before addressing what other "folk" -- meaning media -- were there to hear.

Both sermons focused on "understanding painful situations."

He quoted Isaiah: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."

Long encouraged congregants to think about natural disasters -- tornadoes and floods. He specifically named Hurricane Katrina and other "painful situations."

"Bishop Eddie Long will have painful situations," he said.

Shouts of affirmation came from the audience.

"We will walk through this painful situation," he continued.

Then, the bishop quoted the 23rd Psalm.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ..."

Worshippers were on their feet.

He urged them to stay committed to being "prayerful," then briefly reminded them that it's nearly election time in Georgia, that it was important to vote and be involved.

He then went back to speaking about himself. "Some people think I'm lost," he said. It is those people, he said, who "will have an opportunity to come down to the altar."

New Birth will continue to worship and thrive, he said.

"We ain't gonna stop it," he said.

More cheers. The camera panned to the pastor's wife Vanessa Long. She smiled.

Each sermon ran approximately 20 minutes.

Between sermons, Long spoke briefly to reporters. "I want this to be dealt in the court of justice and not by public opinion," he said. "I will say that I am going to fight, fight very vigorously against these charges."

CNN's Aaron Cooper, Susan Brown and Don Lemon contributed to this report.


This article was found at:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/09/26/georgia.pastor.sex.charges/index.html


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