27 Dec 2010

Third lawsuit alleging sexual exploitation of teen boys filed against prominent anti-gay Baptist pastor

Southern Poverty Law Center - September 22, 2010

Homophobic Megachurch Pastor Accused of Exploiting Teenage Boys

By Robert Steinback


If the allegations in two lawsuits filed Tuesday in Georgia’s DeKalb County are true, staunchly anti-gay megachurch leader Bishop Eddie L. Long told two teenage boys that, according to Holy Scripture, it was cool for them to have sex with him.



Maurice Robinson, 20, and Anthony Flagg, 21, have accused Long, the leader of the Atlanta-area New Birth Missionary Baptist Church – one of the largest churches in the nation – of misusing his mentoring role of “pastor, counselor and bishop” to coerce them into sexual acts when they were teens. Their lawsuits allege that Long gave them gifts of cars, clothes, jewelry, electronics, college tuition and overnight trips to places including New York, Las Vegas, Dallas, the Caribbean and New Zealand – and that Long would share bedrooms with them in luxury hotels. Long allegedly would “sleep in the same bed” as Flagg while the teenager was living at the church (Robinson complaint , Flagg complaint ).

The lawsuits describe Long as engaging in various sex acts with Flagg and Robinson.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution [see below] today reported the filing of a third sexual exploitation lawsuit against Long. Jamal Parris, 23, another former member of New Birth, similarly accuses Long of using his leverage as a mentor and spiritual leader to compel the plaintiff into a sexual relationship. Parris, who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., joined New Birth at age 14 with his mother in 2001, and worked as summer camp counselor at the church, the newspaper reported.

Long’s attorney said the pastor “adamantly denies” all the allegations, telling Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We find it unfortunate that these two young men have taken these actions. We are reviewing the complaint and will respond accordingly.”

The allegations are particularly stinging to a charismatic African-American pastor identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007 as “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement” and who, along with other prominent clerics including Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C., embodies black religious resistance to gay rights progress. In a videotaped sermon described in an SPLC profile, Long declared, “The problem today, and the reason society is like it is, is because men are being feminized and women are being masculine! You cannot say, ‘I was born this way.’ … I don’t care what scientists say!”

Robinson and Flagg were enrolled in a tuition-based, New Birth ministry for boys 13 to 18 years old. The ministry, called the Longfellows Youth Academy, intended “to train young men to love, live and lead as they proceed on their ‘masculine journey,’ ” according to the lawsuits. The church’s website was down Wednesday afternoon.

The complaints allege that “Long has utilized his spiritual authority as Bishop and leader of Defendants’ ministries to coerce certain young male members and employees of Defendant New Birth … into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification.” Further, it alleges that “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.”

“Defendant Long, through manipulation, coercion, deception and fraud resulting from the abuse of his confidential relationship with Plaintiff Robinson, convinced him that engaging in a sexual relationship was a healthy component of his spiritual life,” one of the lawsuits says.

The lawsuits are civil actions accusing Long, the church and church officials, among other things, of intentionally inflicting emotional distress, negligence, failure to intervene to protect the defendants from the sexual conduct, and fraud – for “representing that the Longfellows Youth Academy was a benevolent enterprise designed to foster the spiritual growth of young men.”

The question of criminal rape does not apply because the boys were older than Georgia’s age of consent, which is 16. However, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Brenda Joy Bernstein, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some of the acts which occurred in other states could be considered criminal, which is why she has contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office. That agency will not comment on investigations as a matter of policy.

Of particular note is that the lawsuits identify by name two people working for New Baptist and the Longfellows Academy who, among others at the church, “knew of Defendant Long’s sexually inappropriate conduct and did nothing to warn or protect Plaintiff Robinson” and Flagg. That implies more than just an allegedly exploitative pastor – it describes a conspiracy to protect him.

Long took over a church of 300 parishioners in 1987 and turned it into a megachurch claiming 25,000 members. It is situated on a 240-acre campus in Livonia, Ga., about 18 miles outside Atlanta.

This article was found at:

http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2010/09/22/homophobic-megachurch-pastor-accused-of-exploiting-teenage-boys/?ondntsrc=MBQ100970HTW&newsletter=HW092310

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - September 23, 2010

Bishop Eddie Long | Radio interview, press conference canceled in wake of 3rd lawsuit

By Megan Matteucci and Christian Boone


Mega-church leader Bishop Eddie Long has canceled a previously announced appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show Thursday after a third man filed a lawsuit accusing the prominent minister of using his pastoral influence to coerce him into a sexual relationship. In addition, Long's attorneys canceled plans for a press conference to address the growing scandal.

The syndicated radio show, heard locally on Kiss 104.1, had issued a press release saying the leader of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church would discuss the allegations on-air. However, the show's Roland Martin, who was scheduled to interview Long., said on his Twitter account early Thursday that "the lawyers have made the decision that due to the third lawsuit that Bishop not to do interviews tomorrow."

Craig Gillen, an attorney for Long, was interviewed on the radio program instead. Gillen said there was "miscommunication" about a press conference today, and that there would not be one . On Wednesday a Long representative issued a release to media members that a press conference would be held Thursday.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday by Jamal Parris, 23, a former member of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, claims Long made Parrish call him “Daddy” and coerced him into sexual acts.

The suit, similar to two filed on Tuesday, accuses Long of using his power to force the plaintiff into a sexual relationship. In exchange, Long placed Parris and the two other men on the church’s payroll, bought them cars and other gifts, and took them on lavish trips, according to the suits filed in DeKalb County Superior Court.

Long adamantly denies the allegations.

Stephen M. Brown, senior vice president of media strategy at MS & L’s Atlanta office, questioned the time it’s taken Long to make a personal statement about the allegations.

“Something definitive needs to be said, for sure,” he said. “I think he needs to explain what the relationship was between himself and the people making these allegations and detail any misunderstandings."

Parris' allegations are similar to claims made by Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Robinson, 20, who filed suits Tuesday.

Robinson and Flagg say Long began having inappropriate relations with them when they were 16. They are seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages.

“It is unfortunate that these young men have chosen to take this course of action,” Long's attorney, Craig Gillen, told the AJC Tuesday night.

Parris and his mother joined the church in 2001 when he was 14.

Within two weeks, Long gave Parris his personal cell phone number, the suit alleges.

Their relationship intensified during the 2004-05 school year, with Long often inviting Parris to his guesthouse on Snapfinger Road.

"Initially, Long engaged in sexual touching during their encounters and then escalated the activity to oral sodomy and other acts of sexual gratification," the suit reads. "Long would discuss the Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity."

Parris claims he left the church in 2009 "disillusioned, confused and angry."

Attorney B.J. Bernstein, who is representing the three plaintiffs, has said they do not want to comment. Phone calls left with them and their relatives were not returned.

Meanwhile, gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes has canceled a Friday morning fundraiser that Long was to co-host.

"While these allegations are troubling, we will refrain from commenting until all the facts are known,” Barnes spokesman Emil Runge said in a prepared statement.

Bernstein claims Long abused his pastoral relationship with the men and convinced them that the sexual relationships were a “healthy component of [their] spiritual lives.”

Parris’ suit claims that Long took him on trips on his private jet as far away as Trinidad and Honduras.

On some of the trips with Robinson and Flagg, Long would use the alias “Dick Tracy” when he checked into hotels. According to online service Accurint, a Dick Tracey Long lives in Lithonia at the same address as Eddie L. Long.

The three suits each allege 11 counts, including fraud and negligence, against Long, the 25,000-member church and the Longfellows Youth Academy.

The three plaintiffs were each members of the academy, which is aimed at helping men “love, live and lead.”

Two of the men have criminal records, including a recent arrest for a burglary at Long’s office.

In June, Robinson and Anthony Boyd were charged with using a secretary’s key to enter Long’s personal office at the Lithonia church. Robinson and Boyd, who were captured on surveillance cameras, took an iPod, iPad and jewelry, according to a police report.

The case is still pending, said a spokesman for the district attorney.

Bernstein said Robinson and Flagg, who was there the night of the burglary but not charged, were angry at Long and seeking retaliation after learning he was involved with other men.

Court records show Flagg was charged with simple assault in 2007 and sentenced to an anger management class. A warrant was issued after he failed to show up for court, court records show.

After that arrest, Long had Flagg move into a friend's house in Lithonia, the suit alleges. Flagg was still attending Miller Grove High School at the time, but his mother thought the move would be good for him, Bernstein said.

Instead, Long used that time to engage in sex acts with Flagg, the suit alleges.

Despite that, Flagg, and Robinson, both graduated from Miller Grove in 2008. They still live in DeKalb. Parris now lives in Colorado.

The sex acts occurred when the men were 16, which is the legal age of consent in Georgia, Bernstein said. But Bernstein said some of the acts which occurred at hotels in other states could be considered criminal, which is why she contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bernstein said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney said Justice Department policy prohibits him from confirming or denying any possible investigations.

DeKalb school board member Eugene Walker, who has known Long for more than 20 years, said he did not believe the allegations.

“Ever since I have known him, he has reached out and lifted up our young people,” Walker said. “These allegations are absolutely not true. They have accused me of a whole lot of wrong things and they, like this, weren’t true. He’s a great servant and I can’t say anything wrong about him.”

--Staff writers Jeremy Redmon and Shelia Poole contributed to this report

This article was found at:

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/bishop-eddie-long-radio-619062.html

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New York Times - September 21, 2010

Lawsuits Accuse Megachurch Leader of Sexual Misconduct


By ROBBIE BROWN


ATLANTA — Two young men in Georgia said Tuesday that the pastor of a 33,000-person Baptist megachurch, Bishop Eddie L. Long, had repeatedly coerced them into having sex with him.

In two lawsuits filed in DeKalb County, the men said that Bishop Long, a prominent minister and television personality, had used his position as a spiritual counselor to take them on trips out of state and perform sexual acts on them.

Bishop Long is the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, an Atlanta suburb. It is one of the largest churches in the country.

“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,” said a suit filed by one of the men, Maurice Robinson, 20. The other man who filed suit is Anthony Flagg, 21.

Bishop Long’s lawyer, Craig Gillen, rejected the accusations.

“Bishop Long adamantly denies these complaints,” Mr. Gillen said. “We find it unfortunate that these two young men have taken these actions. We are reviewing the complaint and will respond accordingly.”

Bishop Long became the church’s pastor in 1987 and, under his leadership, its congregation grew to more than 25,000 people from 300, according to the church’s Web site.

Lawyers for the two men painted a picture of widespread corruption and sexual misconduct. They said Bishop Long had provided the men with free hotel stays in more than a dozen cities around the country (checking them into rooms under the alias “Dick Tracy”) and had given them gifts, including a Mustang. They said he had introduced them to celebrities like the producer Tyler Perry and the actor Chris Tucker.

A lawyer for the men, Brenda Joy Bernstein, said officials at the church had known that the sexual acts were occurring but covered up for Bishop Long. “They would do everything to protect the most powerful church in the Southeast,” she said.

The young men met Bishop Long, who has a wife and four children, through a church program for teenagers, Ms. Bernstein said. The sexual acts occurred when the men were 17 and 18 years old, the lawsuits said.

“They just wanted to be loved and cared for by one of the most charismatic and powerful men that this church has ever known,” Ms. Bernstein said. “He is destroying lives.”

Bishop Long is an outspoken critic of homosexuality and has been called by the Southern Poverty Law Center “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.” He is the author of a book titled “What A Man Wants, What A Woman Needs: The Secret To Successful, Fulfilling Relationships.”



This article was found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/us/22church.html


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