By John Blake, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) - Bishop Eddie Long, the Atlanta-based megachurch leader, has reached an out-of-court settlement with four young men who accused him of sexual coercion, representatives for both sides said Thursday.
B.J. Bernstein, the attorney representing the men, said in a statement that the lawsuits against Long and his church have “been resolved.”
Bernstein's two-paragraph statement said that neither she nor the accusers would talk about the lawsuits “now or in the future.”
Art Franklin, a Long spokesman, said Thursday that the pastor settled because it “is the most reasonable road for everyone to travel.”
“This decision was made to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry,” Franklin said in a statement.
Long is an internationally known televangelist who crusaded against gay marriage, and the lawsuits against him drew national attention.
The settlement comes eight months after Long, the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Georgia, said from the pulpit of his 25,000 member megachurch that he vowed to fight the accusations against him, with the congregation cheering in response.
Long entered into mediation talks in February. According to news reports, the sessions between Long and his four accusers - Anthony Flagg, Maurice Robinson, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande - were tense.
The suits accused Long of using his position to coerce the men into having sexual relationships with him while they were teenage members of his congregation.
The lawsuits say Long engaged in intimate sexual acts with the young men, such as massages, masturbation and oral sex.
Long took the young men on trips including to Kenya, according to the suits. He allegedly enticed the young men with gifts including cars, clothes, jewelry and electronic items.
Long's attorneys deny those allegations and maintain that the pastor was attempting to be a father figure to the youths by providing them with financial assistance and encouragement.
Though no trial will now take place, Long may face the judgment of his congregation and fans worldwide.
Shayne Lee, a sociology professor at Tulane University in Louisiana and an authority on televangelists, said Long’s out of court settlement may erode some of his support.
“When you settle outside of court, it implies that there’s some guilt involved,” said Lee, author of "Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace."
“To the average congregation in the black church, those are some very serious charges,” Lee said, referring to the men’s charges against Long. “You can’t settle outside of court. You have to fight and roll up your sleeves, be defiant and fight it.”
Since the scandal had erupted, attendance at Long’s church had fallen, and New Birth officials have announced plans to lay off staff and cut Long’s salary.
But Lee said it would be premature to think that Long will retreat from the pulpit.
“He can say ‘I still have my anointing and I still have my ministry,’ ’’ Lee said. “He can say that God is working out the weeds so that the tree has a stronger foundation.”
The four men’s accusations stunned many of Long’s followers. A married man, Long had often preached about the sanctity of marriage. He once led a march against gay marriage.
Long had also cultivated a public image that was built on his machismo. He wore tight muscle shirts in the pulpit. He wrote books that compared Christian men to spiritual gladiators. He told people he had a special calling to reach men.
One Atlanta pastor predicted Long will survive the scandal because his core audience will forgive him.
“Black folks have very short memories,” said the Rev. Tim McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “We are the most forgiving people on the planet."
McDonald, who said he has talked privately with Long since the scandal erupted, said Long “went into a shell” after the accusations against him went public.
Before the scandal erupted, Long would often publicly criticize other black pastors, and once said they “major in storefront buildings,” suggesting that they lacked the business acumen to build a megachurch like he had.
But Long had shown a different public face lately, McDonald said. His entourage wasn’t as big; he was more visible in the community.
“I found him opening up,” McDonald said. “If he can pick that back up and humble himself and stop saying things like, ‘I ain’t just another chicken-eating preacher,’ he’ll survive.”
Lee, the Tulane sociologist, said Long will remain in the pulpit for another reason.
“This is what he knows,” Lee said. “He’s not going to be able to sell insurance or cars. He’s cocky. He’s confident. He believes in redemption.”
Videos from 2010:
Bishop Long's sex case mediation
Accuser's message for Bishop Long
Eddie Long responds to allegations
always hiding behind "GOD". When will people wake up and stop worshiping these sick perverted "religious" mortals, who take all their cash, abuse their children and preach one thing, but do the opposite.
Those boys are sad, they probably took money instead of justice
Justice don't pay the bills nor put your kids through college. Most would have done the same.
Will the black community blindly defend him like they did OJ? Racial discrimination...its the cops that are guilty. What an embarrassing display in front of the nation
Translation: The young men got paid off big time-thats why the congregation is lowering Lon's salary
"Only God can judge Bishop Long" for what ever he's done or not done. So take off that judging robe because the last heard God didn't need any of our help. We've all come short of God's glory daily! Bishop has to deal with this issue or no issue with God ONLY! Stay encourage Bishop Long and may God bless you and your family. God's going to turn this mess around to a message! Stay Strong my Brother in Christ!
only God can judge is true, but that still does not give a person especially a Pastor free reign to do what they want. there are 5 humans who really know the truth and since those 5 well not talk about it in open court people are left to draw there own conclusions.
You are so off based, until its a shame. "Only God can judge Eddie Long" indeed. The scripture is very plain in how people like this should be dealt with. There is nothing in the scripture that tells us to turn the other way and put up with false preachers and leaders in the church. This man ought to be put out plain and simple.Even if Eddie Long was innocent, the Bible still says to shun the very appearance of evil. So while he was taking picture of himself and strutting his stuff in pride an arrogance, he is STILL WRONG.
How is he a man of Christ? You mean a childmolestor of this world. Yall so called christians always trying to defend wrong when it comes to those pimps in the pulpit.
Umm, actually Christians are to judge or have you not read? It says that '...or do you not know that the saints will judge the angels and the world..."
You are an enabler. You give Eddie long the strength and ability to do this again. Will you be so supportive, when they catch him sucking duck in that bedroom in the back of the church again?
If you are innocent you never settle out of court.. Bishop Long did not want this in court because he knew he would be totally exposed for who he really is... Now, does the IRS allow settlements like this to come from tax free money ? And, how does his congregation feel to know their money is being used as hush money for the Bishop's gay lifestyle ? The guy is obviously gay, which I'm ok with, but you can't go talking hate on gays while you are gay yourself.. Time for Long to step down !
What about criminal charges? Those boys were underage when some of this occured. This slime ball belongs in jail.
The boys opted for money over legal action and likely had to agree to not testify against Long in a court of law to get their paychecks. Greed prevails on both sides.
I don't know what to think...
I know that I would never make any kind of payment if I was accused of something as bad as that.. no matter what, unless I had actually done it. On the other hand.. Had something like this "really" happened to me as a young man or child, I would NEED justice. Not money. If the guy didn't go to jail forever for doing this to me, I would be able to settle for nothing less than blood. So, it's hard for me to belive him, and it's hard for me to believe his accusers...
How does any amount of money make you feel better about having THAT taken away from you.... forever? They can never get that back if what they are alleging is true.
Why would you pay someone who accuses you, publicly, of something so grotesque?
@Robert: I hear what you're saying. And I agree that it's near impossible to absolutely convict either side as being in the wrong without knowing the facts. But I must say 5 young accusers to 1 bishop certainly makes it look bad for Long.
As for why settle... I think it's reasonable to say some people would want to just put it behind them and not have to think about it anymore. This would be true for someone who was abused and would really not want to relive the abuse in a lengthy trial which puts something intensely personal up for the world to pick apart. I cannot imagine the horror of a ra-pe victim being attacked by defense lawyers on each and every detail of her as-sault.
On an innocent defender's side of it, settling would also mean putting it behind them. And not having lies about you told to the whole world. A case involving se-xual acts will always color the public's perception, who may feel inclined to believe that you are guilty, not on the actual evidence, but just because of the "abnormal" or sensational nature of those acts. Sometimes settlement is the better option for all involved.
In Long's case, he did vow to fight the charges, which tells me he was ready to take on the challeges of the defender (or at least wanted it to appear that he did.) But then refused to go on with the trial. That could mean his lawyers convinced him, or he reweighed the situation, or he simply never meant to go thru with it at all. I certainly have susp-icions about him.
Sooo true! Litigation is certainly not the easy way out; a question of integrity and "morality" has been asked! I, too, have little respect for all parties. Although the accusations are disturbing, it is even MORE disturbing that the masses have a sheeple mentality! People should be following God, AND not these so-called preachers! Pastors are supposed to be servants. And if Long loves and serves his church folx, he should have considered them over what was expedient for him by fighting back. I see no examples in the Bible where folx just settled!
I tend to agree with Nurse Lisa. If the accusation was valid it couldn't have waited all this long to come out to expose the Bishop. Carefully analysis need to be made.
to prove he is innocent in a court of law what does that tell you ask the catholic church...
I thought the "bishop" said he had 5 stones and he did not through any as yet. Guess those stones may have been millions of dollars and he decided to through all he had amassed from his "ministry" and settle. Funny how these false prophets are exposed for who they truly are.
Wow! It is not just the Catholic Church that molests underaged boys? I am shocked!...
Fact is: the media only blows up such stories when large lawsuits (i.e. lots of money) are involved. This despite that portestant churches have the same rate of abuse scandals as the Catholic Church, and both of them have less than half the rate as the average society does. Singling out scandals limited to large lawsuits at the expense of staying quiet about the much larger problem of this disgusting sickness within our society is downright harmful. It takes away the attention from the root cause of the problem by trying to find a handful of scapegoats while letting this disease continue untreated in the rest of society!
But of course, CNN only cares about large lawsuits. Because apparently the only things worthwhile to pay attention to are the crimes/blights of rich people. Screw the rest of us!
Where there are kids, there are pedo's.
Those who bark the loudest against the gay life style are usually in the closet. In Iowa we have Bob Vander Plaats. He hates gay people. He goes around Iowa spewing hate/religeous bigotry. I'd be willing to bet he's in the closet.
I am happy both parties could reach an agreement. Verily they have their reward.
There was once a joke about a woman that was asked: "Would you, for a million dollars?"
The woman replied, that she would.
The woman was then asked, "Would you for twenty dollars?"
To which the woman replied: "What do you think I am?"
The asker informed her, that what she was had been established. Now they were haggling over the price.
You have been pressed on every side ,you know there is nothing as dangerous as somebody who is makeing a come back,Glory!!! You better preach Man of God!!!!
or someone who can't spell the word making
And Jesus wept.
Jesus wept because there are people like this professing to be his voice on the planet.
Really? OK, so he settled. He Paid money (the churches, no-less) to keep this out of the court. I could have swore he said, and I quote, "But this, I'm gonna fight". Nice fight there Reverend Do Wrong. Way to battle those malicious attacks against you and your congregation. I'm sure his wife is SOOOOO proud of him! What a joke. THe worst part: His congregation will do nothing but amen him on Sunday and tell him he did the right thing, instead of doing the right thing and getting him out of the pulpit.....
He'll get his....one day. They paid up? HE DID IT... PERIOD.
He who is without sin cast the first stone. Justice will be serve one way or the other. Every Judas hang themselves eventually...
i agree but when a grown man takes advantage of youngboys and is not willing to prove it in acourt of law what does that tell you
When I sin, I do it in a manner where I am not standing in front of my congregation and telling them how to live a righteous life. Do as I say, not as I do comes to mind. You should make a contribution to the cause and help him pay the settlement...
There's a limit to the level of hypocrisy and crime one can commit before a stoning needs to take place. Mr. Long craossed that line and then sprinted.
"Since the scandal had erupted, attendance at Long’s church had fallen, and New Birth officials have announced plans to lay off staff and cut Long’s salary."
Best news ever. Please, congregants, be wise, be prudent. Shun this so-called "Bishop" and other charlatans like him.
Funny, he crusaded agains gays but then turns around and commits a sin that is also mentioned in that very same paragraph, typical religiouse person. So glad I left behind all religions and faiths, life is so much easier since I have come to understand that there is no such thing as sin. I am much more excepting of peoples actions, and more understanding of why people do what they do. Religion does NOT bring understanding or forgiveness, it only bringes ignorance and hate. I wish I could live long enough to see religion and faith truly die.
Well said Brad! Thats why people dont attend church anymore because of people like Mr. Long and all other hypocrites who talk God but walk Satan.
I'm with you Brad!!
If the Bishop is really that way, he will be back to other boys bottoms sooner than later.
Just because a tree grows apples doesn't make it an apple tree. It grows apples because it IS an apple tree (by nature). Eddie should have been a Catholic priest.
eddie long is a dirty low down fake and i'm hoping his congregation will do the right thing and remove him from leadership
I like V@gina and I'm a girl.
That sounds highly unlikely.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.