May 26th, 2011
05:37 PM ET
Bishop Eddie Long settles with accusers
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
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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.
Kudos to all the morons that donated money to this waste of life, allowing him to buy off his prey.
Hope you all feel real good about yourselves.
Black people suffered under the white racists before. Now we are all suffering under the white gays. We must help the white people now. In my opinion, the whites are better when they are racist than gay, though neither is desirable at all.
Sounds like reverse racism to me! You are a racist!
You sound like a racist & a idiot!
Have you lost your mind? What the hell are you talking about? You sound like a complete idiot! Go away...far away!
Whites are better when they are racists than when they are gay?
Wow. You would rather people hate you than be gay and love someone that you do not approve of?
Bernie Madoff can't hold a candle to this fraudsters – my hat is off to him. Bernie is in jail, Eddie is still going strong!
I think God should strike this man down.
Hopefully the HIV is already gnawing on insides!
It puzzles me that people still believe in a magical being in the sky... Religion is a system built to control the weak.. as evident by this man's ensuing redemption.. I honestly dont think its a race think.. people that follow this man (along with ted haggard and other religious super-leaders) are just plain stupid.. I mean, call it what you want, but essentially these people just have a sever lack of intelligence... O well!!
Alex going off of your comment, you seem to be lacking intelligence as well!
Wonder what NOT guilty will cost him...on so many levels.
He's a POS,
“Black folks have very short memories,” said Rev. Tim McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “We are the most forgiving people on the planet.
Im not forgiving that and I don't even go to his church. Its not enough that you're a gay preacher but a hypocite at that. You'll survive forever proving that people who follow religion refuse to face facts
"move forward with the plans God has for this ministry" I guess God's plans now includes hush money... Oh well it worked for the catholic church...
Done...these cheesemonkies always find excuses to come back and preach again.
Carlos you are right...I thought there were going to be rocks thrown and "This was a fight he was going to fight".
Time to go Eddie. But, the community will circle the wagons around him as fast as they can. Except for a few older black folks who, .. not sure how, called this one years ago.
@Mark: Are you saying the younger ones will stick by him but the older folks won't? Just making sure I understand. Do you think maybe they won't stick with him just cuz they think he might be gay more than they care about the se-xual abuse?
By this settlement I take it that he is guilty!! He is probably like so many others and I believe is guilty. He seems to use people and their doations to get rich and get power. That is what is sad. But dumb people give hm all they have. He IS NOT a christian in my opinion.
what a joke this church must be.
He is done. There will be another preacher after him, looking for money. When will all these people learn.
What happened?! I thought he was going to start throwing rocks.
I thought so too. Maybe they were "Rocks of Love Money".
He couldn't get the rocks out of his followers heads.
Someone just got PAID. Way to buy off your accusers good reverend sir. Move along, nothing to see here.
The only people lower than these Alligator Shoe Wearing, Bentley Driving, Self-Appointed Prophets are the People whose Contributions make it all Possible. Keep Paying you Idiots!
Amen, the congregation is just as guilty as he is – and twice as stupid! What foolish black sheep!
The article said nothing about money. Who said anything about them getting paid?
You're new, aren't you?
That's what a settlement is. They pay you money, to keep quiet, and not go to court. They also pay you to not tell how much money they paid you.
What, exactly do you think a "settlement" is? Do you think he took them out to dinner or something? How naive.
out-of-court settlement = $
LMAO @ Kaching..
Most forgiving race? I still here black people today complaining about slavery.
"Hear", not "here".
I would like to celebrate God (you capitalize that right?) seeing the reverend, his body suit and amazing toupee out of a web of lies, for an unstated fee, by thanking Penny Wu for playing the part of grammar police in this forum.
You're dang right I do. And I don't trust Long at all any more. I'm going to always complain about slavery, it was the most evil time of Americas history. And every time I get a chance to play my race card I am.
@John: And those jews too... when are they gonna get over that whole Holocaust thing? Oh and those Americans too, where do they get off still complaining about 9/11? It's all in the past, right?
Hello Rev Tim McDonald!!! Where have you been living sir? Blacks folks don't have short memories, they are still talking about slavery and that happen hundreds of years ago.
what is a SURE sign someone is gay?...... they publicly campaign against it
Does that make God the biggest gay of all?