Bishop Eddie Long settles with accusers
Bishop Eddie Long is the senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Georgia.
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
Accuser's message for Bishop Long
Eddie Long responds to allegations

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Celebrity • Christianity • Church • Pastors

soundoff (856 Responses)
  1. Jim

    Seems to me that this pedophile preacher and the rapture preacher should ride off into the sunset together and never be heard from again.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  2. rcode

    I'm shocked! He told the world he hadn't done anything wrong. How could this be possible, his "settling" out of court?
    Just another POS "preacher".

    May 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  3. Chuck Steak

    Thou shalt not put thy Rod in thy Staff!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  4. CJ

    It worked for Michael Jackson, it will work for Eddie Long.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Jomm

      People settle for different reason. Settlements Does NOT always mean guilt. YOu have to look at each situation. MJ was purly innocent and Johnny C told him to settle and MJ always said this was a lie and even two grand jury throw the 1993 case case. IN the case of this Pastor, he NEVER gave anything to show his innocent and he admitted he was NOT perfect which implies something may have happen.

      May 27, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  5. Conrad

    He's gay

    May 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  6. Nathan

    With all his muscles, those stones must be awfully heavy because he has not thrown one stone yet. On the other hand we was successful at what he say is calling is; he told people he had a special calling to reach men. Yes sir, and four men you reached proved that "Bishop".

    May 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Q

      Reached? Or Reached-around...LMAO

      May 27, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  7. toto

    Just put these churches and the Scientology illegal worldwide by UN resolution

    May 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  8. unowhoitsme

    Karma sucks!!! My wife was a secret "Christian" child molester...she was killed in a car accident.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  9. Rin Ponneth

    Another pedo with $ gets away with it. Big shock.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  10. Rico53

    Only the guilty settle out of court to avoid the truth in court.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  11. Anthony

    I find that people who usually speak the loudest against the weaknesses of the flesh often have issues in those areas. I seen it again and again whether you are talking about Jimmy Swaggert or Eddie Long. It is often better to live in humility and talk about the challenges of dealing with our own internal struggles rather than anointing ourselves as the expert only to be exposed later on.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • WoManTic

      True that! That would be a more biblically (sp?)-correct ministry...teaching on how one overcomes their fleshly challenges! The saying about the "emptiest wagons make the most noise" comes into play here! The voices on the inside are VERY LOUD and has a tendency to want to shout! That's my free tip for today! If you're guilty of something, just be quiet and go sit in the corner!!

      May 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Okefenokee

    And who in the world he think he is fooling? His tight pants says it all.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  13. astro24102

    Yea......a man of god! A wolf in sheeps clothing. I feel sorry for all of his congregation that follow him aimlessly believing in every thing that comes off of his tongue. Boy, I wish we have a few hundred more "Billy Grahams". He is a true man of God.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  14. Tim Cox

    I'm praying for your poor lost ignorant souls!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • David, CA

      That's nice. Why feel the need to announce it? Desperate to feel superior?

      May 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  15. Ed

    Well sounds like GUILTY to me! Fake farce looser. Who wants to listen to this lieing sack of bull crap now. All he is is about power and money. Goes to show you religion is a farce. Preachers are the biggest scammers around. What other leach society is there that you don't have to pay taxes. Down with religion!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  16. tina

    Bishop Eddie Long, New Birth and the entire congregation are a joke. Everyone knows this man is guilty AND gay. Dont have problem with the gay part. Do have a problem with the predatory profile part. Keep throwing that mney up on the stage. He gonna need it to pay off the next group of boys that come through.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  17. James

    He has visible droplets of oil hanging off his hair.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  18. Guedde

    I smell somebody who's guilty paying off and then pretending to be not-guilty. His suckers, er uhm, his congregation will buy it hook, line and sinker.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  19. guest

    John 2:13-16"The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"

    May 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Former Georgian

      Does that include the $100K in black pearls that were in his safe?

      May 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • question

      Black pearls huh? Keeps his balls in a safe?

      May 26, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  20. funny lady

    If I'm not guilty and I have nothing to hide, I am not paying you a dime. These fake men of the cloth are the downfall of African Americans, especially the women. Stop listening to these men who will do anything to make a dollar. He paid up to make them shut up. Prophet, pffftttt.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
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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.