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. Peter

    Could this guy be any creepier? Fools that remain in his congregation. He will go down again, and I do mean go down!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Mister

      His favorite song IS, "Go down Moses!"

      May 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  2. KAinNY

    “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.

    You're kidding, right? Then why do so many cry racism at the drop of a hat and refuse to let the past go? So many see racism where it doesn't even exist. I don't call that forgiving.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • bigboxes

      Wow. Seriously, this dude has pedophile written all over him and you reduce it to a race issue. So, he's bought out his accusers for now. He's bought himself some more time. But do you think this is a race issue or do you think this is a violation of his position issue? Think about it. He will be going down. It's only a matter of time.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  3. Mister

    I guess this qualifies the statement, "Out of some of the young church-goers, a preacher will emerge!"

    May 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  4. Karl Smith

    I hope it will leave him enough $$ to buy spandex muscle shirts

    May 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  5. james fairfield,AL

    SICKOS like this, think they can call themselves a preacher, priest, etc and hide behind the lie that god called them and then screw the children of the adults he is "preaching" to!!! It is insane. Im not suprised he paid them off, he spent all of the "church" money on clothes, trips, cars and jewelry, why not spend it on payoffs so they have to stop talking about what he did to them. I bet he and Ted Haggard hang out and share conquests over a nice hits of meth....

    Oh, and I love the lawyers name who he hired to represent him, B.J. LMAO!!!!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Lisa

      Ms. Bernstein is attorney for the 4 accusers, not the "bishop". she is a wonderful crusader for young people mistreated by power in any form/guise.
      anyway – still many men using abbreviated "richard"... is that always subject to giggling also?

      May 26, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  6. Rod from Chicago

    When are black folks going to wake up from worshiping these "triflin", profit driven, self centered snakeoil salesmen? They become millionaires and screw their way through the congregation.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Mister

      "Out of some of the young church-goers, a preacher will emerge!"

      May 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  7. blackmanNproud

    SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO clearly America ALL of her is @ that all mighty $$$.............................SICK, SORRY, TRIFLIN n how bout NO da** MOREALs.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  8. Nevada Person

    Jon your statement is purely racist to say the world is better off without blacks, but you are a stupid person, your president is black, Barack Obama is a black man and a good one to be honest so your stupid statement that the world is better off without blacks is just stupid and you should go to a wall and run into it and then you might get some common sense..

    May 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Mitch

      Ignore the trolls. Obnoxious people like that give humanity a bad name.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  9. Frog Prince

    Shayne Lee sounds like she has a rod jammed up her butt on a daily. basis.............

    May 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  10. momo

    LMAO, people are making this into a race issue.

    Have you all forgoten about all the white priest pedophile and the settlement they had with the kids parents?
    i swear this country is so full of racst hyocrite.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  11. Matt

    So, how much?

    May 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  12. Jim

    Don't the folks who donated all that money to this creep have a right to know how much of their hard-earned money was paid out in the settlement?

    May 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  13. Concerned

    I agree. As I stated in the last article about Don Lemon I'm embarrassed to be African American. We have to stop thinking like we are still in the 1950's and start talking and living with the rest of Americans in the 20th Century. In other words, come out of "the closet" and live "your true life" .

    May 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Jomm

      Why are you ashame to be black? If this case causes you to judge your whole race, then you have issue long before this story. What race would you want to be apart of? Last time I check all races have pedos.

      May 27, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  14. andrew

    I'm sure that he's just eager to get away with what he has done by buying these mens silence. He was trying to be a "father figure" alright–just like George Michael's song "Father Figure."

    May 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  15. Sarah

    How long does McDonald hold church services if black folks have very short memories. If.the.mother of a church buy a lady an engagement ring and they want to keep it a secret is that financial assistance or encouragement.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  16. willie

    No innocent man would give in to a settlement. Sadly, many people will still believe his lies. An honest man of integrity would fight these accusations to the last penny. Now he refuses to talk about it. I guess he's following the path of Michael Jackson.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • God (the REAL one)

      He did, in fact, say that he would. So, in Essence (haha), he lied.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  17. midwestmatt

    A liar and he's gay. I wonder which one bothers him the most.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • question

      Dod he ever march against lying? No? There's ur answer ...

      May 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • mdc

      What ye sow, so shall ye reap. Get ready for the harvest, Bishop.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  18. Kidtoucher

    Settle = GUILTY! Filthy kid toucher.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  19. theo

    that pastor is a phag!
    hiding in the closet will only make ur downfall that much more painful!
    the end is nigh,dear phag paster!the end is nigh!

    May 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Mister

      Now we know why he insists that certain parishioners get on their knees daily...

      May 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      @theo: Does that mean you are more bothered by the gay thing than the se-xual predator thing?

      May 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  20. Bob Hamilton

    His group of boys is called the Longfellows 🙂 I might have barely made the Averagefellows to be honest.

    May 26, 2011 at 8:13 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.