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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Anyone who donates a nickel to a church led by anyone who is more than a part time pastor with a normal job on the side, needs their head examined.
Did ho not want this to go to trial because he was afraid the truth would come out?
He should sit in the back pew and start over from the start
That's the kind of church I want to go to–you let the pastor have his way with you and you end up with a car and who knows what else and then turn around and get a secret settlement out of him too. Praise Jeebus!
That church empty yet? They need to stop elevating this guy or anybody else above the Lord!
This guy is the lowest of the low.. those who follow this guy get what they deserve
Hopefully this pathetic loser will in fact lose his congregation and his job, and have to go sell used cars for a living. People like Long are the epitome of what is wrong with organized religion. If the African American community and/or his congregation is still behind this snake after this news story, I have less faith in them.
I agree. He has completely betrayed the trust of the African American community- especially African American women. I hate to say it, but i have relatives that will empty their pocketbooks for their pastor, cook him a meal and clean his house before they would help their own children or do for their own household. Its a sin. Charity starts at home first, and it is the job of the shepherd to feed the flock- not the flock feed the shepherd. God feeds the shepherd. But instead, people have been taught , feared and guilted into given everything they have to "prophet" before their family.
@Davey: Why african american women most of all? I don't get the connection.
Me thinks thou dost protest too much. Any time I hear someone loudly protesting gay marriage, I know that they are gay. How sad that rather than face their own truth with courage, they debase and hurt innocent people and lie to themselves and others. Shame on you, Eddie, not for being gay but for being a liar and a hypocrite.
It seems if the church funds were used to pay this settlement, the church should know how much they paid, and why they paid.
You just blew my mind...GOOD POINT!!
God knows. The anointing is from God, character and integrity is from men. I do not want to judge but I am dissapointed. Pride comes before the fall. I am a Christian but the most challenging thing not just for me but for most Christians who are blessed by God goodness is to remember to walk in humility and not take credit for what God does for us. I'm just sayin'.
Didn't he play Theo on the Cosby show?
let he who is without sin ..
Steve (the real one)
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Cast the first stone. Yeah but I submit to you that first stone was cast when those kids were se-xually harassed! by their spiritual leaders no less. Long needs to step away and get counseling. I remember the loud speech about David and Goliath. What happened with all that?
@Steve: Isn't that passage about judging people? How is Long's alleged se-xual harrassment judging others? I guess I don't understand, how that passage applies to se-xual abuse.
He is guilty. If im not guilty im going to fight until the end to prove my innocents. He use money to hush the issue up. All false prophets will be exposed. What was done in the dark came to the light. I still pray that he will turn from his lies and wrong ways and yield to the king.
Innocent until an out of court settlement is reached!! If he really didnt do it why wouldnt he fight until the end?.....ummmm.....cause he is guilty!!!....fake!!! Loser!!!...hide behind your bible....Jacka*s!!!
Gee, who could have ever guessed he'd settle out of court?
"black people have short memories"....... what a stupid statement.
Obviously, unrelated to the question of guilt, this was settled for a sum of money. Who's paying? Is this coming out of his salary, or is this coming out of the church coffers? In fact, is there a difference?
Lots of questions. Glad that's not my money.
He wouldn't have settled unless there was wrongdoing. He settled to silence the victims so all the gory details wouldn't be made public. It's not guaranteed he won't eventually end up being charged..but it is very difficult to prove a crime was committed. I'm sure there's no DNA evidence left (eww). Statute of limitations may also have passed. I can't believe anyone would be willing to stay and sit under this ministry.
It's the squeaky wheel that wants to get greased........and his congregation is clearly full of blind sheep.
"We are the most forgiving people on the planet"
ROFL is that a joke? Black people are still blaming white people for things that happened 300 years ago.
Well, Minerva, what happen 300 years still have an effect on blacks and do not see whites given up their what they "inherit" from slavery. Whites want the benefits that slavery gave them; however, they do not want the problems that comes with it.