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.
I'm goin out to set a spell on my veranda, and contemplate all this lasciviousness.
Why, dahlin, I b'lieve I may just join you, after I loosen mah corset. Have you seen the keys to mah liqua cabinet ?
Welcome to modern Christianity, a lot like the old Christianity. Corrupt as ever.
A religious hypocrite. What are the odds?
This man is a monster. He spends the money he makes claiming to be a holy man to pay for his raping of children. This man needs to be incarcerated. Not only his he an abomination in the eyes of any true Christ, he is a predatory sociopath who is ego-maniacal and a danger to our society. Why people act like sheep and follow such false Christians is beyond me. How stupid can you get? The dude wears a wig and sends pictures of himself dressed like a cross between jack lalanne and Curtis Mayfield. What kind of pastor acts like that?
He should step down, but why should he? People are going keep on giving this man money. And last time I check, preaching hate against gay people is not God like.
Anyone who gives this "man" $ should have to wear a "Kick me, I'm stupid" sign in public.
How can he possibly remain in the pulpit? How can the congregation let him?
What happened to his five stones!? The church teaches the members to stand up for righteousness, to be courageous in the face of adversity like Shadrack,Meshach and Abednego, and to fight sin. Why then did Bishop Long and the church leaders surrender and buy off the young men? Money is their God. It solve all ills and not Jesus Christ! That is the message Mr. Long and New Birth church is telling the world. Mr. Long is a Charlatan and a hireling.
I guess it is the long and short of it 😉
Trashy predator. Shutter the "church".
Same as an admission of guilt. He obviously did it, so why would anyone look to him as a leader of a church or entrust their children to him?
He might have gotten away with this, but he still has to stand before God. It's too bad that money shut them all up...too easy!
On his first Sunday on the pulpit after the accusations surfaced, this man promised his congregation 'a fight' even going into God's book to invoked the David and Goliath story. He said, and i quote, 'i have many stones in the bag and i haven't thrown one yet'. Today he has gone the easier, behind the back, out of court route to keep his accusers at bay. So he really meant he had enough $$ in the basket and not enough truth to exonerate himself. David went face to face with the Giant on a 'no holds barred' battle and handedly squarely put him on the ground. Hold your preachers accountable too.
You are so right Mo and it just makes me so sick to even think about it. Like I said the young men and their families should be ashamed of themselves for excepting this "bribe". He will be back in the news years from now when it happens again. What a shame.
Ripping off his own people......so was that "God's money" or Fast Eddie's money? The real joke here is the congregation that still drops money into the hat. So easy to fleece the flock.
People that find faith in man instead of Jesus are always led down a dark abyss. Sad thing is they never see it coming until it's too late; remember Jim Jones? I've attended Mr. Long's church many times and I know members of his church that have already forgave him no matter the out come. Want take much effort on his part to continue business as usual. He said he'd fight, then he settled. Two statements that says a lot. Remember he's a man with fallible traits but if you place him in a infallible status, then it's easy for you believe all his actions are not mistakes? And forgiveness is given with no question?
Crazy sounding huh. They should hold him accountable and they should want answers. Am sure the member's church dues will aid him in paying off the millions he owe the lawyers and those 4 boys courtesy of donations.
The rev likes kok.
New Birth Church should look for a new head for its church. I knew that he was guilty when these allegations came out so what does he do pay "Hush" money to his accusers! I went to New Birth a long time ago and glad that I am not a member of that chuch today because if so it would the last time I would show up to that church. Forgive, yes but forget no!
This Long character is the worst kind of hypocrite. Long on sin, way short in the integrity department...
Unhappy with mr Long, Yes. Unhappy with the young men, absolutely! They allowed them selves to be bought and the money was more important to them then the truth being told. Shame on them!
His congregation might forgive him for being gay but they should not overlook the fact that this predator belongs in jail.
Its not the congregation Long needs to be concerned with. He needs to be concerned with about the One he has been "preaching " about!
I don't think you should judge a race by a few ignorant people. I'm a Black female and I feel like slavery was a terrible part of history. But so was what happened to the Jews, and American Indians, the Irish, etc. Its in the past and we should learn and move on. As for Eddie Long, I have no respect for pastors who are rich and flashy.