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(RNS) Bishop Eddie Long, a prominent Atlanta-area megachurch leader,
has been sued by three young men accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia,
Ga., has denied claims of sexual abuse and gifts of cash, cars and
overnight trips by the men.
After two suits had been filed on Tuesday (Sept. 21) by a
20-year-old and a 21-year-old, Long spokesman Art Franklin told CNN the
minister “categorically and adamantly denies these allegations.”
On Wednesday, the Bernstein Firm of Atlanta announced a third man,
age 23, had sued with similar allegations.
All three suits, filed in DeKalb County, alleged that Long “has a
pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church
members and using his authority as bishop over them to ultimately bring
them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship.”
The suits claim that Long celebrates a ceremony with victims
involving jewelry and talk of Bible verses, creating a covenant in which
they are designated as his “spiritual sons.”
B.J. Bernstein, one of the lawyers defending the young men, told CNN
that Long gradually developed relationships with them.
“He gets to know them and gets the trust and then, bit by bit —
first it’s a hug, just like any sexual predator,” she said. “It just
slowly breaks down.”
Long is a celebrated African-American minister whose church hosted
the 2006 funeral of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr. Their daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, is a minister at
the church.
Long, who has marched in a protest against gay marriage, was
investigated by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, for questionable
finances, along with five other ministries. His was one of three that
gave “incomplete responses” to the probe, Grassley said in 2009.
— Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of
this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written
permission.

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