ATLANTA - Newpictureshave surfaced of Bishop Eddie Long, prominent pastor of a 25,000-member megachurch outside Atlanta, as a third man has come forward accusing the anti-gay advocate of coercing him into sex.
Three men have filed a lawsuit accusing the outspoken pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of exploiting his role as pastor to coerce them into sexual relationships when they were 17 and 18-years-old and enrolled in New Birth's ministry for teen boys. CBS News' Erica Hillreports the pastor allegedly sent his accusers numerousphotos of himself including at least several of him wearing spandex and workout clothes.
It's not known precisely how the photos surfaced.
B.J. Bernstein, an attorney for the three plaintiffs, said Long sent her clients dozens of e-mails, but they weren't "overly sexual," she said. Long canceled an interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show Thursday September 23, opting instead to make his first public response to the sex allegations during a service at his Atlanta-area church, according to his lawyer, who appeared on the nationally syndicated radio show in Long's absence. Attorney Craig Gillen told Joyner that Long took young men on trips as part of a mentoring program, but stands by his denial of claims that he had sex with three of them.
In lawsuits filed a fortnight ago, three men who were members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church claimed Long coerced them into sexual relations with gifts including cars, cash and travel when they were 17 or 18 years old. The sprawling church in Lithonia, Ga., about 18 miles outside of Atlanta, counts politicians, celebrities and the county sheriff among its members and hosted four U.S. presidents during the 2006 funeral of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow, Coretta Scott King.
One of the claims in the lawsuits is that Long had sexual contact with the young men, who were enrolled in New Birth's ministry for teen boys, during trips he took them on in the U.S. and abroad. Gillen said the travel was part of a mentoring program that other young men also participated in. Gillen also read a statement from Long in which the pastor, a married father of four, said he's anxious to respond to the allegations but that his lawyer has advised him not to yet. "Let me be clear. The charges against me and New Birth are false," Long's statement said. Gillen also said the three making the allegations were motivated by money, adding that one of them is accused of breaking into Long's office.
In addition to canceling the radio show appearance, an expected news conference with Long was also called off.
Long was appointed pastor of New Birth in 1987. At that time the church had about 150 members. Less than four years later, the church had grown to more than 8,000 members. Athletes and entertainers claim membership at the church, which now boasts an over 25,000 strong membership, and among its prominent clergy is the Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Long's church was among those named in 2007 in a Senate committee's investigation into a half-dozen Christian ministries over their financing.
Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage and his church counsels gay members to become straight. In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father's Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage "between one man and one woman." He also has released several gospel albums, authored books on relationships and spirituality, and hosts a weekly television program.
"Amnesty can only be granted when one has been tried and convicted. If we brush aside violations without acknowledging we may encourage another chapter of chaos in the country."
-Martha Karua, Minister of Justice
"In 1980, Museveni went to the bush claiming that the elections were rigged. Now he is the same man congratulating Kibaki whose victory is being disputed. This is the saddest thing the President has done to East Africa."
-Prof. Ogega Latigo, Uganda's Leader of the Opposition in Parliament
"I do not know whether Kibaki won the election." -ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu talking to The Standard after admitting that he read the election results under pressure from PNU