*Bishop Eddie Long canceled his scheduled appearance on The Tom Joyner Morning Show today and instead gave his lawyer a statement to read on the air.
The pastor of Atlanta-based New Birth Missionary Baptist Church continues to deny allegations that he had coerced young church members into sex, as alleged in three lawsuits filed against him.
“I have been through storms and my faith has always sustained me,” Long said in the statement, read by attorney Craig Gillen on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.” “I am anxious to respond directly to these false allegations, and I will do so. However, my lawyers counseled patience at this time.”
“Let me be clear: The charges against me and New Birth are false,” the statement said. “I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply, but my faith is strong and the truth will emerge.”
Long asked for patience “as we continue to categorically deny each and every one of these ugly charges” and requested prayers for himself, his family and the church. He said he will respond to his congregation from the pulpit on Sunday.
“These false allegations are an attack on Bishop Long personally,” Gillen said. “They are an attack on New Birth, the entire church and all of its 25,000 good people who attend that church, and it’s an attack on the mentoring program that has helped thousands of young men. It is deeply, deeply unfortunate that these allegations have been made. They will be met.” [Listen to Gillen on Joyner’s show in the CNN report below.]
Gillen was interviewed by syndicated columnist and CNN political analyst Roland Martin during his regular segment on the Joyner show. Gillen said he is to blame for Long’s failure to appear on the radio show as scheduled.
Asked about a Thursday press conference that was also canceled, Gillen said he thought the matter was a misunderstanding, as he had never committed to a press conference. Long spokesman Art Franklin said late Wednesday the appearances were canceled because of the third suit against Long, which was filed on Wednesday. But Gillen said it was not the third suit that made the difference.
“That’s my call,” he told Martin. “In assessing the situation, no lawyer likes to have his client in a situation where … charges are made and the lawyer doesn’t have control. This is about me, the lawyer, saying ‘Look,’ and my view finally prevailed so that’s why you’re getting second best here and getting it from me.”
The third lawsuit joined two that were filed on Tuesday, all of them in DeKalb County, Georgia. It was brought on behalf of Jamal Parris, now 23, who like the others was a teenager when he joined Long’s church.
The suit, which claims Long encouraged Parris to call him “Daddy,” also names the church and Long’s LongFellows Youth Academy as defendants.
Franklin told CNN on Wednesday the suits, which allege Long coerced young male church members into sex, are “a case of retaliation and a shakedown for money by men with some serious credibility issues.”
The new lawsuit gives intimate details about Parris and his alleged relationship with Long. Parris joined New Birth in 2001, when he was 14. Long counseled Parris when the latter talked about his strained relationship with his father and got him a job as a summer camp counselor at the church, the suit states.
The suit, which like the others was filed by Atlanta attorney B.J. Bernstein, claims Long engaged in sexual acts with Parris. The young man eventually became a church employee and served as personal assistant to Long and traveled with him, the suit says. The pastor continued to engage in sexual activity with Parris and gave him money, trips and gifts, the suit says.
It says Parris left the church in late 2009, “disillusioned, confused and angry about his relationship with Defendant Long.” The bishop manipulated and deceived Parris into thinking that the acts were a “healthy component of his spiritual life,” the suit states.
The allegations are similar to those contained in the Tuesday suits, filed on behalf of Anthony Flagg, now 21, and Maurice Murray Robinson, now 20. All three contend the LongFellows Youth Academy and New Birth knew or should have known of Long’s behavior and that they failed to warn the young men.
Bernstein has alleged Long had a pattern of using his position as a spiritual authority and bishop to coerce young male members and employees of the church into sex. But “this church and this bishop have been devoted to giving to the community and giving back to young men,” Gillen said Thursday.
The three men claim Long took them on overnight trips to various locations within the United States and beyond, sharing a room and engaging in sexual contact with them, including massaging, masturbation and oral sex.
Bernstein, who represents Parris, Flagg and Robinson, said Wednesday that the youths’ accounts are “really strong.” She said she has worked with sexual abuse victims and finds the two believable because of “the emotion. The intensity. The very strong description of what sexual acts occurred. … This is not just someone giving a vague thing, ‘Oh, yeah, one time he did this,’ or a couple of times.”
But Franklin told CNN’s “American Morning” on Wednesday that Robinson and Flagg “are not innocent victims” and that they have known “the wrong side of the law” before, including Robinson’s being charged with breaking into Long’s office in June to steal items, such as jewelry, that could be sold for cash. Gillen also noted the charges against Robinson, and said he is attempting to get tapes that have been turned over to the district attorney’s office.
Asked the motive for the suits, Gillen said, “Let me put it this way. What is the motive of someone putting a ski mask over their face and breaking into your office to steal things? Money.”
He said the suits, “without a single piece of corroborating evidence, (have) ignited a firestorm against this good man.”