An attorney for Bishop Eddie Long forcefully spoke out Thursday morning against allegations that the anti-gay megachurch leader coerced young men into sex as new details emerged about the apparent sexual escapades.
“These false allegations are an attack on Bishop Long personally,” attorney Craig Gillen said on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” “They are an attack on New Birth and its 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.”
Three men filed lawsuits Tuesday and Wednesday in DeKalb County alleging that Long used his power and influence at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia to coerce them into having sex. The men—Jamal Parris, 23, Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Murray Robinson, 20 (third photo) – say Long started having sex with them when they were as young as 16. The intimate contact – which included kissing, massaging, masturbating and oral sex – sometimes took place at Long’s residence and in hotels during trips across the U.S. and the globe, according to the lawsuits.
Late Wednesday, the attorney for the three men, B.J. Bernstein, released two images of Long dressed in form-fitting clothing and snapping photos of himself in a bathroom. Bernstein says the images (top photos) – similar to ones found on the gay-popular website Guys With iPhones – were sent to young men who attended Longfellows Youth Academy, a New Birth program for young men ages 13 to 18. Bernstein did not say if the images were sent to her clients. All three men were part of the academy, which is also named in the lawsuit.
Parris says in his lawsuit that Long encouraged him to call him “Daddy.”
Media reports on Wednesday said Long was scheduled to appear Thursday on the radio program and then later at a press conference. But Gillen said there would be no press conference and that it was his call to speak for Long on the popular radio program. Instead, Gillen said, Long will speak out about the allegations at 11 a.m. on Sunday during a service at New Birth.
Before answering questions, Gillen read a brief statement from Long that asked his supporters for their patience and prayers.
“I have been through storms and my faith has always sustained me,” Long said in the statement. “I am anxious to respond directly to these false allegations and I will do so. However, my lawyer counseled patience at this time. Let me be clear, the charges against me and New Birth are false. These false allegations hurt me deeply. But my faith is strong and the truth will emerge. All I ask is for your patience as I deny each and every one of these false allegations.”
Long also asked “for your prayers for me, my family and our church. On Sunday at New Birth, I will respond to my congregation.”
Gillen also went on the offensive against the men, pointing out that Robinson was one of two men charged with burglary in June for using a secretary’s key to enter Long’s personal office at the church and remove electronics and jewelry. Flagg was there the night of the burglary but was not charged.
“If you take a look at some of these plaintiffs, what do we have here? One gentleman has already been formally charged with breaking into the bishop’s office. We’ve been trying to get access to the tapes that have been turned over to the DA’s office so folks will know a little more about these folks that have made these charges,” Gillen said.
Also Thursday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Long would use the alias “Dick Tracy” when he stayed at hotels.
On some of the trips with Robinson and Flagg, Long would use the alias “Dick Tracy” when he checked into hotels. According to online service Accurint, a Dick Tracey Long lives in Lithonia at the same address as Eddie L. Long.
Bernstein described Long’s relationship with the boys as odd, according to WSB.
“It was essentially a marriage ceremony where there were candles, (an) exchange of jewelry and biblical quotes given,” said Bernstein.
On Wednesday, disgraced megachurch leader Ted Haggard told “Inside Edition” that he can empathsize with what Long’s experiencing. Haggard lost his church in 2006 after having sex with a male prostitute for three years.
“I think he’s heartbroken, I think he’s confused,” Haggard said on the program Wednesday. “I’ll tell you how I felt. I felt like I’d ruined my life.”
As the salacious lawsuits made national headlines, former Gov. Roy Barnes canceled a planned fundraiser with Long, according to the AJC. Long, labeled one of the most anti-gay megachurch preachers in the country, held a fundraiser for Barnes during the Democratic primary and has donated $5,000 to his campaign.
Barnes, who is running against former Congressman Nathan Deal to retake the governor’s mansion, doesn’t back same-sex marriage and supports Georgia’s constitutional prohibition on gay marriage. As governor, he reached out to LGBT voters during his term and unsuccessful re-election campaign. Barnes was the first sitting governor in Georgia to appear before a gay organization—his talk in July 2000 to the Atlanta Executive Network—and later met with Georgia Equality and the Human Rights Campaign in the 2002 campaign. He even interviewed with the gay press a week before the election.
Last year, Long donated $2,400 to the mayoral campaign of Lisa Borders, a gay-friendly candidate who enjoys broad support among LGBT politicos. His donation to Barnes presents the same quandary it did for Borders – Long carries great influence among black voters and his support can boost a campaign though it carries with it the risk of alienating some gay voters.
In 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center called Long “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.” Also in 2007, Soulforce—a national non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating anti-gay rhetoric in all religions—targeted Long and other anti-gay mega-church leaders for discussions about their rhetoric.
In 2006, then-NAACP Chair Julian Bond called Long “a raving homophobe” and refused to attend the funeral of Coretta Scott King being held at Long’s church. King supported marriage equality and HIV issues, and her longtime personal assistant was a gay Atlanta man.
In 2004, Long led a march against same-sex marriage through the streets of downtown Atlanta.