Bishop Eddie Long: ‘I am not a perfect man’

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READ MORE | Our full coverage of Bishop Eddie Long’s sex scandal

READ THE LAWSUITS | Robinson, Flagg, Parris, LeGrande

imageBishop Eddie Long broke his days-long silence on Sunday, defiantly defending himself publicly for the first time since four lawsuits were filed in DeKalb County accusing the anti-gay pastor of coercing young men from his ministry into sex across the globe.

“Please hear this: I have been accused. I am under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man but this thing, I’m gonna fight,” Long said Sunday morning from the pulpit at his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. “I want you to know one other thing, I feel like David against Goliath but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”

Long spoke during the 8 a.m. service to an overflow crowd at the church in Lithonia. He spoke for nearly 20 minutes during an address punctuated by Biblical references and standing ovations from the crowd. Long directly addressed the lawsuits briefly at the end of his remarks before walking away from the pulpit.

His full statement on the lawsuits:

“There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that is being portrayed on the television. That’s not me. That is not me,” Long said.

“By the counsel of my lawyers they have advised me not to try this case in the media. I am not going to try this case in the media. It will be tried in the court of justice and dealt with in the court of justice and please understand that is the only place I will get justice.

“Please hear this: I have been accused. I am under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man but this thing, I’m gonna fight. I want you to know one other thing, I feel like David against Goliath but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.”

Long also addressed speculation that he would step down from the church he’s built for two decades: “We are here at 8 every Sunday morning and I’ll be here next week.”

Four men —Jamal Parris, 23, Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Murray Robinson, 20, and Spencer LeGrande, 22 – 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.

On Wednesday, the attorney for the four 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 (photo) – 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.

Parris says in his lawsuit that Long encouraged him to call him “Daddy.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Long asked “for your prayers for me, my family and our church. On Sunday at New Birth, I will respond to my congregation.”

“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.”

On Sunday, Long thanked his supporters for their support and prayers. He said that his delay in addressing the allegations came as he focused on his family and congregation.

“We are certainly humbled by such a loving congregation. I realize that many have been waiting on me to say something. My first responsibility was to my family and then my next responsibility is not to address the world before I address my family at New Birth,” Long said.

He then spent most of remarks counseling the congregation on how to navigate “difficult situations.”

“Life is filled with painful situations that make the time of joy and happiness not as magnificent as we would like. As long as man has to deal in life you will find that life is unjust and we are all subject to face distasteful and painful situations. Bishop Long, Eddie Long, and you can put your name in that blank, will have some bad situations. The righteous face painful situations with a determined expectancy. We are not exempt from pain,” Long said.

After the early-morning church service, Long appeared briefly at what was billed as a press conference. He read a brief statement with his wife at his side and then did not take questions from dozens of the reporters gathered in front of him.

“I just want to take this moment to address you. Again on advice of counsel, I am not going to address the allegations and the attack that has been levied upon me at this moment. I want this to be dealt with this in the court of justice and not in the court of public opinion. I am going to fight and fight very vigorously against these charges,” Long said.

Long also said he is increasing his commitment to working with the youth at the church.

“We have always helped young men and young ladies and families to make sure they can move forward,” Long said.

On Thursday, Long was scheduled to appear on the nationally-syndicated radio program, “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” But his attorney, Craig Gillen, appeared instead and said he advised Long against appearing on the show. A press conference also scheduled for Thursday was canceled.

Long’s anti-gay history dates back several years.

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.

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