Megachurch pastor Eddie Long settles sex-misconduct lawsuits

Sexual-misconduct lawsuits filed by four men against Georgia megachurch pastor Eddie Long have been settled, according to attorneys.

The lawsuits are expected to “be dismissed, with prejudice, by close of business tomorrow,” Barbara Marschalk, who represents New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and LongFellows Youth Academy, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

B.J. Bernstein, who represents the four men who sued Long, New Birth and the academy, also confirmed the lawsuits had been settled. The academy was named in three of the suits.

Long, pastor of the Lithonia megachurch, which has an international following, had denied the men’s allegations through a spokesman shortly after they first became public in September and told his congregation he planned to “vigorously” fight them.

The accusations made against Long by Anthony Flagg, Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris and Maurice Robinson alleged that the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relations.

In one lawsuit, LeGrande said when he was 15 he and his mother were among the early members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte. When he was 16, he said, he went to Kenya with Long. Then when he was 17, they went on another trip to Kenya, and it was then that they had intimate relations, one of the suits alleged. […]

New Birth issued a statement saying the decision was made “to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry.”

“This resolution is the most reasonable road for everyone to travel,” the statement continued.

Neither side would comment further and settlement terms were unknown.

According to Bernstein’s office, neither she nor the plaintiffs would be available for an interview “on this matter, now or in the future. ”

Thomas Eaton, a law professor at the University of Georgia, said two-thirds to three-fourths of all civil suits are resolved out of court “by settlements just like this.” He was not surprised that there would not be a public record of the terms of the settlement.

The Associated Press says:

he TV preacher’s ministry was threatened in September when Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg sued Long in DeKalb County state court. […]

Two of the men who brought suit alleged that Long groomed them for sexual relationships when they were enrolled in the church’s LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that purportedly sought to guide teens through their “masculine journey” with lessons on financial discipline and sexual control. Two other young men — one of whom attended a satellite church in Charlotte, N.C. — made similar allegations.

Flagg, who enrolled at the academy at age 16, said Long chose him as a “spiritual son” after learning of the young man’s challenges growing up without a father. Flagg moved into another minister’s home after being arrested on an assault charge when he was 18. The lawsuit alleged Long would visit, crawl into bed with him and the two would engage in sexual acts.

Robinson said his mother enrolled him in the LongFellows program when he was 14. Long started lavishing attention on him the following year, and a church employee soon rewarded the teen with a Chevy Malibu, the lawsuit said. The two began engaging in sexual acts after an October 2008 trip to New Zealand.

Parris, who said his father had not been active in his life, said Long encouraged the teen to call him “Daddy” and later used biblical verses to justify the alleged abuse.

Long denied the allegations in court motions, saying that he often encouraged his flock to call him “daddy” as a term of respect. He acknowledged giving gifts to the plaintiffs, but said he often provided his church members with financial help. During church sermons, he turned to biblical terms to portray himself as an underdog.

AP also notes that “Much of Long’s appeal was based on a prosperity gospel — featuring his own lavish lifestyle — and his macho appearance, accented by the muscle T-shirts he often wore in the pulpit.”

Eddie Long Seeks Settlement in Sex Case
Televangelist Eddie Long: ‘I’m going to fight’ sex allegations
Eddie Long: the wider context

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday May 27, 2011.
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