Four men claimed this week that Bishop Eddie Long, of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, coerced them into sexual relationships.
Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande, now all in their twenties, have filed lawsuits against Long claiming that he abused his position as leader of the church to force them into sex when they were teenagers.
The men allege that the encounters took place in Long’s private office and during trips away together. They say they received lavish gifts from the bishop, including expensive jewellery and cars, and took part in private ceremonies in which they became his “Spiritual Sons”.
Announcing the lawsuits this week, attorney B J Bernstein said the charge against Long related to “pastoral church abuse” and that New Birth church was also complicit because other members and employees had “covered” for him in order to “protect the most powerful church in the south-east”.
Maurice admitted to stealing items from Long’s office earlier this year, including an iPad and black diamonds. After being caught, he returned the items to Long and claimed that he had committed the crime in retaliation for what the bishop had done to him.
In a statement, Long denied the charges and said he would respond to the allegations before his congregation on Sunday.
He said: “Let me be clear; the charges against me and New Birth are false. I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply.”