Sept. 22, 2010, Atlanta]-----Mega church founder, Bishop Eddie Long, is accused of coercing 2 young men into having sex with him, while they were members of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Atlanta.
These accusations have resulted in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday at the Dekalb County Court by the 21 and 20 year old men, who claim they were 17 and 18, at the time of the sexual exploitation.
The lawyer for the men, Brenda Joy Bernstein, alleged that Bishop Long seduced her clients with international trips aboard private jets, gifts of jewelry and cars and access to celebrities, while they were part of a boys empowerment group in the church.
Long has been a very vocal voice and has even led anti-gay marches and has alledegly referred to homosexuality as, "a spiritual abortion."His accuser say that even though the Bishop engaged in sex with them, he doesn't see himself as gay, and said he "was just expressing his passion for them."
Bishop Long's lawyer has issued a statement, categorically denying these allegations.
Church members are stunned and some could be seen on CNN, defending their pastor, saying "he loved his wife very much and would never do something like this."
Incidentally one of his accusers, has himself been charged with burglarizing the said church, stealing more than $100,000 in jewelry and other items from the a safe in Bishop Long's office, reports CNN.
His lawyer has counteracted with the break-in and theft being an expression of anger on the young man's part, saying "he was lashing out at Bishop Long because he had found out that the Bishop had other "spiritual sons" as he allegedly liked to call his young companions chosen for sexual favors.
Long, who is known for his controversial stands on social issues and flashy lifestyle, has reportedly built his church from a small congregation of 500, to 25,000 today.
UPDATE: THIS JUST IN:
A 3rd person has filed suit against Bishop Eddie Long, at the Dekalb County court, accusing him of using his power as pastor and mentor, to seduce him into having sexual relations with him, states CNN.
23 year old Jamal Parish, from the same church, has alleged that Long has been having sexual encounters with him since he was 16 years old and lasted until he was 22, which was last year.
CNN reports that a spokesperson has informed the media that Bishop Long will hold a press conference on Thursday morning to answer these allegations.
Some have been asking if sexual abuse took place, why didn't the young men seek prosecution. The legal age for consensual sex in Georgia, is 17. 2 of 3 accusers say they were 17 and older when the alleged sexual misconduct started, which may be the reason for the civil lawsuits instead.
One, however, is alleged to have been 16 when the sexual escapades started. According to the lawsuit, he reportedly received a Chevy malibu, was taken on lavish trips to the Turks & Caicos and was even put on the church payroll.
Will bring you more as the story unfolds.
By Veronica P Roberts 9.22.10