*An attorney for Bishop Eddie Long is suggesting a possible motive for allegations brought by two men who claim the pastor coerced them into a sexual relationship.
Craig Gillen, who represents Long, says the lawsuit may be rooted in a break-in at Long’s office in June.
B.J. Bernstein, an attorney representing the plaintiffs – now age 20 and 21, said one of her clients is facing a criminal burglary charge in the incident. She said the break-in was a way of lashing out at Long.
As previously reported, the two men filed a lawsuit against Long claiming he abused his spiritual authority to seduce them with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips and access to celebrities. The men who filed the suit were 17- and 18-year-old members of the church when they say Long committed the acts.
Bernstein said she contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this month when she became aware of the young men’s allegations. She did not know what action, if any, the agency planned to take.
Bernstein told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she has not contacted DeKalb County law enforcement because Long has ties to county officials. Orzy Theus, a spokesman for the DeKalb County district attorney’s office, said she was not aware on Tuesday of an investigation in that office related to the allegations.
Bernstein said that when the relationships started, the plaintiffs were past the legal age of consent in Georgia, which is 16.
“Defendant Long has utilized his spiritual authority to coerce certain young male members … into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification,” the lawsuits read.
Gillen says the pastor “categorically denies the allegations.”
“We find it unfortunate that these two young men would take this course of action,” Gillen said late Tuesday after news of the lawsuit broke.
Long was appointed pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia in 1987. President George W. Bush and three former presidents visited the church for the 2006 funeral of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Long introduced the speakers and the Rev. Bernice King, the Kings’ younger daughter, delivered the eulogy. She is also a pastor there.
Athletes and entertainers also claim membership at the church, which sits on 250 acres and has more than 25,000 members, a $50 million, 10,000-seat cathedral and more than 40 ministries — including the Longfellows Youth Academy, a tuition-based program for young men 13 to 18.
Long’s church was among those named in 2007 in a Senate committee’s investigation into a half-dozen Christian ministries over their financing.