*More details have emerged regarding the response filed Monday by prominent Georgia pastor Eddie Long, which denies allegations in four lawsuits that accuse him of coercing young men into sexual relationships.
“The plaintiff’s claims of sexual misconduct are not true,” each of the four responses filed by Long’s attorneys says, according to CNN. The responses, each about 30 pages, offer a point-by-point response to each of the allegations and claims in the lawsuits. The documents were posted on the website of CNN affiliate WSB.
Four members of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church — Anthony Flagg, 21; Maurice Robinson, 20; Jamal Parris, 23; and Spencer LeGrande, 22 — filed suit against Long and the 25,000-member megachurch in September, claiming he used his position as their spiritual counselor to pressure them into sexual relationships.
The suits allege that the relationships, which began when the men were in their teens, lasted over many months. According to the lawsuits, Long traveled with the young men to locations in the United States and abroad, sharing a room and engaging in sexual contact with them, including massaging, masturbation or oral sex. The suits also claim Long provided the youths with gifts including cars and money.
Long, one of his attorneys and a church spokesman have already publicly denied the allegations. In the responses filed Monday in DeKalb County, Georgia, Long’s attorneys maintain the pastor was attempting to be a father figure to the youths, providing them with financial assistance and encouragement and helping them navigate their troubles.
Long has “been successful at building a ministry at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church that places a special emphasis on outreach to men, reinforcing to men the importance of partnering with a ministry that will grow them spiritually and will help them develop the life skills needed to become successful in the workplace and teach them how to become entrepreneurs and leaders,” the court documents said.
“Bishop Long admits that he mentors many young men from challenged backgrounds, who have often been without the benefit of a male role model,” according to the documents. “The mentor/mentee relationship between Bishop Long as mentor and the mentee is firmly grounded on expressed promises of honesty and truthfulness.”
Long provided cars for the youths so they would have transportation to school and work, according to the responses, and provided them housing when they needed it — in the case of LeGrande, for instance, because his school had no dormitory and he was living in a hotel room, and in the case of Flagg, because he could not return to his mother’s home after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting her during a confrontation. Long provides many church members with employment, the responses said.
Attorney B.J. Bernstein, who represents the four men in their suits against Long, told CNN Tuesday she had not yet received copies of Long’s responses to the suits.
Bernstein has alleged Long groomed the youths for sex, telling CNN in September, “he gets to know them and gets the trust, and then bit by bit — first it’s a hug. It’s just like any sexual predator … Ask any victim of sexual abuse. It is a progression.”
Long admits that he “provides opportunities for travel, education and personal growth to many members of his congregation” and claims in the responses that he often shares hotel rooms with members of his congregation when traveling.
Some of the young men have said that Long encouraged them to call him “Daddy.” In his responses to the suits, Long’s attorneys say that the “entire New Birth membership calls Bishop Long ‘Daddy’ or ‘Bishop.'” Participants in the pastor’s LongFellows Youth Academy call him “Pop,” according to the documents, and members of other churches call Long “Granddaddy.”
“The references to and association between Bishop Long (and other religious leaders) and a ‘Spiritual Father’ is based upon the crisis in the African American community of fatherlessness,” the documents said.
LeGrand claims that Long provided him with Ambien, a sleep aid, during a trip to Kenya. Long said nearly everyone on the Kenya trip had trouble sleeping due to the time change, and that he himself took Ambien to help him rest, but denied LeGrand’s allegations against him.
Also, “Bishop Long admits that it is common among his church congregation for members to hug each other and hug the Bishop,” his attorneys said in the response to LeGrand’s suit. “However, Bishop Long has no recollection of a prolonged hug with plaintiff.”
The suits also name the academy and church as defendants, saying they failed to warn the young men. Long says in his response that since no untoward conduct took place, the academy and church did not fail in their duty to warn the youths.
Long also asks the court to set a status and scheduling conference “for the purpose of simplification of the issues and management of the case.”
LeGrand told WSB last month, “I have no hate for anyone … I just pray for everyone. Especially the bishop, because he knows the truth.”