Eddie Long's church in Atlanta, Ga., New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, has about 25,000 members and his sermons can be heard on the radio and watched on television across the world. But Long, who is no stranger to controversy, is being looked at in a new light.
On Tuesday, two men, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg, filed civil lawsuits against Long. The two men, now in their 20s, say they had sexual relations with Long when they were participating in a youth program at the ages of 16 and are now seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages. According to the Atlanta Voice, a Black weekly newspaper in Atlanta, a third complaint was also brought forth Wednesday afternoon.
"[The] youth academy is a tuition-based program for young men, aged 13 through 18, which purports to train young men to love, live and lead as they proceed on their 'masculine journey.' Defendant Long personally participates in the program as a pastor," states the complaint filed in the state court of DeKalb County by Flagg.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Long used his status to convince selected young men into sexual relationships and that "Long typically engages in a private, spiritual ceremony described as a 'covenant' between himself and each young spiritual son."
Long has been quoted by members of his church as calling himself the "spiritual daddy" to young Black men at his church.
The AmNews spoke to A. Scott Walton, a reporter at the Atlanta Voice, who said, "The Atlanta Voice is searching for facts. There may be a lot of conjecture...this is a dicey issue and it would be irresponsible to dive headlong into everything that you hear."
Long, who once protested same-sex marriage, denies ever having sexual relations with the two boys and his lawyer followed up releasing a statement saying, "Bishop Eddie Long adamantly denies the allegations."
Birth Missionary Baptist Church members have also come out saying the allegations must be false and they will continue to support their pastor.
While administrators at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were unavailable for comment, the voicemail for the office of the senior pastor says, "Our mission is to love like him, live like him and lead like him."
"You don't build a church that large and influential if you don't have people who are devoted to you," said Walton. "We will see how far that devotion goes."
The lawyer for the two men says there are photos, texts and e-mails that can prove their allegations to be true. As of press time, the media in Atlanta was waiting on confirmation and details regarding a press conference that Long was scheduled to hold.