Two DeKalb County men filed lawsuits Tuesday alleging Bishop Eddie Long, leader of one of the Southeast’s largest churches, coerced them into having sex with him in exchange for lavish trips, cars and cash.
Long is the nationally known minister of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, with more than 25,000 members.
The pastor’s attorney, Craig Gillen, adamantly denied the allegations.
"It is unfortunate that these two young men have chosen to take this course of action."
The plaintiffs, Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Robinson, 20, began having inappropriate relations with Long at the age of 16, which is the legal age of consent in Georgia, said their attorney B.J. Bernstein.
The men are seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages.
“It’s not just these two. There are young men around him at all times,” said attorney B.J. Bernstein said. “There are kids at risk now.”
Bernstein said she has not contacted DeKalb law enforcement because of Long’s ties to DeKalb officials.
Gillen noted Robinson was arrested in June 2010 in connection with a burglary at the church. Robinson and Anthony Boyd, 19, of Decatur, were arrested June 23 and charged with stealing items such as an iPad and an iPhone, according to a police report obtained by the AJC.
Robinson committed the burglary in retaliation after learning that Long was involved with other men, including Flagg, Bernstein said.
“He lashed out,” Bernstein said. “But if it weren’t for that act, we wouldn’t know about this. He talked to his friends and learned Long had other ‘spiritual sons.’”
A few minutes before evening Bible study on Tuesday night, several members said they were shocked by the allegations.
Dwayne Jenkins, 47, of Lithonia, started attending New Birth a month ago, but is not yet a member. “It gives you a little shake,” he said of the lawsuit. “It’s his word against his word. Only Mr. Long and the two men know what happen. I’m not here to judge, I’m here to get close to the Lord. The Lord will take care of it.”
“That don’t even make sense,” said Hillary Lewis, 52, carrying the Bible in her hand. “I like the message that he brings,” the Snellville resident said. “He brings things down to earth.”
Samuel Midgette, 40, of Atlanta called Long “a good man – a man of God. He wants to help everybody… That man loves his wife. When you believe in your pastor, you believe in your pastor.”
The lawsuit names Long, New Birth and the Longfellows Youth Academy as defendants. According to the suit, the academy is a program for young men ages 13 through 18.
According to the lawsuit, Robinson, 20, and his family joined New Birth in 2003. His mother enrolled him in the Longfellow Academy when he was 14.
The suit alleges Long began to spend personal time with Robinson when he was 15 years old. At some point, the suit alleges, Robinson was placed on the payroll. In addition Long bought Flagg a Ford Mustang, the suit alleges.
Bernstein said she has emails, text messages and photographs between the men and Long.
Long took Robinson on several overnight trips to various destinations, including New York and Turks & Caicos, according to the suit. The suit says Long took Robinson to Auckland, New Zealand, for Robinson's birthday in 2008.
During that trip, Robinson alleges in the lawsuit, Long regularly "engaged in sexual touching and other sexual acts."
In separate trips, the men flew on Long’s personal jet and shared a bed with him at the hotels, Bernstein said. Long used the alias “Dick Tracy” when he checked into the hotel, the suit alleges.
However, the bulk of the relations occurred on the megachurch’s property, including inside Long’s “guest house” on Snapfinger Road in south DeKalb, Bernstein said.
Long was named 21 years ago as pastor of the then 300-member church that would become New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
It has expanded beyond its Lithonia home and has satellite churches in other cities. The 240-acre Lithonia campus is like a small town and promotes a myriad of ministries, such as the annual Hosea Feed the Hungry and help for the homeless and addicted.
Craig Schneider contributed to this article. Shelia Poole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Megan Matteucci can be reached at email@example.com. Katie Leslie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org