The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Homophobic Megachurch Pastor Accused of Exploiting Teenage Boys

By Robert Steinback on September 22, 2010 - 3:28 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

If the allegations in two lawsuits filed Tuesday in Georgia’s DeKalb County are true, staunchly anti-gay megachurch leader Bishop Eddie L. Long told two teenage boys that, according to Holy Scripture, it was cool for them to have sex with him.

Bishop Eddie Long

Maurice Robinson, 20, and Anthony Flagg, 21, have accused Long, the leader of the Atlanta-area New Birth Missionary Baptist Church – one of the largest churches in the nation – of misusing his mentoring role of “pastor, counselor and bishop” to coerce them into sexual acts when they were teens. Their lawsuits allege that Long gave them gifts of cars, clothes, jewelry, electronics, college tuition and overnight trips to places including New York, Las Vegas, Dallas, the Caribbean and New Zealand – and that Long would share bedrooms with them in luxury hotels. Long allegedly would “sleep in the same bed” as Flagg while the teenager was living at the church (Robinson complaint, Flagg complaint).

The lawsuits describe Long as engaging in various sex acts with Flagg and Robinson.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today reported the filing of a third sexual exploitation lawsuit against Long. Jamal Parris, 23, another former member of New Birth, similarly accuses Long of using his leverage as a mentor and spiritual leader to compel the plaintiff into a sexual relationship. Parris, who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., joined New Birth at age 14 with his mother in 2001, and worked as summer camp counselor at the church, the newspaper reported.

Long’s attorney said the pastor “adamantly denies” all the allegations, telling Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We find it unfortunate that these two young men have taken these actions. We are reviewing the complaint and will respond accordingly.”

The allegations are particularly stinging to a charismatic African-American pastor identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007 as “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement” and who, along with other prominent clerics including Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C., embodies black religious resistance to gay rights progress. In a videotaped sermon described in an SPLC profile, Long declared, “The problem today, and the reason society is like it is, is because men are being feminized and women are being masculine! You cannot say, ‘I was born this way.’ … I don’t care what scientists say!”

Robinson and Flagg were enrolled in a tuition-based, New Birth ministry for boys 13 to 18 years old. The ministry, called the Longfellows Youth Academy, intended “to train young men to love, live and lead as they proceed on their ‘masculine journey,’ ” according to the lawsuits. The church’s website was down Wednesday afternoon.

The complaints allege that “Long has utilized his spiritual authority as Bishop and leader of Defendants’ ministries to coerce certain young male members and employees of Defendant New Birth … into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification.” Further, it alleges that “Long has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using his authority as Bishop over them to ultimately bring them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship.”

“Defendant Long, through manipulation, coercion, deception and fraud resulting from the abuse of his confidential relationship with Plaintiff Robinson, convinced him that engaging in a sexual relationship was a healthy component of his spiritual life,” one of the lawsuits says.

The lawsuits are civil actions accusing Long, the church and church officials, among other things, of intentionally inflicting emotional distress, negligence, failure to intervene to protect the defendants from the sexual conduct, and fraud – for “representing that the Longfellows Youth Academy was a benevolent enterprise designed to foster the spiritual growth of young men.”

The question of criminal rape does not apply because the boys were older than Georgia’s age of consent, which is 16. However, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Brenda Joy Bernstein, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some of the acts which occurred in other states could be considered criminal, which is why she has contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office. That agency will not comment on investigations as a matter of policy.

Of particular note is that the lawsuits identify by name two people working for New Baptist and the Longfellows Academy who, among others at the church, “knew of Defendant Long’s sexually inappropriate conduct and did nothing to warn or protect Plaintiff Robinson” and Flagg. That implies more than just an allegedly exploitative pastor – it describes a conspiracy to protect him.

Long took over a church of 300 parishioners in 1987 and turned it into a megachurch claiming 25,000 members. It is situated on a 240-acre campus in Livonia, Ga., about 18 miles outside Atlanta.

  • operationW/BACK

    I always knew that Bishop Long was not straight. From the first day I say him, I said to myself: something is missing in this guy. The image he was projecting on the pulpit left a lot of questions unanswered about his sexuality.

    There is nothing wrong with being gay. There is something wrong with being a hypocrite like Bishop-I-like-to-sleep- with-young-men-Long.

    I just viewed the word hypocrite on the dictionary and Bishop Long’s picture was used as an illustration.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    The thing is that the prohibition against homosexuality is a part of the old Jewish law. Why follow some parts and not others? And are you really going to compare homosexuality or even pre-marital hetero sex to murder and thievery?

    And if you want my personal recommendation(which I rarely give)- I would say stop believing in ancient primitive mythology and live life in reality. If you say the Bible bans homosexuality one could just as easily claim that Zeus sanctions it. What is the difference?

  • Mike

    Rusian,

    It’s been my observation that the charge of “picking and choosing” is directly related to the general acceptance of a moral issue. Christians aren’t usually accused of “picking and choosing” with issues like murder, theft, incest or bestiality.

    I also notice the “Golden Rule” is in Lev. 19:18 — right before the linen/woolen garment prohibition. Is it antiquated? Or am I picking and choosing if I try to live by it? Or should I even care, since it was compiled by a committee of men and is subject to numerous translations and interpretations?

    Regards

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Mike I think you are missing the point. The Bible permits many things which are now rightfully seen as abhorrent, and forbids things which are trivial, such as wearing mixed materials, eating shellfish, working on the Sabbath, and so on. The point is that Christians pick and choose which laws they are going to follow. All from a book that has gone through thousands of translations and interpretations, and was originally compiled by a committee of men.

  • Mike

    Karen,

    You’re the one who’s missing the point. You’re using the same, lame argument that gay supporters use to try to equate homosexuality with linen/woolen garments.

    Leviticus chapter 19 mentions linen/woolen garments along with stealing (11) and child prostitution (29). Does that make stealing and child prostitution antiquated?

    Just because different things are mentioned in the same book or chapter doesn’t necessarily put them on the same moral level with God. Even Jesus spoke about certain commandments being more important than others (Matt 23:16-19, 23).

    Homosexuality is still called a sin in the New Testament, along with murder and stealing, but linen/woolen garments aren’t mentioned. The linen/woolen garment prohibition is antiquated, not homosexuality.

    Regards

  • Jessica

    It is disgusting to see so many people react the way they are. So much hate! The point is, we don’t know if its true or not. If the charges are accurate then how awful for the boys involved but there is another side to this. Megachurch = megabucks… Some people just want money. Bottom line is all of these people involved need prayers not more hate. Stop attacking- and I say this from both sides of the arguement. We weren’t there. We don’t know what happened. God knows and will deal with the guilty party according to His will.

  • Sam Molloy

    At the Presbyterian chuch I attend, gay people are warmly welcomed and we believe the evidence shows that Jesus felt the same way.

  • Mason Green

    And then, Long should try reading this article about Bean: http://www.westendrecords.com/WES5014-2/about.html

  • Mason Green

    Perhaps Bishop Eddie Long should try listening to this song from the 70s, which was written and performed by Bishop Carl Bean:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_O0vRdk2D4

  • Walt

    The story says he took these young men – who were minors at the time even is over the age of consent in their home state – on trips with him – crossing state lines (allegedly) in order to have sex with them – would the Mann Act apply?

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Look conservatives and Christians and what have you. Many religions today still look down on or forbid homosexuality. Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, for example. Most people are fine with the concept of live and let live- don’t try to infringe on the basic rights of gays and they won’t demand that your religion change its doctrine. But the issue here is those who seem to make it their mission in life to crusade against gays, and then almost inevitably turn out to be gay themselves(and how often do they even own up to that?).

  • Marty

    Ok, let’s fill in some other facts. In news broadcasts on MSNBC it was revealed that the “pastor” started “grooming” these young men long before they were 16. Many of the gifts and trips were before they reached the age of consent. It was only when they turned 16 that the “pastor’s” advances became overtly sexual.
    This, as was pointed out, is a pre-meditated crime that pedophiles use to avoid criminal prosecution. So, Snorlax was right, as usual.

  • Mary D

    Dick Lancaster said “Thank God there are superior white, straight people to look out for these victims. After all, they could never take care of themselves on their own.”
    Really, Dick? I hope you’re being sarcastic, otherwise, that would mean you come only come on here and read the stories so you can convince yourself and others of your “superiority” – how lame.

  • http://www.skeptictank.org/ Fred

    I get the impression that every hate-filled Christian is someone with a mental problem, a crook, a criminal, something very wrong with them — and almost always a Republican when a United States crook.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Oh goodie, the politically illiterate Dick is back!!! Please explain for us, Dick, how you came to the following conclusion:

    Black guy attacks gays = Black people are anti-gay.

    Show your work.

  • Mason Green

    The white supremacists over at The Political Cesspool are already exploiting this story to advance their own cause: http://www.thepoliticalcesspoo.....lamboyant/

    This, of course, is blatantly hypocritical of them. Have they forgotten about all the white religious leaders who have gotten into trouble for the exact same thing? Ted Haggard, Tony Alamo, the pedophile Catholic priests (nearly all of whom were white, and many are European as well), Warren Jeffs, George Alan Rekers and Jimmy Swaggart all come to mind; how many more can you name? Clergy sexual scandals aren’t a “black” thing at all.

  • Mason Green

    Snorlax,

    The age of consent in Georgia is 16, which means that what he did wasn’t pedophilia, at least not according to Georgia law. That doesn’t mean he won’t be in legal trouble, though; he could still be found guilty of sexual harassment if it turns out he used his position of authority to pressure them into sex.

  • Donna

    Its time for these religious organizations to pay taxes like all businesses. This tax free crap has got to end!

  • Marisa

    Bishop Eddie Long has long been known as homophobic. WAY, WAY too many of those who preach homophobia are revealed to have committed homosexual acts. That means that when that’s revealed, THEY are revealed as hypocrites. I am a straight person with many gay friends. They are wonderful people. The church I was raised in (Mormon) worked hard to defeat gay marriage in California and Arizona, To me, that was inexcusable – to deprive a group of their civil rights in the United States of America. Homophobia should not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form – by ANYONE, including the military, churches, you name it!!!!!

  • Snorlax

    If these guys were minors when the minister had his way with them, that means he’s not gay…he’s a pedophile.

    Pedophilia and homosexuality are not the same thing and do not even overlap. They are completely seperate things.

    This wouldn’t be the first man of the cloth to go chasing the altarboys and won’t be the last. I think we will see more of them from the conservative megachurches.

  • Karen

    Jeff,

    You are missing the point. The Bible, particularly the old Testament, says that all kinds of things are sinful that most people now consider antiquated. The fact is that the Deuteronomy reference to homosexuality is one of a long list of don’ts, such as not wearing linen and wool together. What is happening with the virulently anti gay “religious” movement is that such scriptures are used selectively in order to stigmatize gays and lesbians. Slavery is approved of in the Bible, but we don’t practice it because it is wrong. Same thing here. The label is accurate.

  • Jeff

    I don’t know the facts of the case and these comments do not condone the actions that he has been charged with and I haven’t heard this guy’s sermons on the issue of Homosexuality. BUT I think that an organization whose goal is to avoid hate and prejudice should be a little careful with labels. If he merely reiterates the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is sinful then I think the label is incorrect.

  • Dick Lancaster

    Good gosh! The SPLC must be racking its brain. Its two most beloved victims, blacks and gays are under attack from members of its two most beloved oppressed groups, blacks and gays.

    Thank God there are superior white, straight people to look out for these victims. After all, they could never take care of themselves on their own.

  • legalhound

    So many of these self-righteous homophobic jerks have turned out to be gay themselves. I am beginning to think that it is the rule rather than the exception. The more anti-gay a politician is the more boyfriends he has in his closet. The louder a preacher condemns greed the more money he’s pocketing, the louder he complains about judging people the more groups he condemns in his sermons. And the more he condemns gay people the more gay sex he’s getting behind the scenes.
    We now live in opposite world folks. We’ve put up with the junk these hypocrites tell us for so long that words no longer hold their meaning, everything has turned upside down.
    I am not happy about this lawsuit, but at the same time it may be the exact wake up call this Bishop needs. People who profess to be men of God need to really remember that what they have done with all of their condemnation and hate spewing is shrink God instead. That is the worst thing they could do-belittle God -God is so much bigger than any one religion has managed to muster. God very well may be too big for one religion to have a monopoly. Hopefully this Bishop will learn that gay folks are people too and as such they are still children of God and are entitled to our love and support rather than our malice – and maybe he’ll figure out that he’s human too.

  • skinnyminny

    As a black female (one-drop rule qualifies as black), I will not vouch for this guy. I have been saying all along that churches need to lose their tax-exempt status. I’ve complained all along that these churches receive yachts, private planes, homes, jewelry and other property through ‘wills,’ donations…I haven’t seen or heard of one church that have given or sold any assets to help the poor.

    People need to realize that anyone can be a pastor, anyone can open a church, i.e. Joe Stack that flew a plane into gov. buildings, Ted Haggard (if that’s the correct spelling) used meth and male prostitutes.

    I’ve read on a blog, I think it was called Dominican Republic Today, and I think it was young adults from YWAM that wrote and complained that, they were in the Dominican Republic on a mission, that they (the young adults) were forced to eat food that was donated while the group leaders were eating lobsters and driving around in fancy cars.

    And now back to O’Donnell, she preaches abstinence, but it is reported she’s had numerous boyfriends. And I am thinking no one remembers the Salem Witch Trials.

    It appears that churches are teaching hate, greed, selfishness, violence and instructing people who to vote for in elections.

    But, a little piece inside of me is also wondering if this is politically and racially-motivated. I have noticed in the past year, the media and right-wing have been targeting successful/famous/popular/rich black people. They have verbally beaten Tiger Woods to a pulp. Singer Fantasia was kicked while she was already down. They have verbally attacked Pres. Obama and crippled his policies by saying “no.” And last, they set up and destroyed Acorn in order to win elections.

    Is this minister guilty? More than likely. I believe that we have put the churches on a pedestal – more so with the Faith-Based Initiatives from the previous commander in chief.