Bishop Eddie Long Denies Sex Abuse Allegations

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Bishop Eddie Long, prominent pastor of a 25,000-member megachurch outside Atlanta, Ga., is denying allegations that he sexually abused three former members of his congregation.

In separate civil lawsuits, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg - now in their early twenties - accused Long of coercing them into having sex in exchange for trips, cars and cash while they were teenagers.

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"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.

"I am telling you these are very powerful, brutal allegations that are true," said B.J. Bernstein, an attorney in the case. "He has relationships at different times, at different places, with whoever he wants.

A third lawsuit with similar accusations filed by 23-year-old Jamal Parris also surfaced late Wednesday.

Long's attorney, Craig Gillen, said the pastor has "categorically" denies all the charges.

"We find it unfortunate that these two young men would take this course of action," he said late Tuesday after news of the lawsuits broke.

Church spokesman Art Franklin said in an interview that the plaintiffs were motivated by retaliation and called the lawsuits a "shakedown for money."

Long, who was originally scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday to address the allegations, has postponed his remarks until Sunday services. 

Meanwhile, church members are standing by their pastor.

Atlanta-area radio host Frank Ski, a 12-year church member, expressed nothing but support for Long.

"It's difficult for me because Bishop Long and I are very close," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm one of these people who's really old school. When you're a friend and I support you, I support you. Right now it's allegations."

"I think that those who begin to judge him should wait until it all comes out," another member added.  "Based on what I know he's not that kind of person."

Long became pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in 1987 when the church had 150 members. The congregation has grown a hundred-fold and sits on a 250-acre campus in Lithonia, Ga.

Because the plaintiffs were over the age of consent at the time of the alleged abuse, the case remains a civil matter and no criminal charges will be filed.

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