Bishop Eddie Long to Address Sex Abuse Claims

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Bishop Eddie Long, the prominent Atlanta pastor accused of sexually abusing four former members of his congregation, said he will wait until Sunday services to speak publicly about the charges against him.

The 57-year-old pastor has "categorically" denied claims that he coerced two men - 20-year-old Maurice Robinson and 21-year-old Anthony Flagg - into a sexual relationship when they were teenagers.

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"Bishop Eddie Long adamantly denies the allegations," Long's attorney Craig Gillenand said in a statement Wednesday. "It's unfortunate the two young men have chosen to take this course of action."

The two filed separate civil lawsuits Wednesday saying Long showered them with cars, clothes, jewelry, and electronics, took them on trips in private jets, and put them up in luxury hotels.

A third lawsuit with similar accusations filed by 23-year-old Jamal Parris also surfaced late Wednesday.  A fourth lawsuit by another man was filed late Friday.

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

Bernstein said all of the plaintiffs have consented to making their identities public.

Church Stands by its Pastor

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

Meanwhile, congregants of the 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist in Lithonia, Ga., are standing by their pastor.

"I don't believe the allegations at all," one church member said.

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

Long will not face criminal charges because the plaintiffs were over the age of consent when the alleged incidents occurred. However, the damage to his reputation may be irreversible.

"I support and will stand with my bishop, but right now in the court of public opinion, it does not look good," New Birth member Lance Robertson said. "This affects too many people. As the bishop goes, New Birth goes. He built New Birth." 

Meanwhile, reports Long has asked for patience as he addresses the "ugly charges."

"Let me be clear - the charges against me and New Birth are false. I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply," Long said in a statement Thursday.

"But my faith is strong and the truth will emerge. All I ask is your patience while we categorically deny each and every one of these ugly charges. As I have done for thousands of others over decades of preaching, I ask for your prayers for me, my family and our church," Long said in the statement.

Federal and state authorities have said they will not investigate the allegations because all four men were 17 and 18 years old when the alleged relationships with Long began - older than Georgia's age of consent, which is 16.

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