(CNN) — Two Georgia men have filed a lawsuit claiming that prominent Atlanta, Georgia, pastor Eddie Long coerced them into sex.
The suits, filed Tuesday in DeKalb County, Georgia, allege that Long used his position as a spiritual authority and bishop to coerce young male members and employees of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church into sex.
“Defendant 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,” the suits allege.
Long is considered one of the nation’s top black preachers. His church has more 25,000 members, according to the suit, and was the site of Coretta Scott King’s 2006 funeral, attended by then-President George W. Bush and three previous presidents. King was the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The pastor took one plaintiff, Anthony Flagg, 21, on overnight trips to a half-dozen American cities in recent years, Flagg’s suit alleges.
“Following the New Zealand Trip, Defendant Long regularly engaged in sexual touching, and other sexual acts with Plaintiff Robinson,” Robinson’s suit alleges.”Long shared a bedroom and engaged in intimate sexual contact with plaintiff Flagg including kissing, massaging, masturbating of plaintiff Flagg by defendant Long and oral sexual contact,” the suit says.
Long took the other plaintiff, Maurice Murray Robinson, 20, to Auckland, New Zealand, in October 2008 for his 18th birthday and engaged in oral sex with him, Robinson’s suit alleges.
Long spokesman Art Franklin said Tuesday that “we categorically deny the allegations.”
“It is very unfortunate that someone has taken this course of action,” he said. “Our law firm will be able to respond once attorneys have had an opportunity to review the lawsuit.”
Long frequently denounces homosexual behavior. A 2007 article in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s magazine called him “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.”
“Everybody knows that a bishop or church pastor … cannot have any sort of sexual relations or sexual relationship with one of your parishioners,” the lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, said at a news conference Tuesday evening. “And even worse to have it with two young men who trusted him and got to know him at a very young age.”
Bernstein said she has alerted federal authorities about the allegations.
In June, Robinson was arrested and charged with burglary in connection with a break-in to Long’s office. An iPhone, iPad and other items — more than $1,300 worth — were taken from the office, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
On Tuesday, Bernstein said the theft was Robinson’s attempt to retaliate against the pastor. She said that once Robinson began telling others about his experience with Long, “he realized he wasn’t the only one.”
“It made [Robinson] angry,” she said. Read more here…