Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bishop 'coerced men into sex'

ATLANTA - TWO men have filed a lawsuit accusing Bishop Eddie Long of exploiting his role as pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch to coerce them into sexual relationships when they were young members of his congregation.

Lawyers for the men, now 20 and 21, say they filed the lawsuit on Tuesday. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were victims of sexual impropriety.

Craig Gillen, Bishop Long's attorney, said on Tuesday the pastor 'categorically denies the allegations.' 'We find it unfortunate that these two young men would take this course of action,' Mr Gillen said, adding that Bishop Long had not yet been served with copies of the lawsuits.

The men were 17- and 18-year-old members of Bishop Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, when they say Bishop Long abused his spiritual authority to seduce them with with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips and access to celebrities.

BJ Bernstein, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that when the relationships started, the plaintiffs were past the legal age of consent in Georgia, which is 15.

'Defendant Long has utilised his spiritual authority to coerce certain young male members ... into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual grafitication,' the lawsuits read. When asked about a possible motive for the accusations, Mr Gillen referred to a break-in at Long's office in June. Ms Bergstein said one of the plaintiffs is facing a criminal burglary charge in the incident. She said the break-in was a way of lashing out at Bishop Long. -- AP

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