Mega-church leader Bishop Eddie Long has canceled a previously announced appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show Thursday after a third man filed a lawsuit accusing the prominent minister of using his pastoral influence to coerce him into a sexual relationship. In addition, Long’s attorneys canceled plans for a press conference to address the growing scandal.
The syndicated radio show, heard locally on Kiss 104.1, had issued a press release saying the leader of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church would discuss the allegations on-air. However, the show’s Roland Martin, who was scheduled to interview Long., said on his Twitter account early Thursday that “the lawyers have made the decision that due to the third lawsuit that Bishop not to do interviews tomorrow.”
Craig Gillen, an attorney for Long, was interviewed on the radio program instead. Gillen said there was “miscommunication” about a press conference today, and that there would not be one . On Wednesday a Long representative issued a release to media members that a press conference would be held Thursday.
A lawsuit filed Wednesday by Jamal Parris, 23, a former member of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, claims Long made Parrish call him “Daddy” and coerced him into sexual acts.
The suit, similar to two filed on Tuesday, accuses Long of using his power to force the plaintiff into a sexual relationship. In exchange, Long placed Parris and the two other men on the church’s payroll, bought them cars and other gifts, and took them on lavish trips, according to the suits filed in DeKalb County Superior Court.
Long adamantly denies the allegations.
Stephen M. Brown, senior vice president of media strategy at MS & L’s Atlanta office, questioned the time it’s taken Long to make a personal statement about the allegations.
“Something definitive needs to be said, for sure,” he said. “I think he needs to explain what the relationship was between himself and the people making these allegations and detail any misunderstandings.”
Parris’ allegations are similar to claims made by Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Robinson, 20, who filed suits Tuesday.
Robinson and Flagg say Long began having inappropriate relations with them when they were 16. They are seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages.
“It is unfortunate that these young men have chosen to take this course of action,” Long’s attorney, Craig Gillen, told the AJC Tuesday night.
Parris and his mother joined the church in 2001 when he was 14.
Within two weeks, Long gave Parris his personal cell phone number, the suit alleges.
Their relationship intensified during the 2004-05 school year, with Long often inviting Parris to his guesthouse on Snapfinger Road.
“Initially, Long engaged in sexual touching during their encounters and then escalated the activity to oral sodomy and other acts of sexual gratification,” the suit reads. “Long would discuss the Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity.”
Parris claims he left the church in 2009 “disillusioned, confused and angry.”
Attorney B.J. Bernstein, who is representing the three plaintiffs, has said they do not want to comment. Phone calls left with them and their relatives were not returned.
Meanwhile, gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes has canceled a Friday morning fundraiser that Long was to co-host.
“While these allegations are troubling, we will refrain from commenting until all the facts are known,” Barnes spokesman Emil Runge said in a prepared statement.
Bernstein claims Long abused his pastoral relationship with the men and convinced them that the sexual relationships were a “healthy component of [their] spiritual lives.”
Parris’ suit claims that Long took him on trips on his private jet as far away as Trinidad and Honduras.
On some of the trips with Robinson and Flagg, Long would use the alias “Dick Tracy” when he checked into hotels. According to online service Accurint, a Dick Tracey Long lives in Lithonia at the same address as Eddie L. Long.
The three suits each allege 11 counts, including fraud and negligence, against Long, the 25,000-member church and the Longfellows Youth Academy.
The three plaintiffs were each members of the academy, which is aimed at helping men “love, live and lead.”
Two of the men have criminal records, including a recent arrest for a burglary at Long’s office.
In June, Robinson and Anthony Boyd were charged with using a secretary’s key to enter Long’s personal office at the Lithonia church. Robinson and Boyd, who were captured on surveillance cameras, took an iPod, iPad and jewelry, according to a police report.
The case is still pending, said a spokesman for the district attorney.
Bernstein said Robinson and Flagg, who was there the night of the burglary but not charged, were angry at Long and seeking retaliation after learning he was involved with other men.
Court records show Flagg was charged with simple assault in 2007 and sentenced to an anger management class. A warrant was issued after he failed to show up for court, court records show.
After that arrest, Long had Flagg move into a friend’s house in Lithonia, the suit alleges. Flagg was still attending Miller Grove High School at the time, but his mother thought the move would be good for him, Bernstein said.
Instead, Long used that time to engage in sex acts with Flagg, the suit alleges.
Despite that, Flagg, and Robinson, both graduated from Miller Grove in 2008. They still live in DeKalb. Parris now lives in Colorado.
The sex acts occurred when the men were 16, which is the legal age of consent in Georgia, Bernstein said. But Bernstein said some of the acts which occurred at hotels in other states could be considered criminal, which is why she contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bernstein said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney said Justice Department policy prohibits him from confirming or denying any possible investigations.
DeKalb school board member Eugene Walker, who has known Long for more than 20 years, said he did not believe the allegations.
“Ever since I have known him, he has reached out and lifted up our young people,” Walker said. “These allegations are absolutely not true. They have accused me of a whole lot of wrong things and they, like this, weren’t true. He’s a great servant and I can’t say anything wrong about him.”