An attorney for a Baptist bishop whose ministry is in Lithonia, Ga., and who’s embroiled in a gay sex lawsuit defended his client on a radio show this week.
Bishop Eddie Long’s attorney went to the airwaves on Tom Joyner’s radio show this week to defend the pastor from three lawsuits filed against the popular preacher by three young men who said Long coerced them into having sex.
Craig Gillen, Long’s attorney, told Roland Martin of the Tom Joyner Show at 104.1 Kiss FM it was his decision not to have Long be interviewed on the show and first read a statement from Long.
“I apologize … this was my call [to not have Long interview on the show],” Gillen said during the interview that lasted just under 15 minutes. “He wanted to be here.”
The statement Gillen said was from Long said, in part, “I have been through storms and my faith has always sustained me … Let me be clear, these charges are false.”
Gillen also said Long stated he would respond to the allegations to his congregation of some 25,000 members at the 11 a.m. service on Sunday at New Birth located in Lithonia.
Gillen said “these false allegations” are an attack on Bishop Long personally, on New Birth and its 25,000 members as well as an attack on the church’s mentoring program “that has helped thousands of young men.”
Martin posed the question why Long himself has not spoken out yet himself some 48 hours after the first lawsuit was filed.
“You have a large congregation, a national, international ministry … but if someone leveled these kinds of charges, that I slept in a bed, that I actually performed sexual acts, that I groped individuals, things along those lines, I would likely be screaming to high heaven there’s no way in the world I did any of these things,” Martin said. “Don’t you think that still poses a problem not hearing directly from the bishop addressing these allegations?”
Gillen said he didn’t believe it was a problem and if any blame was to be made about Long not speaking directly about the situation to blame him as his attorney.
“It is important for the bishop to make sure as many folks as possible in that church understand and know he is going to be talking with them directly Sunday morning. These folks along with the bishop are under attack,” Gillen said.
No lawyer likes to have his client in a situation that a lawyer can’t control, Gillen added.
A press conference with Long that was scheduled for today was also canceled. Gillen said on the radio show there was a “miscommunication” and there would be no press conference.
Gillen also pointed out that two of the accusers were arrested for robbing the church.
The full statement from Long as read by Gillen on the radio today:
“I have been through storms and my faith has always sustained me. I am anxious to respond directly to these false allegations and I will do so. However, my lawyers counsel patience at this time.
“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. But my faith is strong and the truth will emerge.
“All I ask is for your patience as we continue to categorically deny each and every one of these ugly charges. Finally, as I have done for thousands of others over my decades of preaching
I ask for your prayers for me, my family and our church.”
Charges against Long
Jamal Parris, 23, is named as the plaintiff in the third lawsuit. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colo. He and his mother joined Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in 2001 when Parris was 14.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Parris alleges Long encouraged him to call him “Daddy.” During 2004-2005, Parris spent time alone with Long in a guesthouse of the megachurch on Snapfinger Road.
“Initially, Defendant Long engaged in sexual touching during their encounters and then escalated the activity to oral sodomy and other acts of sexual gratification,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Long would discuss the Holy Scripture to justify the sexual activity.”
The third lawsuit is similar to two lawsuits filed on Tuesday by former members.
Long has a long history of being anti-gay. In December 2004, he led a march of some 10,000 congregants through the streets of Atlanta from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center to Turner Field to protest same-sex marriage. Several local LGBT activists held a counter-protest to the march.
In 2005, black gay activists Keith Boykin and Jasmyne Cannick profiled Long as one of several anti-gay black pastors as part of an “Outing Black Pastors” online series on their websites.