LITHONIA, Ga. (CBS/WGCL) Two Georgia men have accused Bishop Eddie Long, the outspoken pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch and anti-gay activist, of abusing his position by coercing them into sexual relationships when they were adolescent members of his congregation, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The men, now 20 and 21, claimed Long misused his spiritual authority by seducing them with lavish gifts such as cars, money, clothes, international trips, jewelry and access to celebrities when they were 17-and 18-year-old members of the pastor's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., reports CBS affiliate WGCL.
Lawyers for the men say they filed the lawsuit in DeKalb County Court Tuesday, which states, "defendant Long has utilized his spiritual authority to coerce certain young male members ... into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification."
Long's attorney, Craig Gillen claimed the pastor had not yet been served with copies of the lawsuits and says he "categorically denies the allegations."
"We find it unfortunate that these two young men would take this course of action," Gillen said.
Apparently Gillen believes the men's accusations are linked to a break-in at Long's office that occurred in June, reports WGCL.
B.J. Bernstein, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said one of the plaintiffs is facing a criminal burglary charge in the incident and claims the break-in was a way of lashing out at Long.
Bernstein reportedly she contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office earlier this month when she became aware of the young men's allegations; however, she did not know what action, if any, the agency planned to take, according to WGCL.
Long was appointed pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in 1987 when the church had about 150 members. In less than four years, the congregation grew to more than 8,000 members, many of whom reside in DeKalb County, home to many affluent African-Americans. Athletes and entertainers claim membership at the church, and among its prominent clergy is Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
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