LITHONIA, Ga. (CBS/AP) The Atlanta megachurch where embattled pastor Bishop Eddie Long presides says it acknowledges that the pastor accompanied four young men on trips, but claims it can neither confirm nor deny whether any inappropriate acts took place.
New Birth Missionary Baptist Church responded to lawsuits in DeKalb County State Court Monday, which allege that Long lured four men into sexual relationships when they were teenage members of the church.
Spencer LeGrande, 22, Jamal Parris, 23, Anthony Flagg, 21, and Maurice Robinson, 20, filed lawsuits against the pastor in September claiming they were 17 and 18 when Long first adopted them as his "spiritual sons." The men said Long then abused his "spiritual authority" and seduced them with cars, lavish trips and jewelry in exchange for sex, which he allegedly justified with Holy Scripture.
Local and state authorities have declined to investigate the accusations because the age of consent in Georgia is 16.
Though New Birth acknowledged that the men went on trips with Long, in some cases overseas, the church said that it could not explain the nature of the relationships that may have existed between Long and the men. The church said Flagg traveled with Long on trips to Tuskegee, Ala., Las Vegas and New York, but could not provide further details.
"The church understands that Bishop Long often shared hotel rooms with members of the congregations while traveling," stated the response, but it did not indicate whether Flagg shared a hotel room with the pastor, reports The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Last Monday Long categorically denied the allegations of sexual misconduct in four separate court responses, claiming he was merely a mentor to the four men who filed lawsuits against him.