Bishop Eddie L. Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, is close to reaching an agreement with the four young men who sued him over allegations of sexual abuse.
After three months of marathon negotiations, the two sides have reportedly overcome the final obstacle that prevented the case from coming to a conclusion, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. What that final obstacle is has not been made public as of this report.
Four young men have sued Long, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and the LongFellows Youth Academy alleging Long leveraged his position, lavish gifts, cars, travel and living arrangements to coerce them into having homosexual relations.
The greater question is what will become of Long’s vast religious empire after the dust settles from this damning dilemma. The sexual abuse case became a scandal of international proportions because of Long’s stature in the world religious community. Despite initially denying the charges, Long entered mediation not long after vowing to his loyal followers that he would “fight” the allegations. The ramifications from the case include reduced membership, a mutilated national image, being the butt of comedic jokes and job loss at the religious edifice. Long attributed the cutbacks to the prolonged economic slump, which some consider a plausible explanation.
Late last year, all parties agreed to mediation. An agreement would avoid a lengthy and costly trial. However, if an agreement isn’t reached, the case could go to trial this summer.
“We don’t have anything to comment about the status of the cases,” said Art Franklin, a spokesman for Long. The attorney who represents the young men could not be reached for comment.
Jones reported that marathon sessions were suggested because some involved in the case didn’t want it go past Easter. It was also reported there was apparently one major obstacle preventing a resolution, but that appears to have been settled and both sides are working on resolving the remaining issues. –terry shropshire