Yesterday, Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of an Atlanta-based megachurch—reached an out-of-court settlement with four men who accused him of coercing them into sex.
According to the lawsuit, the young men accused Long of using his power and influence in the church to persuade them to engage in sexual acts such as massages, masturbation and oral copulation. The men also allege that Long took them on trips to Kenya, and gave them gifts including jewelry, electronics, cars, and clothes.
Long’s attorneys denied the men’s allegations, and said their client was merely trying to be a father figure to the youths.
Although Bishop Long vowed to fight the men’s accusations, Art Franklin, Long’s spokesman, said that the settlement was “the most reasonable road for everyone to travel.” Franklin continued in a statement, “This decision was made to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry.”
Despite the scandal, many in Long’s congregation stood by him. However, some think that the news of this settlement may dampen some of his support.
Shayne Lee, a sociology professor and expert on televangelists at Tulane University told CNN that the settlement might cause some to question Long’s claims of innocence.
“When you settle outside of court, it implies that there’s some guilt involved,” said Lee.
“To the average congregation in the black church, those are some very serious charges,” Lee said, referring to the men’s charges against Long. “You can’t settle outside of court. You have to fight and roll up your sleeves, be defiant and fight it.”
Since the scandal broke, attendance at Long’s church has decreased. However, others aren’t so sure this scandal or settlement will cause Bishop Long’s members to shun him.
One Atlanta-area pastor, Rev. Tim McDonald, told CNN he thinks Long will have no problem rebuilding his congregation because Black parishioners are forgiving.
“Black folks have very short memories,” said the Rev. Tim McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “We are the most forgiving people on the planet.”
Despite the scandal or the reaction of his parishioners, one thing is clear, Bishop Long won’t be trading in his Bible for another profession anytime soon. Along with preaching and believing in redemption, Tulane professor Shayne Lee says Bishop Long won’t be exiting the pulpit for another reason—he’s cocky.
“This is what he knows,” Lee told CNN. “He’s not going to be able to sell insurance or cars. He’s cocky. He’s confident. He believes in redemption.”