The lawsuit against Bishop Eddie Long for sexual misconduct apparently could not be settled outside of court. The judge who said less than a month ago that the dispute was close to being resolved now says he is preparing to hear the case in court this fall.
Atlanta’s WSBTV Channel 2 first reported on Thursday that Judge Johnny Panos is looking at a trial date in August or September. Panos declined to give details of what could not be resolved during the settlement discussions.
Long, who is pastor of the 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Church in Lithonia, Ga., is accused by four young men who were former members of his church of using his spiritual authority to lure them into sexual relationships.
Two of the men first filed the lawsuits in September, then the other two followed once news broke.
The popular African-American preacher has denied allegations that he coerced the plaintiffs, who were then in their teens, to engage in sexual activities.
Since February, attorneys from both parties have been actively negotiating to try to work out a compromise and settle outside of court. If the parties settled outside of court, then none of the information discussed during the mediation process would be disclosed to the public.
Besides Long, the plaintiffs are also suing New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and LongFellows Youth Academy.
Last fall, when Long was sued by the four young men, he was also being investigated by the U.S. Senate, headed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), for alleged financial misconduct. Grassley tried to investigate whether Long and five other televangelists who subscribe to the prosperity gospel were abusing their non-profit tax exemption status.
The investigation concluded in January with only Joyce Meyer Ministries and Benny Hinn’s World Healing Center Church fully cooperating. The other four ministries, including Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Church, either did not provide responses or provided incomplete ones. None of the organizations were penalized.
Long, who is married and has four children, has kept a low profile and has canceled many of his public speaking events since the lawsuit.