(Photo: AP Images / John Amis, Pool)
Bishop Eddie Long admitted in court documents that he took the four young men accusing him of sexual abuse on trips. But he denied allegations that he seduced them.
The New Birth Missionary Baptist Church pastor filed responses to each of the four lawsuits in Dekalb County State Court on Monday. Prior to that, he refused to address the specific complaints outside of court.
There was never any sexual contact between Long and the men, the filings state, according to FOX 5 News.
Lawsuits were filed in September against the megachurch pastor. Four young men – now in their early twenties – claim they were seduced by Long when they were teens (from 16 to 18 years of age). They allege that the preacher, who was like a father figure to them, took them on overnight trips, gave them money and lavish gifts, coerced them into engaging in sexual acts, and abused his spiritual authority.
On Sunday, dozens of protesters rallied in Atlanta, Ga., demanding that the pastor resign. Among the participants was Reuben Armstrong, author of Snakes in the Pulpit, who has long criticized the New Birth pastor for his prosperity gospel teaching and accused him of having homosexual relationships.
The rally was led by Prophet H. Walker of Ture Light Pentecostal Church in Spartanburg, S.C.
Long admitted in the official responses Monday that he was a mentor to the young men along with others who have been without a male role model and that they called him "Daddy," "Bishop" and "Granddaddy," as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also said he has occasionally shared a room with members of his congregation but the claims of sexual misconduct "are not true."
He also said he gave the young men gifts and helped them financially but noted that he routinely pays for expenses for members of the church, the filings state.
Since the lawsuits were filed, Long has been largely supported by his 25,000-strong congregation. He received their applause and affirmation as he told them that the man being portrayed in the lawsuits and in the media was not him.
He has painted the public battle as a "David vs. Goliath" fight.
His spokesman, Art Franklin, contended to CNN that the lawsuits are "a shakedown for money by men with some serious credibility issues."