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The young men are members of Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. They say Long abused his spiritual authority to seduce them with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips and access to celebrities. Credit: CBS/The Early Show. Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-504083_162-10004953-2.html#ixzz1ffIIO6kuI’ve blogged before about “Bishop” Eddie Long, the head of a megachurch in suburban Atlanta who recently settled several child sex-abuse cases. Therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, WXIA-TV in Atlanta reports via USA Today that he’s taking a leave of absence (WebCite cached article):

The senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Bishop Eddie Long, announced to his congregation Sunday morning that he is taking time off to be with his family.

Long, who was accused last year of sexually abusing several men in Atlanta, built his 150-member congregation into a following of 25,000 people and a televangelist empire.

His church pointed out rather sternly that Long is not resigning from his position, conceding only that he’s taking time off, probably because an outright resignation would amount to an admission of guilt on his part, something he’s avoided in spite of the settlements (which are confidential).

But what’s strange is that he claims to be taking time off to be with his family, just at the moment when his wife is divorcing him:

On Thursday, Vanessa Long filed for divorce from her husband of 21-years. By Friday Mrs. Long had reversed direction and had decided not to dissolve her marriage. However, Friday evening she recanted and moved forward with the divorce proceeding.

So pardon me if I don’t swallow this particular line.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: CBS News.

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Bishop Eddie Long from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA declared the word of the Lord into our hearts and lives.Over the past few months I’ve blogged many times on the Roman Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal and that Church’s dismal failure to handle it in anything approaching a mature and morally-upright fashion. But no one should be fooled into thinking scandals of this sort are limited only to Catholicism. Evangelical Protestants such as Ted Haggard and George Alan Rekers have been caught up in sex scandals over the last few years (albeit with adults). And before them, of course, there were Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.

More recently, yet another evangelical has found himself facing a sex scandal of his own, and this time the accusations involve somewhat younger victims. The CBS News Crimesider reports on the expanding case of Atlanta megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long (WebCite cached article):

New pictures [cached] have surfaced of Bishop Eddie Long, prominent pastor of a 25,000-member megachurch outside Atlanta, as a third man has come forward accusing the anti-gay advocate of coercing him into sex.

CBS News’ Erica Hill reports the pastor allegedly sent his accusers numerous photos [cached] of himself including at least several of him wearing spandex and workout clothes.

It’s not known precisely how the photos surfaced.

This scandal has been brewing for a week or so, and has reached the point where Long can no longer ignore it, even if — perhaps — he’d first thought he could deflect it:

Long canceled an interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show Thursday, opting instead to make his first public response to the sex allegations during a service at his Atlanta-area church on Sunday, according to his lawyer, who appeared on the nationally syndicated radio show in Long’s absence.

This article goes into some of the allegations, and also explains Long’s pedigree as a prominent evangelical:

In lawsuits filed this week, three men who were members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church claimed Long coerced them into sexual relations with gifts including cars, cash and travel when they were 17 or 18 years old. The sprawling church in Lithonia, Ga., about 18 miles outside of Atlanta, counts politicians, celebrities and the county sheriff among its members and hosted four U.S. presidents during the 2006 funeral of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

One of the claims in the lawsuits is that Long had sexual contact with the young men, who were enrolled in New Birth’s ministry for teen boys, during trips he took them on in the U.S. and abroad. Gillen said the travel was part of a mentoring program that other young men also participated in.

The problem for Long is not merely that he’s a pastor who knows better than to engage in such behavior, but that he’s an outright hypocrite, since he’s been something of an anti-gay crusader:

Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage and his church counsels gay members to become straight. In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father’s Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage “between one man and one woman.”

Bishop Long appears to have forgotten that his own Jesus explicitly, clearly, and unambiguously ordered his followers never, ever to be hypocritical.

It remains to be seen what he will say when he addresses his congregation on Sunday. Some news reports suggest he may be resigning pending the outcome of these cases, however, another CBS News Crimesider report shows some defiance on his part (cached):

Bishop Eddie Long spoke out for the first time Friday about allegations that he had sexual relationships with at least three teenage boys in his Atlanta-area church. …

Long said he was in the middle of a battle.

“We will arise through this situation, and go forward, and we are moving forward,” Long said.

That sounds like a guy who’s hired a batallion of attorneys to fight these lawsuits, not someone who’s preparing to give in and go away silently.

It should be no surprise to anyone that, in looking for reactions to this scandal, the mass media ran immediately, microphones extended, to the aforementioned shamed Ted Haggard, who is (likewise no surprise!) supporting his fellow scandal-plagued evangelical pastor, as AOL News reports (cached):

Disgraced pastor Ted Haggard cautions that no one should rush to judge Atlanta megachurch Bishop Eddie Long, who is accused of coercing three young men into sex.

“Nobody’s guilty until the court says he’s guilty,” Haggard, the former head of a 14,000-member congregation in Colorado, told AOL News in a phone interview Wednesday.

I don’t know what’s more pathetic … that the mass media thought that the shamed pastor had anything to say worth hearing, or that Haggard had the audacity to say that no one is permitted to think ill of Long until a court renders a verdict?

Photo credit: TBN Newsletter.

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