TROUBLING

Bishop Eddie Long Accused of Sexual Abuse

Two young men are accusing Baptist megachurch leader Bishop Eddie Long of coercing them into having sex with him during hotel stays on out-of-state trips, according to lawsuits filed in Atlanta. Long leads one of the largest congregations in the country, with 33,000 followers at his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the suburbs. He also has a TV ministry. “Defendant Long has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using his authority as bishop over them to ultimately bring them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship,” one suit says. Long’s lawyer says he “adamantly denies” the claims. The men were 17 and 18 at the time of the alleged incidents, and they say Long checked them into hotels across the U.S. under the name Dick Tracy. They allege he gave them presents, including a Mustang, and introduced them to celebrities, like Tyler Perry. Lawyers for the men say church officials knew about the misconduct, but covered it up to protect the powerful Long. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Long “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.”