Eddie Long's church followers deny possibility of "gay" sex scandal; Announcement expected Sunday [video]

Posted by JD Uy
September 26, 2010 12:28 AM |

"Man, this man loves his wife --  with a passion!"

An unnamed New Birth Baptist Church attendee. (ABC News)

''He's not that kind of person -- well, based on what I know, he's not that kind of person.''

Another unnamed New Birth attendee. (Fox 5 Atlanta)

''It's propaganda, man.... It's retaliation for the 2004 march, the anti-gay-marriage march.''

Anthony Harris, described by the Houston Chronicle as "a businessman who counts Long as a role model. The article portrays Eddie Long as delivering a persona with both admirable and deplorable qualities. In 2004, he led a march through Atlanta against the rights of gay men and lesbian to be legally married. (Chron.com)

''Homosexuality is a sin! Whoring and ho'mongering in a sin! Anything that is not of God is a sin.... Bishop Long has done a lot in this city as it relates to ministry.''

Jasper Williams, Jr, an Atlanta, Georgia preacher and friend of Eddie Long, who has been accused by four men sexual impropriety. All four of the men, now in their early 20s, claim Long coerced them into sexual relationships when they were teens, plying them with cash, cars, jewelry and more. (Associated Press)

Many outside observers of the news say that, if the accusations are true, it would prove that Long is yet another hypocrite and "false prophet" because he has a documented history of denouncing gay men, lesbians, and same-sex marriage.

Eddie Long has so far avoided commenting directly about the matter, but through a statement has said they are "false allegations." He is expected to speak in front of his church this morning. But it is reported that Long does not plan to allow cameras to record his message to his congregation. Several news sites based in Atlanta plan to show it live, including CNN.

Gossip blogs like Bossip are wildly extending rumors and speculation and claiming knowledge that Long will step down on Sunday, and that there are as many as 30 men to come forward.

''I still have the a feeling that those are not the intentions of Bishop. Bishop is known to be a mentor to young men, and I feel that him having interaction with this young man, or watching TV with him, it's -- it's nothing. I don't feel it was anything with a negative intention behind that.''

John Campbell III, a devoted follower of Eddie Long and the New Birth Church that he leads. After watching a brief clip of BJ Bernstein, the lawyer who is representing four men, Campbell and two other young members of the church sat stoney-faced and seemingly at a loss for words; leading some to think that New Birth Church members have not actually looked at the similarity of accusations being levied against Long and at the detailed stories that Bernstein has put forth. (CNN via YouTube)

All four accusers have said that Long began to bring these teen boys under his wing at 14 or 15. He  is alleged to have moved from encouraging hugs, to kisses and massage, then into dry humping, oral sex, and other acts as they entered adulthood. At the same time, these young men claim, that Long demanded their loyalty, interrupted their relationships with girls, and manipulated their emotions with gifts, church paychecks, tuition, and meetings with celebrities.

Bernstein also says Long quoted scripture to justify his behavior, and claiming that their shared actions did not make any of them gay. Bernstein labels Long's manner as similar to the way pedophiles operate. Yet, she admits that each of the youths were of the age of consent when sexual relations supposedly began.

''I've never admitted this on television: I am a victim of a pedophile when I was a kid. Someone who is much older than me. And those are the things that they do. The language, 'This doesn't make you gay if you do this....'

''Four people who have come up with the exact same story -- who, two of them knew each other, the third doesn't really know the other, and the fourth doesn't know any of them? ...

''I'm not saying that the Bishop is a pedophile, but no one is perfect. And so far, I've heard members of the congregation say that. But many people have not even put into their mind the possibility that man is not perfect in some way. And even if the behavior didn't go so far as to what the men are saying -- that something there was inappropriate.... The things that these young men are talking about, men don't want to -- especially African-American men -- don't want to talk about, don't want to admit them.''

Don Lemon, an achor of CNN, trying to speak with three young people who attend the New Birth Baptist Church. He seems to be trying to help them and his viewers to understand that an "open mind" may be needed in this case. (CNN)

The issue has been followed by CNN and it has exploded across many blogs and news sites. The fact that Eddie Long is an African-American preacher, who leads a mostly African-American congregation, and is based in Atlanta (a hub of black culture and history), has brought race into the discussion. However, when held up against the widespread history of sex scandals from the Catholic Church, other megachurches (Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, etc), and "family values" politicians; it seems to some observers that the racial aspect does not make the circumstances of Long's case unique. Anti-gay sentiments are all too frequently espoused by people of all colors, who later are found to be secretly engaging in same-sex or extra-marital activity.

''The only person in the pantheon of black churches who is bigger than this is T.D. Jakes.... And Atlanta is the epicenter of black church life.... It's going to rock everything at the church, and people will really start to question these ministers.''

Anthea Butler, a religion professor at the University of Pennsylvania telling the Washington Post that she is flying to Atlanta to address an "undeniable crisis in the black church." (Washington Post)

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