(AP) - Two men have filed a lawsuit accusing Bishop Eddie Long of exploiting his role as pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch to coerce them into sexual relationships when they were young members of his congregation.
Lawyers for the men, now 20 and 21, say they filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in DeKalb County Court. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were victims of sexual impropriety.
Craig Gillen, Long's attorney, said Tuesday the pastor "categorically denies the allegations."
"We find it unfortunate that these two young men would take this course of action," Gillen said, adding that Long had not yet been served with copies of the lawsuits.
The men were 17- and 18-year-old members of Long's
B.J. Bernstein, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said that when the relationships started, the plaintiffs were past the legal age of consent in
"Defendant Long has utilized his spiritual authority to coerce certain young male members ... into engaging in sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual grafitication," the lawsuits read.
When asked about a possible motive for the accusations, Gillen referred to a break-in at Long's office in June.
Bernstein said one of the plaintiffs is facing a criminal burglary charge in the incident. She said the break-in was a way of lashing out at Long.
Bernstein said she contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office earlier this month when she became aware of the young men's allegations. She did not know what action, if any, the agency planned to take.
Orzy Theus, a spokesman for the
Long was appointed pastor of New Birth in 1987. Then, the church had about 150 members. Less than four years later, the church had grown to more than 8,000 members, many of whom reside in
Today, New Birth sits on 250 acres and has more than 25,000 members, a $50 million, 10,000-seat cathedral and more than 40 ministries - including the
Associated Press Writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this story.