Two men have filed suit claiming that prominent Atlanta pastor Eddie Long used his position as a spiritual authority and bishop to coerce young males at his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church into sex. The church is denying the allegations.
Art Franklin, the spokesperson for Bishop Long, talked to American Morning's Kiran Chetry and John Roberts exclusively about the allegations.
Art Franklin: Good morning, Kiran and John. How are you guys?
Kiran Chetry: Great, thank you. Disturbing allegations for sure from two men who tell our Ed Lavandera they have texts and e-mail that is will corroborate their story. What is Bishop Long's side?
Franklin: I want to be clear from our perspective. There's been a lot of chatter since yesterday. But these complaints that have been filed against Bishop Long are definitely without merit and as we swiftly stated yesterday upon learning of the accusations, and as you said, Bishop Long categorically and adamantly denies the allegations and there's really unfortunate that the men gone down the road, taken this course of action against someone who helped them like numerous individuals and families in tough situations.
John Roberts: Art, these two men in question Anthony flag and Maurice Robinson, looking at the complaints, very similar in the stories and allegation that is Bishop Long became spiritual and personal advisers. That they were involved in this covenant ceremony. That they traveled extensively across the country and around the world with bishop long.
And there are numerous allegations here that he engaged in sexual conduct with them and here's one allegation here. It says, "Defendant LongÂ has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using the authority as bishop to bring them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship." The allegations here, very detailed.
Franklin: And John, let's talk about those two men making the allegations. These are plaintiffs in lawsuits who are not innocent victims. They're men on the wrong side of the law several times before and includes charging with breaking into Bishop Long's office in June to steal items such as jewelry and property that they could get cash, cash for so let your viewers be the judge of their actions. We can't get into individual demands. That's part of the legal battle.
Franklin: That's a battle that our legal defense team will have to respond to at some point.
Roberts: The break-in is detailed in the lawsuit. Their attorney says that they were lashing out at bishop long in that break-in that they stole personal items from him to hurt him for what he had done to them.
Franklin: This is actually, John, a case of retaliation and a shake-down for money by men with serious credibility issues trying to mount their own defense. This is something that went from 48 hours of contact with the attorney flinging outrageous demands to this dog-and-pony show we are seeing that began yesterday.
Chetry: Can you explain what the nature of the relationship was prior to the allegations being made, prior to the alleged break-ins? What was Bishop Long's relationship with these two teens?
Franklin: They were young men part of the program at new birth and outside of that I can't speak to a relationship they had with Bishop Long. They also were employed by the church as church employs a number of young people and others.
Chetry: When you say you can't speak to the nature of it, what of these e-mails and text messages that seem to indicate there was, at least, you know, some significant contact?
Franklin: We are getting information from you guys in the media and responding to Kiran, we have not even seen the lawsuit ourselves so that's something that our attorneys have to go through and they'll look at it. They'll respond to it in the appropriate form.
Chetry: And meantime, when's been the reaction of the congregation? This is a church with at least 25,000 members. A big part of the community there. What is the reaction?
Franklin: Oh, Kiran. Last night, it was a very spirit-filled worship service from a church family that loves its spiritual leader very much. Bishop Long has done not only good thing but great support throughout the world and drawing strength from his family, the new birth families, friends and supporters standing with him.
Roberts: Do you deny, though, art, that Bishop Long had a very close relationship with the two men in question and traveled extensively with him?
Franklin: A number of people travel with Bishop and he knows them. But listen. There are a lot of things, John, out there being said and before rushing to any judgment on bishop long and this court of public opinion taking place right now, really do hope that you would look at these guy who is are throwing mud and just consider the source.
Franklin: We'll learn a lot more.
Roberts: Obviously, looking at all aspects of this case but did Bishop Long ever share a bedroom with either one of these men?
Franklin: That is one of the allegations that we learned through the media that's being made by the attorneys and something that the defense team will have to respond to.
Roberts: You don't have a response at this point?
Franklin: I do not have a response for that. That's something the defense team would have to respond to.
Watch American Morning weekdays 6am to 9am ET. For the latest from American Morning click here.