Dozens of parents said they are left scrambling to find a school for their children after leaders at New Birth Christian Academy said the campus will not reopen next week.
School officials told Channel 2 Action News that money and not enough students are the main issues, but some parents said they believe it’s more than that.
How much more than that?
The academy is housed inside the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. A spokesperson made it clear that the school closure has nothing to do with the sex abuse allegations against Bishop Eddie Long.
“I don’t believe that. I believe that this last straw with the divorce, the sealed settlement, it just does not look good,” said the parent.
Parents received the letter on Dec. 22. School reopens there on Jan. 4. The DeKalb County, Ga., school system has said it will help place the refugee students.
In responses to the four lawsuits filed against him and New Birth Baptist Church, Bishop Eddie Long denied coercing the young men into sexual relationships, but admitted other key aspects of their accounts. The responses were filed in DeKalb County (Georgia) State Court on Monday.
In September, four young men — Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande — filed suits against Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. The young men claimed Long coerced them into having sex with him in exchange for lavish gifts, trips and jobs. In the filings, Long said it has been a practice of his to occasionally share a room with members of his congregation. However, he said “the plaintiff’s claims of sexual misconduct are not true.
He admitted that he took the men on trips, but he denied the complaints of sexual contact. He did admit to hugging some of the men.
Long also admitted to giving the plaintiffs gifts, including cars, and helping them financially, but he denied that it was in exchange for sex. He said he has “provided sporadic financial assistance,” and he routinely pays for rent and other expenses for New Birth members, according to the filings.
Almost 75 people led by Bishop “Prophet” H. Walker of True Light Pentecost Church in Spartanburg, S.C., called for Long’s resignation in a ralliy “on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol” Sunday,
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, key passages are:
There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television. That’s not me. That is not me
By the counsel of my lawyers, they have advised me not to try this case in the media. I am not gon’ try this case in the media. It will be tried in the court of justice and dealt with in the court of justice and please understand because that’s the only place I think I’ll get justice, but being in the hands of God.
Please hear this. Please hear this: I’ve been accused. I’m under attack. I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man. But this thing I’m gon’ fight.
And I want you to to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.
Read the entire transcript here.
Craig Schneider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote Friday:
Spencer LeGrande filed suit against Long Friday, marking the fourth such action filed this week. He said in the suit that he met Long when he was 15 at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., where he and his mother were among the founding families. He said he accompanied Long on several trips abroad and later moved to Atlanta.
New Birth Charlotte is a satellite church of Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.
Three other young men have filed similar suits against Long. All four claim Long, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement,” repeatedly coerced them into sex when they were younger.
His father, 55-year-old Greensboro, N.C., furniture store worker Eddie LeGrande said:
He never told me. He never gave me a clue,
But looking back, he said, “There were red flags.” The trips, the gifts, the attention, he said.
“I’m very upset about it,” he said. “I’m very hurt about it. I’m very hurt for my son.”
If the accusations are true, he said, “I think he should be banned from his church. I think he should do jail time, and he should pay the victims for the hurt. He should be used as an example.”
Long has thus far denied but nonetheless responded only briefly to the allegations.
Long made a telephone conference call to pastors and supports Friday:
We will arise through this situation, and go forward, and we are moving forward,” Long said, according to CNN affiliate WGCL-TV, which monitored the call.
“I have never dealt with anything like this before. I have been under attack before, but everything else has been different levels and different challenges,” Long said. He took no questions.
Keith Whitney of Atlanta’s 11Alive.com wrote on Friday:
Bishop Long is expected, however, to tell his side on Sunday in the ultimate venue. The pulpit.
Wikipedia’s list of mostly American Christian evangelist scandals includes Long’s mentor, Earl Paulk, whose career concluded amid scandal.
On his twitter account Thursday, Long tweeted:
Thanks for all your prayers and support! Love you all.
There has been vigorous twitter traffic in discussion of and speculation about the story since it broke. Speculation that Long plans to resign Sunday has been frequent since the fourth suit became public knowledge.
Mara Gay of AOL News writes:
“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.
Three young men from Long’s 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church filed lawsuits this week claiming he exploited his position and used cash, cars and expensive trips to pressure them into sexual relationships.
Of the pictures, one author suggested:
On Thursday, pictures hit the Internet like a whirlwind and no one knows how the photos surfaced which show the Bishop wearing spandex and workout clothes which is stated to have been sent to an accuser in November of 2008. According to attorney B.J. Bernstei who is representing the three men suing Eddie Long, they received dozens of emails from Long, but “they are not overly sexual.”
Veronica P. Roberts wrote today that a third man has filed suit:
A 3rd person has filed suit against Bishop Eddie Long, at the Dekalb County court, accusing him of using his power as pastor and mentor, to seduce him into having sexual relations with him, states CNN.
23-year-old Jamal Parish, from the same church, has alleged that Long has been having sexual encounters with him since he was 17 years old and lasted until he was 22, which was last year.
CNN reports that a spokesperson has informed the media that Bishop Long will hold a press conference on Thursday morning to answer these allegations.
Christa Brown calls our attention to a story of a Southern Baptist church’s negligence in dealing with a preacher’s sexual abuse of his adopted children. She quotes from the Anchorage Daily News:
Church officials knew the oldest daughter, Renee, was being abused long before Diana did. One of them, according to Renee’s sworn testimony, told her to forgive her father and not tell anyone what he had done. It was three years before Renee got the courage to speak up again. By then, her father had started in on her two little sisters.
You see in that horror why sexual predators regard churches as attractive environments.
For example, one predator told a researcher [.pdf]:
I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people … I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.
Thus forgiveness becomes cover-up, with hellish results for victims.
William Warren of Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics was civil in his response. According to the Charlotte Observer:
He said his group considered the vandalism an isolated act and not indicative of Charlotte’s religious community.
It would be ironic if Christians were found to be responsible for the vandalism. For the pledge in its original form, without the “under God” wording which was added in a Cold War heat in 1954, was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister (and socialist).
Oops is in a way how FBC Jax Watchdog was robbed of his anonymity.
Although some evidence pertaining to the involvement of State Attorney Angela Corey was somehow inadvertently destroyed.
Really, and that destruction is cited as part of an argument against deposing Corey as part of the proceedings.
A Florida federal district court refused this week to dismiss the claim by blogger Tom Rich (FBC Jax Watchdog) that Assistant Fla. State Attorney Stephen Siegel violated Rich’s right to speak anonymously, and trampled on the Establishment Clause because defendants had no secular purpose for their actions.
The lawsuit alleges Siegel issued subpoenas that helped Jacksonville police officer Robert Hinson — who was a member of First Baptist Church of Jacksonvilla, Fla. — identify Rich when there was no evidence of criminal activity.
Dismissed in the same action were civil claims against State Attorney Angela Corey for her office’s role.
Rich’s claims against the police officer and against First Baptist were unaffected because they weren’t involved in this motion to dismiss.
Emerging standards for unmasking anonymous bloggers were certainly not met in Rich’s case.
To prevail in this instance, Rich must now prove the violations he alleges. But even at this juncture, the case is a caution for those who would twist legal authority to unmask an anonymous blogger without compelling legal justification. Abuse of power has a price.
[H/T: Religion Clause]