Bishop Eddie Long, the pastor of a megachurch in Georgia who has been accused of luring several boys into sexual relationships, defended himself to his congregation and faced the national media early on Sunday.
"On the advice of counsel, I am not going to address the allegations and the attacks. I want this to be dealt with in the court of justice not the court of public opinion. I am going to fight. Fight very vigorously. Things New Birth has stood for ... we will continue to do," Long said in a press conference this morning, referring to the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.
Earlier at a sermon, after he thanked his supporters and acknowledging his responsibility to his family, Long addressed the controversy.
"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."
"I am not going to try this case in the media; it will be tried in the court of justice," he said.
"I want you to know one other thing. I feel like David against Goliath, but I got 5 rocks and I haven't thrown one yet."
Long, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, is being sued by two boys that attended his LongFellows Youth Academy, and on Friday two more boys came forward with similar accusations, one of which filed a lawsuit on Friday.
The Associated Press reported that the latest lawsuit states Long coerced the accuser into a sexual relationship while the two were on a trip to Kenya, after the accuser had enrolled in Long's academy.
"It became a place where the bishop could learn the intimate details about these young men," said attorney B.J. Bernstein, who filed the civil lawsuits against Long.
Long, who reportedly told the young man who has filed suit "I will be your dad" on their Kenyan trip, has remained silent on the accusations until today's sermon. The LongFellows Youth Academy charges $500 per person for a rigorous four-month training session where Long demands the students run 2 miles in under 15 minutes and bench press their own weight. Meanwhile, they have to learn to calculate interest rates on investments and work at a job for at least three months.
"Our methodology here at LongFellows is to invade and bring about a culture with these young men that they start believing in a standard that they have something that they hold to, that they never give up or never give in, do the things that they are ordained to do," Long said in a promotional video found on the academy's website.
The clip, along with several testimonials from boys who attended the academy, has now been removed.
Anthony Flagg, one of the plaintiffs in the case against Long, said he told him that he chose him as a "spiritual son." Flagg moved in with Long after being arrested of an assault charge when he was 18 years old. According to Flagg's suit, Long would come into his bed at night and the two would engage in sex acts.
Another plaintiff, Maurice Robinson, who was enrolled in the academy at 14 by his mother, became the focus of Long's attention over the next year. A church employee rewarded Robinson with a Chevy Malibu. According to the lawsuit, Long and Robinson began engaging in sex acts in 2008 after a trip to New Zealand.
The lawsuit filed on Friday was by Spencer LeGrande, a member of New Birth Charlotte, one of Long's satellite churches in Charlotte, N.C. The suit claims that Long brought the 17-year-old on a trip to Kenya, where he gave him a sleeping pill on the trip, and they engaged in sexual acts.
The complaint stated that Long convinced LeGrande that "engaging in a sexual relationship was a healthy component of his spiritual life."
Long and the church's supporters are vehemently denying that Long is guilty of these accusations, and that the academy keeps kids out of trouble.
Associated Press Writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this story