Lawyer: Sex lawsuit involving Ga. pastor resolved

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ATLANTA — A lawsuit filed by four young men who accused a Georgia megachurch pastor of sexual misconduct has been resolved, attorneys for both sides said Thursday, bringing a quiet end to a blockbuster legal complaint that targeted one of the nation’s most powerful church leaders.

The lawsuit against Bishop Eddie Long has been resolved, said plaintiffs’ attorney B.J. Bernstein. New Birth Missionary Baptist Church attorney Barbara Marschalk said she anticipates the complaint will be dismissed by Friday. Long’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Long is a father of four who has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, and his church has counseled gay members to become straight. But the TV preacher’s empire was threatened in September when the four men sued.

The men claimed Long abused his spiritual authority and used cars, jewelry and cash to lure them into trysts when they were 17 and 18. Local and state authorities did not investigate any possible crime because Georgia’s age of consent is 16.

The trial was set to begin later this year if a settlement had not been reached. Bernstein had said that she didn’t have much physical evidence backing up the complaints but that she planned to subpoena records from Long to show he traveled with the young men to New Zealand and elsewhere.

Two of the young men claimed he targeted them after they enrolled in the church’s LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that taught teens about sexual, physical and financial discipline. The other two — one of whom attended a satellite church in Charlotte, N.C. — have made similar claims.

Long said in court documents that he often encouraged his church members to call him “daddy” and that some even called him “grandaddy,” but he said the term was a sign of respect.

The pastor also said in the documents that he has shared rooms with some of his church members, and that his parishioners often hug him. And while he admitted to giving the plaintiffs gifts, he said he often provided many members of his church with financial help.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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