[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/CRIME/11/22/georgia.pastor.lawsuits/story.eddie.long.pool.jpg caption="In the past, Bishop Eddie Long has denied allegations that he sexually coerced four young men at his church, but recently agreed to undergo mediation with them." width=300 height=169]Editor's Note: Bishop Eddie Long, the Atlanta pastor accused of multiple counts of sexual coercion has agreed with his accusers to avoid a trial and instead undergo mediation. Read background on the accusations and Bishop Long's pulpit defense below. Watch AC360° tonight at 10p ET to hear what mediation means for Bishop Long's proclaimed innocence and for his accusers.
November 2 – In responses to four suits accusing him of coercing young men into sexual relationships, prominent Georgia pastor Eddie Long denies the claims and asks that the suits be dismissed.
"The plaintiff's claims of sexual misconduct are not true," each of the four responses filed by Long's attorneys says. The responses, each about 30 pages, offer a point-by-point response to each of the allegations and claims in the lawsuits. The documents were posted on the website of CNN affiliate WSB.
Four members of Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church - Anthony Flagg, 21; Maurice Robinson, 20; Jamal Parris, 23; and Spencer LeGrande, 22 - filed suit against Long and the 25,000-member megachurch in September, claiming he used his position as their spiritual counselor to pressure them into sexual relationships.
The suits allege that the relationships, which began when the men were in their teens, lasted over many months. According to the lawsuits, Long traveled with the young men to locations in the United States and abroad, sharing a room and engaging in sexual contact with them, including massaging, masturbation or oral sex. The suits also claim Long provided the youths with gifts including cars and money.
Long, one of his attorneys and a church spokesman have already publicly denied the allegations. In the responses filed Monday in DeKalb County, Georgia, Long's attorneys maintain the pastor was attempting to be a father figure to the youths, providing them with financial assistance and encouragement and helping them navigate their troubles.
Long has "been successful at building a ministry at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church that places a special emphasis on outreach to men, reinforcing to men the importance of partnering with a ministry that will grow them spiritually and will help them develop the life skills needed to become successful in the workplace and teach them how to become entrepreneurs and leaders," the court documents said.
"Bishop Long admits that he mentors many young men from challenged backgrounds, who have often been without the benefit of a male role model," according to the documents. "The mentor/mentee relationship between Bishop Long as mentor and the mentee is firmly grounded on expressed promises of honesty and truthfulness."
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