Pastor accuser: Sex encounters on church grounds
One of four men accusing megachurch Bishop Eddie Long of coercing them into inappropriate sexual relationships said in a TV interview that aired Wednesday that he and the pastor would have encounters before and after worship services on church grounds.
Jamal Parris, 22, told Fox TV affiliate WAGA that they engaged in sexual acts at Long’s home, in his car and his office at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in surburban Atlanta, similar to claims he made in his lawsuit last week.
The Atlanta station is airing its interview with Parris, done outside a convenience store in Colorado, over several days.
In the segment Tuesday, Parris said he loved the pastor and considered him a father figure, but still called him a "predator" and a "monster." The four men, all former members of New Birth, say they were teenagers when Long enticed them with clothes, cars, cash and lavish trips to lure them into sexual relationships.
"You can’t believe the place you are at in your life and the things you are doing and the cars you are driving, and the people you are meeting," Parris said. "So, it becomes, if I want to continue to feel this love and this power, I’ll do whatever my dad wants me to."
Long’s spokesman Art Franklin had no comment on the latest interview.
In a statement responding to the earlier segment, Long’s attorney, Craig Gillen said, "Unfortunately the plaintiffs and counsel are attempting to try their lawsuits in the media. The appropriate place to try lawsuits is in the courtroom. There are rules on how civil litigation is to take place and how counsel should conduct themselves, we intend to follow those rules."
Parris said he and the others tried to deal with the situation outside of court. In June, he said he reached out to other "spiritual sons" about the alleged abuse.
"All we wanted to do was talk and just say, ’Help me with this hurt that you caused,’" Parris said. "And he had no sense of reverence, guilt, or remorse. So if you are not going to deal with us privately, then you are going to have to sit down publicly, one way or the other. But you are not going to hurt another young man another day in our lives."
Also Wednesday, Spencer LeGrande told WSB-TV in Atlanta that he has been free since filing his lawsuit against Long. He says he has no hate for anyone and is praying for Long whom he says "knows the truth" about what happened.
During services at his church Sunday, Long turned to biblical terms to portray himself as an underdog but didn’t outright deny the allegations.
"I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven’t thrown one yet," said Long, who added that while he doesn’t claim to be perfect, "I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television."
LeGrande, Parris, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg are suing Long in state court. The Associated Press has tried to reach the men but calls have not been returned.
Parris was 14 and his father had not been a good figure in his life when he joined New Birth in 2001. Within two weeks, Long gave him his personal cell phone number, the lawsuit said. On many Sundays after church, Parris would visit Long’s private office at the pastor’s request.
Parris said Long encouraged the young man to call him "Daddy," and that they eventually engaged in sexual acts. Long "would discuss the Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity," the lawsuit said.
Parris in Tuesday’s segment described an ongoing emotional struggle.
"I cannot get the sound of his voice out of my head and I cannot forget the smell of his cologne and I cannot forget the way he made me cry many nights when I drove in his cars on the way home," Parris said. "I’m not able to take enough showers to wipe the smell of him off my body."
LeGrande was 15 when he joined New Birth Charlotte during the church’s first service in 2003 at North Mecklenburg High School, Long’s alma mater. In 2005, LeGrande saw Long deliver a sermon with the theme of forgiving absentee fathers and "was personally moved by Defendant Long’s sermon, as his father had not been a part of his life."
LeGrande met Long after the sermon and began to cry when the pastor hugged him. Long responded, "I got you. I will be your dad."
Long and LeGrande began talking on the telephone and he also was encouraged to call the preacher dad. LeGrande accompanied Long on a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, where he said Long kissed him and rubbed his chest.