US & Canada

US pastor to fight sex allegations

One of the most powerful independent church leaders in the US says he will fight allegations that he coerced young men into sexual relationships.

Four young men have filed lawsuits against Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Bishop Long told a congregation that he was not a perfect man but he would fight the allegations against him.

He did not discuss the lawsuits, but he has previously denied the claims.

Bishop Long, who is an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, built up the New Birth church from a small suburban community to a congregation of 25,000.

"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 is being portrayed on the television. That's not me," he said to thunderous applause.

"I've been accused, I'm under attack, but this day I'm going to fight," he added.

"And I want you to know one other thing, I feel like David against Goliath."

Although Bishop Long has been named as a defendant in the lawsuits, federal and state authorities say they will not investigate the allegations because all four men were above Georgia's age of consent when the alleged relationships began.

In 2006, the New Birth church hosted the funeral of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

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