Accused bishop vows to fight

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The Independent US

The famed pastor of a Lithonia, Georgia megachurch said that he will fight allegations that he lured young men into sexual relationships, stressing that he'd be back to lead the church the following week.

Addressing a New Birth Missionary Baptist Church sanctuary packed with thousands, Bishop Eddie Long drew thunderous applause when he addressed his flock publicly for the first time since the first lawsuits were filed several days ago.

"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. That is not me," he said as applause interrupted him.

Four young men have filed lawsuits in the past week. Two claim they were members of the church's LongFellows Youth Academy when Long gave them gifts and took them on trips to seduce them.

Long – who has been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and whose church has counselled gay members to become straight – has been named as a defendant in the lawsuits, which claim the pastor abused his "spiritual authority". But federal and state authorities have said they will not investigate the allegations because all four men said they were 17 and 18 years old when the relationships with Long began – older than Georgia's age of consent, which is 16.