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updated 5/27/2011 5:58:28 AM ET 2011-05-27T09:58:28

Lawsuits brought by four young men who accused a Georgia megachurch pastor of sexual misconduct have been resolved, attorneys for both sides said Thursday, bringing a quiet end to a blockbuster legal complaint that targeted a powerful national religious leader.

Both sides declined to discuss terms of the deal, other than to say the civil suits in state court would not go forward against Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

The four young men had alleged Long abused his spiritual authority and coerced them into sexual relations with gifts including cars, cash and travel when they were 17.

One suit also claimed Long had sexual contact with one of them during trips he took them on in the U.S. and abroad. Long denied the allegations, and federal and state authorities didn't investigate because Georgia's age of consent is 16.

Still, the scandal tainted the reputation of Long, who over two decades had transformed his suburban Atlanta congregation of 150 into a following of 25,000 members and an international televangelist empire that included athletes, entertainers and politicians.

The 58-year-old husband and father of four has championed strong families and been an outspoken opponent of gay marriage.

Plaintiffs' attorney B.J. Bernstein said Thursday "we can confirm that the matter has been resolved" but would not elaborate. Phone calls to the young men were not returned.

Barbara Marschalk, an attorney for New Birth Missionary Baptist, confirmed the suits had been resolved and said they would likely be dismissed by Friday.

Story: Lawsuits: Atlanta pastor coerced males into sex

Church spokesman Art Franklin issued a statement late Thursday saying: "After a series of discussions, all parties involved have decided to resolve the civil cases out of court. This decision was made to bring closure to this matter and to allow us to move forward with the plans God has for this ministry."

"As is usually the case when civil lawsuits resolve out of court, we cannot discuss any details regarding the resolution or the resolution process, as they are confidential," Frank said in the statement. "This resolution is the most reasonable road for everyone to travel."

'Masculine journey'
Much of Long's appeal was based on a prosperity gospel — featuring his own lavish lifestyle — and his macho appearance, accented by the muscle T-shirts he often wore in the pulpit.

The TV preacher's ministry was threatened in September when Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg sued Long in DeKalb County state court.

The Associated Press does not generally identify people who claim they are victims of sexual abuse or misconduct, but Bernstein said the four consented to making their identities public.

Two of the men who brought suit alleged that Long groomed them for sexual relationships when they were enrolled in the church's LongFellows Youth Academy, a program that purportedly sought to guide teens through their "masculine journey" with lessons on financial discipline and sexual control.

Two other young men — one of whom attended a satellite church in Charlotte, North Carolina — made similar allegations.

Video: Megachurch pastor faces sex abuse lawsuit (on this page)

Flagg, who enrolled at the academy at age 16, said Long chose him as a "spiritual son" after learning of the young man's challenges growing up without a father.

Flagg moved into another minister's home after being arrested on an assault charge when he was 18. The lawsuit alleged Long would visit, crawl into bed with him and the two would engage in sexual acts.

Robinson said his mother enrolled him in the LongFellows program when he was 14. Long started lavishing attention on him the following year, and a church employee soon rewarded the teen with a Chevy Malibu, the lawsuit said.

The two began engaging in sexual acts after an October 2008 trip to New Zealand.

Call me 'Daddy'
Parris, who said his father had not been active in his life, said Long encouraged the teen to call him "Daddy" and later used biblical verses to justify the alleged abuse.

Long denied the allegations in court motions, saying that he often encouraged his flock to call him "daddy" as a term of respect.

He acknowledged giving gifts to the plaintiffs, but said he often provided his church members with financial help. During church sermons, he turned to biblical terms to portray himself as an underdog.

Long has remained at the helm of New Birth since the allegations surfaced last year, vowing to fight the allegations.

"I feel like David against Goliath. But I got five rocks, and I haven't thrown one yet," Long said during his first sermon after the lawsuit was filed. He said that although he didn't claim to be perfect, "I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television."

Some of his parishioners said they wished Long had done more to fight the allegations.

Barbara Chumbler, a former member of the church, told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that she didn't believe the allegations but "a settlement to me makes you look guilty."

A law professor quoted by the newspaper said that up to three-fourths of civil suits are dealt with out of court with "settlements just like this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Megachurch pastor faces sex abuse lawsuit

  1. Transcript of: Megachurch pastor faces sex abuse lawsuit

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Now to a sex scandal involving the leader of one of the nation's best-known megachurches. Bishop Eddie Long is being accused of using jewelry, cars and cash to lure three young men into sexual relationships. NBC 's Ron Mott is in Decatur , Georgia , just outside of Atlanta with the details on this. Ron , good morning.

    RON MOTT reporting: Matt, good morning to you. Eddie Long is one of the most popular and powerful ministers in this country. He's built a thriving religious empire here in the Atlanta area , and some of his staunchest supporters say he is being charged with something that he's not guilty of.

    Bishop EDDIE LONG: Somebody needs to celebrate that moment. Somebody needs to bless God for that.

    MOTT: He's hosted presidents, like here at the funeral of Coretta Scott King , the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr .'s widow.

    Bishop LONG: We thank the King family , and we're in much prayer for you.

    MOTT: He preaches to tens of thousands at his megachurch outside Atlanta . He counseled President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal , and most notably, he's been an outspoken opponent of homosexuality.

    Bishop LONG: You went through your trouble. You went through your Jordan .

    MOTT: But today, Eddie Long , who calls himself bishop, stands alone in the hot spotlight, sued in civil court by three former male members of his church for sexual coercion. No criminal charges have been filed. They say Long introduced them to his world of luxury, private jets, Rolls-Royces , plying them with gifts, even putting them on the church payroll while pressuring them into having sex.

    Ms. B.J. BERNSTEIN (Plaintiffs' Attorney): The bishop was grooming young men for -- to be at his disposal. He finds them at 14 or 15 years of age; he starts to get a relationship with them at that primary time when a young man's really searching for his identity.

    MOTT: The men's attorney says Long sent another young male member of his church, not involved in the lawsuit, this picture of himself dressed far differently than his usual tailored suits. Long has yet to speak publicly but has denied the allegations through his lawyer. His spokesperson called it a shakedown.

    Mr. ART FRANKLIN (Spokesperson for Bishop Eddie Long): There are a lot of things being said out there, but before rushing to judgment on Bishop Long in the court of public opinion, I really do hope that you would look at guys who are throwing mud and just consider the source right now.

    MOTT: Members of Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church , a congregation said to number 25,000, include popular Atlanta DJ Frank Ski , who also defended his pastor.

    Mr. FRANK SKI (WVEE-FM Radio Host): As a friend and an extended family member, I have loyalty, and I'm loyal to him and to his family. So I am standing by his side through this and even afterwards.

    MOTT: Part of the debate between supporters and detractors is motive. One of the accusers, 20-year-old Maurice Robinson , was arrested over the summer in connection with a burglary at Long's church. The case is still pending. There was talk today that Eddie might -- Eddie Long might talk to the media about these allegations. A spokesperson says that will not happen. Matt:

    LAUER: All right, Ron Mott down in Decatur , Georgia for us this morning. Ron , thanks very much. It's 16 after the hour. Once again, here's Meredith .


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