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Georgia pastor to address lawsuit allegations

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Fourth lawsuit filed against pastor
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pastor Eddie Long will address his congregation Sunday morning
  • He has denied allegations he coerced men into sexual contact
  • Four lawsuits were filed in DeKalb County, Georgia, this week

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Five days after the first of four lawsuits claiming he coerced young males into sexual relationships was filed, Georgia pastor Eddie Long will take to the pulpit Sunday to tell his side of the story.

Long, who led the growth of the Atlanta-area New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to 25,000 members, is expected to speak on the matter during the 8 a.m. worship service and again at a 10 a.m. news conference. The church also has an 11 a.m. service.

The pastor, on the advice of his lawyers, has had little to say until now.

"Let me be clear: The charges against me and New Birth are false," Long said in a statement released Thursday. "I have devoted my life to helping others and these false allegations hurt me deeply, but my faith is strong and the truth will emerge."

Video: Long will not allow cameras at service
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  • Eddie Long

The four men who brought lawsuits this week in DeKalb County, Georgia, State Court claim that Long took them on overnight trips to various locations within the United States and beyond, sharing a room and engaging in sexual contact with them, including massaging, masturbation or oral sex.

The lawsuit filed Friday by a Charlotte, North Carolina, man says Long uses church money and other accounts to entice young men with cars, clothing, jewelry and electronics.

Long's spokesman and church members say it is appropriate he first speak in detail about the civil lawsuits with his church family.

"I stand behind the bishop because of the leader that he is. He is a true leader. The word that he gives is so rich, it is so life-changing," New Birth member Gary Foster Jr. told CNN Saturday night.

He and two other young church members said Long is family-oriented, a mentor and a respected leader who has helped families and individuals.

Gabrielle Richards, who has attended New Birth for nearly eight years, said she has seen no evidence that Long is a sexual predator.

A former New Birth employee said he hopes the allegations are not true, but he wants to hear from Long so that the "cloud of suspicion over him can be dispersed."

"The information is certainly damaging," Kevin Bond said. "The evidence ... all of that is very troubling to many of us in the gospel community, the Christian community."

A Facebook page in support of Long had more than 6,000 members Saturday night.

CNN's Don Lemon contributed to this report.