One of the Rev. Eddie Long’s accusers went public Tuesday in a Fox News television interview that was both poignant and revealing. Jamal Parris, a 23-year-old who claims that Long began seducing him with attention, gifts, travel and other luxuries when he was just 14, vehemently defended the truth of the accusations that they were sexually coerced by Bishop Long that he and three other young men have made in civil lawsuits.
Last Sunday, Long, pastor of the 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia, said he would fight the accusations but did not flatly deny that they had taken place. In two short sermons to overflowing crowds at his mega-church, Long compared himself to David against Goliath in a biblical battle against evil. In a short news conference following the first service Sunday, he declared that he would fight the lawsuits but declined to answer questions from reporters.
Parris was tracked down by a Fox News video crew outside a strip mall in Colorado. He and the other three young men declared in claims filed in DeKalb County Court that they had all been compelled by Long's "spiritual authority" and wealth. In the Fox interview, Parris addressed the defense by Long's lawyers that the four young men are trying to extort money. "We would have to be the craziest kids in the world to want to come out and admit another man touching on us publicly. To believe this is about money would have to be absolutely ludicrous."
Along with Parris — whose civil suit states that he first met Long at a North Carolina satellite of New Birth — three other men now in their early 20s filed lawsuits last week claiming that a pattern of enticement and abuse began shortly after they reached Georgia's legal age for sexual consent, which is 16. Maurice Robinson, Anthony Flagg and Spencer LeGrande are the other men suing Long with similar complaints.
"This man manipulated us from childhood," Parris said. "This was our father, and we loved him. This man turned his back on us when he had no more need for us. That's not a father, that's a predator."
In the impromptu interview, which will reportedly air in segments on the Fox station in Atlanta, Parris said that his intimate memories of sexual encounters with Long — from their skin contact to the scent of the mega-church pastor's cologne — were regrettable and unforgettable. "I felt like I was not able to take enough showers to wash his smell off my body," Parris said. Looking straight into the camera, Parris sent Long a message: "You are not a man. You are a monster."
Long, 57, is a married father of four. His wife serves as an elder pastor at New Birth, a sprawling, multipurpose complex that covers approximately 240 acres and is situated in one of the wealthiest enclaves of African-American families in the nation.
Through his attorney, Craig Gillen, Long has denied the allegations against him. But he did not specifically address the charges when he stood before two services with overflowing crowds at New Birth Sunday and insisted, "That's not me."
Prior to the surprise interview with Parris — who was clearly caught off guard as he shopped in a hooded sweatshirt and shorts after dark — the attorney for all four plaintiffs, B.J. Bernstein, had said that they were being kept in seclusion for their own protection.
The basis for the plaintiffs' case is that Long initiated extended relationships with them under the guise of New Birth's mentoring program, and then began engaging them in a variety of sexual acts during international trips, or in local lodging that he controlled.
Parris indicated that his sentiments toward Long are similar to those of the others who have filed lawsuits. "I loved him," Parris said. "How he left us hurt worse than anything I've ever felt in my life." Parris summarized his victimization as being "a slave to the man you love."
A. Scott Walton is a reporter based in Atlanta.