The wife of Bishop Eddie Long, the Georgia megachurch pastor once accused of coercing four young boys into having sex, has told her lawyers to file for divorce, according to a statement issued Friday.
In the statement, Vanessa Long said she had decided to “terminate my marriage” after “a great deal of deliberation and prayer.”
“It is my sincere hope that this matter can be resolved expeditiously, harmoniously, and fairly,” she said in the statement.
“I ask that you respect my privacy and that of my family, as my attorneys and I have agreed that we will not try this case in the media, and I do not intend to make any further statements concerning this matter,” she added. “I also ask that the public pray for my entire family during this difficult period of transition.”
In May this year, Bishop Long settled lawsuits filed by the four men who once attended the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in suburban Atlanta.
Days later the congregation cheered Long as he took the pulpit, while the choir opened the service with the hymn “Moving Forward,” which began: “I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead. Here to declare to you my past is over.”
Opposition to gay marriage
Long gained a reputation as a spiritual leader after turning his 150-member congregation into a following of 25,000 people and a televangelist empire, partly based on the idea that God would give wealth to the faithful.
He has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage.
The allegations by the men were not investigated criminally because Georgia’s age of consent is 16. The young men were 17 and 18 when the alleged sexual contact occurred.
After the out-of-court settlement, Jessica Gabel, a Georgia State University law professor who specializes in trial strategy, said, “Nobody wants their dirty laundry aired in court. Every day there would be fanfare. This is not something you want in the media.”
Gabel said that attorneys try to keep the terms of any agreement confidential, but added that it was noteworthy that Long was not required to apologize or acknowledge any wrongdoing.
The dismissal of the lawsuits was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It said the men alleged that the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relations.