'Prosperity gospel' preacher Eddie Long endorsed scam, suit says
Eddie Long, the Georgia "prosperity gospel" preacher who was recently entangled in an alleged gay sex scandal, is facing more trouble this week.
Members of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church are accusing him in a lawsuit of endorsing a flawed investment scheme that caused them to lose more than $1 million, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Ten members of Long's suburban Atlanta church filed the lawsuit in state court. In it, they say they attended an investment seminar at the church in which they were prompted to invest in a company called City Capital Corp. as part of a pitch by its then-chief executive, Ephren Taylor.
Long attended the seminar as well, and gave Taylor's presentation his explicit blessing. According to the lawsuit, he told the attendees: "I am responsible for everyone I bring before you and what they say," the paper reported.
Plaintiffs' attorneys Jason Doss and Quinton Seay told the Journal-Constitution that Taylor lacked a license to deal in investments. At the time, Taylor was trying to salvage his dying company "by bilking investors," Doss said.
Long, who has been outspoken in his opposition to gay rights, made national news recently after a number of young men associated with his ministry accused him of sexual coercion in civil lawsuits. Those suits were settled out of court in May.
Long was a polarizing figure well before that scandal. Supporters have cheered his efforts to help his largely African-American following become financially literate and seek wealth without shame. "Some people think it's sinful and shameful to be rich or even moderately well-off," Long wrote in "60 Seconds to Greatness," one of his most recent self-help books. "They are wrong."
Long appears to think preachers also are entitled to a taste of the good life. According to a 2005 Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation, he established a charity that made $3.1 million in donations from 1997 to 2000. It also paid him more than $3 million in salary and benefits, including use of a Bentley and a $1.4-million, six-bedroom home.
Long has posted a YouTube video asking City Capital and Taylor, who is no longer with the company, to return the money to the investors with interest.
He said neither he nor his church received "any financial blessing or gift" from them.
--Richard Fausset in Atlanta
Photo: A woman prays at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., in September 2010. Credit: John Amis / Pool