The dismissals, first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, prevent the four defendants from suing Long again for the same alleged offense. Reaction to the settlements by current and former members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church was mixed though most were relieved the case had been resolved.
Long, pastor of the Lithonia megachurch, which has an international following, ha denied the men's allegations through a spokesman shortly after they first became public in September and told his congregation he planned to "vigorously" fight them.
The accusations made against Long by Anthony Flagg, Spencer LeGrande, Jamal Parris and Maurice Robinson alleged that the bishop used his influence, trips, gifts and jobs to coerce them into sexual relations. In one lawsuit, LeGrande said when he was 15 he and his mother were among the early members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte. When he was 16, he said, he went to Kenya with Long. Then when he was 17, they went on another trip to Kenya, and it was then that they had intimate relations, one of the suits alleged.
Rasheedah Oliver of DeKalb County, a member of New Birth for about a dozen years said the settlement means "we can move forward and continue to do what God would have us do." Oliver said it doesn't bother her that she may never know the terms of the settlement. "I'm still steadfast," she said. "I know what he's done in my life, and I know what he has done in the lives of others."
Kamelya Hinson, a Web content editor who lives in Decatur, said the settlement has not shaken her faith. "It doesn't make me think he's guilty or anything," she said. "I decided when this came out that I loved my pastor unconditionally. Even if he came out and grabbed the mic and said ‘I'm guilty,' it wouldn't change the way I feel about him. I wouldn't be angry like a lot of people are. You can't walk away after 15 years of being a member of a church."