By Shelia M. Poole

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
9:50 a.m. Thursday, September 23, 2010

Craig Gillen, the Atlanta lawyer representing Bishop Eddie Long, took to the air Thursday morning to defend his client against charges he used his pastoral influence to coerce three men into having sexual relations.

Gillen was interviewed by Roland Martin for the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show shortly after 7 a.m. It was the first public interview by Long’s attorneys since three lawsuits were filed against the head of the Atlanta mega-church..

“These false allegations are an attack on Bishop Long personally. They are an attack on New Birth and all of the 25,000 good people who attend that church, and it’s an attack on the mentoring program that has helped thousands of young men,” he said.

Gillen also read a statement from Long in which the pastor, a married father of four, said he’s anxious to respond to the allegations but that his lawyer has advised him not to yet.

“Let me be clear. The charges against me and New Birth are false,” Long’s statement said.

Gillen said Long has been devoted to giving to the community and helping young men. He also questioned the character of some of the men who filed the lawsuits. At least one, Maurice Robinson, was arrested in connection with a June break-in at the church. He said lawyers are trying to get a copy of a tape of the burglary.

Gillen said Long would address his congregation during Sunday morning services.

Gillen said the lawsuits have “ignited a firestorm against this good man.” He implied the motives of the lawsuits were money.

Originally, Long himself was scheduled to be interviewed by Roland Martin on the Joyner show. The interview was canceled after a third man filed a lawsuit accusing the prominent minister of using his pastoral influence to coerce him into a sexual relationship. The lawsuits also name New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and the LongFellows Youth Academy.

Gillen also said that none of Long’s representatives will a press conference on Thursday. On Wednesday, a representative of Long’s team sent out a statement saying that a press conference would be held during the early part of Thursday.

Gillen also went on the Frank and Wanda Morning Show on V-103. He said there should be some corroborating evidence that supports the allegations before people file lawsuits and “run to every microphone” they possibly can.

Gillen said Long was “chomping at the bit” to speak out on the the show, but that he had advised against doing so.

On Sunday, Gillen said, Long will address his congregation and would “be speaking from his heart.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.