This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is the latest in a series of sex scandals involving Christian pastors who rail against gays. This week, the spotlight shined on Georgia megachurch leader Eddie Long.

A fourth young male member of Bishop Eddie Long’s megachurch is suing the prominent pastor, claiming Long coerced him into a sexual relationship.

The lawsuit was filed by Spencer LeGrande, a member of New Birth Charlotte. New Birth Charlotte is a satellite church run by Long in Charlotte, N.C. The lawsuit said Long told LeGrande “I will be your dad” and invited the 17-year-old to journey to Kenya with him in July 2005. LeGrande said that Long gave him a sleeping pill on that trip and that the two engaged in sexual acts. […]

The complaint, filed in DeKalb State Court, comes after three other men filed lawsuits on Tuesday and Wednesday saying they were 17- and 18-year-old members of the church when they say Long abused his spiritual authority to seduce them with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips and access to celebrities.

Bishop Long has vehemently spoken out against gay rights throughout his career. He also leads a boys’ academy that demands teens abstain from sex.

Long, whose church’s finances have been the subject of a federal investigation, strongly denies having sexual relationships with any of his four accusers, and is scheduled to deliver his first public message on the controversy in his sermon tomorrow.

Ted Haggard, who has some experience with the subject matter, has publicly defended Long this week, though under the circumstances, his support may not be ideal for Long’s p.r. problem.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Pope Benedict XVI sparked outrage from atheists this week, after seemingly equating atheism with the Nazis. In an address in England, the pope spoke of “a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society.” He went on to urge the UK to guard against “aggressive forms of secularism.” Richard Dawkins, among others, was incensed by the remarks, and desribed Benedict as “an enemy of humanity.”

* As expected, the Texas State Board of Education approved a resolution yesterday “warning textbook publishers to scrub their books of ‘gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian’ bias.” The final vote was 7 to 6.

* The Army National Guard welcomed 1st Lt. Rafael Lantigua as a military chaplain this week. That wouldn’t be especially noteworthy, except Lantigua will be the Army National Guard’s first Muslim chaplain. Here’s hoping conservatives don’t hear about this.