With little fanfare or news coverage, the four sexual coercion lawsuits confronting Bishop Eddie Long had the first hearing recently, with both sides opting for mediation to avoid a trial.
Why no major news outlet or editorial columnist has discussed the implications of such a move is nothing less than egregious in nature. Despite the initial media crush and coverage and the incessant analysis of Bishop Long's statement on his website and "sermon," there's been nary a peep in response to the quest for mediation.
Granted, if the future mediation in February does not solve the dispute, there is a tentative trial date set for July 11, 2011. This could still end up being resolved in a courtroom.
Bishop Eddie Long agreeing to mediation of sexual coercion charges is an end-run around the universally accepted moral and ethical responsibilities of any ecumenical leader. Mediation of sexual allegation grievances is tantamount to an admission of "some" guilt, "some" form of ministerial misconduct. Innocent folk don't make deals if the claims against them are baseless and untrue. Mediation for the accused is a forfeiture of the right to ever claim innocence, and readers should be absolutely clear on this point.
Did you hear that?
That was the sound of Long publicly admitting to some degree of guilt when he agreed to mediation. The public wanted Long to thoroughly address the allegations. Well, there you have it. He said it all, you just had to have been paying attention to hear it.
Long has said that he is "not a perfect man," outlandishly compared his plight to that of David when confronting Goliath. We all remember Long admonishing his congregation and news media, "I've got five rocks and I haven't thrown one yet."
If mediation is his first "rock," then a complete admission of guilt must be the next. There's just nowhere else to go. Instead of opting for the opportunity to clear his name for the sake of his congregation and legacy; Long has chosen to quietly, secretly, address the allegations of sexual coercion; presumably with a sealed "mutual agreement."
Recognize the strategy for what it is and its obvious transparency. Long is forfeiting the opportunity to clear his name publicly to pay for his sins privately -- pun absolutely intended.
The court has only been tasked with determining whether Bishop Long is liable for sexual coercion, whether he used his power, influence and more specifically, lavish gifts as a pathway to sexual relationships with at least four young males. In a court of law, Bishop Long conceivably could have been found "not guilty/liable" (of the charges) but still could have engaged in the sexual relationships. In other words, he would still be guilty in an ethical or moral sense with his congregation. The alleged relationships mean multiple adulterous affairs, with a homosexual twist -- not a good look for homophobic Bishops.
Translation: Even if Long were to win the suit, he could still lose everything. "Not guilty" (not liable for) the charges is not to be confused with being "innocent," and Bishop Long seems to clearly understand the distinction. Readers and the New Birth congregation need to understand it as well. Do not let these actions pass unnoticed or without response.
For a completely innocent man with no extra-marital dalliances (heterosexual or otherwise), a trial would be a welcome option to pursue complete and irrevocable exoneration. In fact, it's the ONLY option. In this instance, the accusers would tell their side, Long tells his and he presumably walks out of court with his image, career and legacy intact.
A completely innocent man that is...
There is no compromise on the truth. Either Long is innocent or he is guilty. A court deems someone "guilty" or "not guilty" but the truth determines innocence or guilt.
O.J. Simpson was found "not guilty." Laurence Powell and Stacey Koon (Rodney King) were found "not guilty." Don't confuse court verdicts with the truth.
The truth in this instance is far more complex than just the stories of the four accusers. There are implied issues of sexual misconduct, marital infidelity, undertones of pedophilia and child molestation and questions about the authenticity of the mission of the LongFellows Youth Academy. Long's possible guilt extends beyond the courtroom, which is the fly in the ointment -- and mediation more than just suggests he has unclean hands.
Long wants to have it both ways, and the public shouldn't allow for it. He should not be allowed to claim innocence publicly while admitting degrees of guilt privately in the hopes of making all of this go away with checks and handshakes.
Mo'Kelly wishes for two things in any court case: for justice to be served and the truth to come out. A mediation only allows for some semblance of both but not all of either. For the accusers, mediation is better than a lengthy trial against a bishop with longer money than theirs. For the accused, it's glaringly obvious what's going on here.
"Innocent" men don't "mediate" supposedly "categorically untrue" allegations to reach an "agreement." "Innocent" men spend money to help expose false allegations, not reward them; especially when one's livelihood, career and reputation hang in the balance.
It makes perfect sense why the accusers would accept mediation and is consistent with the contention that they had sought out an internal solution long before filing the lawsuits. Not only that, the accusers likely don't want to publicly recount the gory details of the alleged crime no more than Bishop Long wants the public to hear them.
In any event, an "innocent" man (not to be confused with a "not guilty" one) forces the accusers to prove the allegations and does not sit down at the table to iron out an agreement over money, attach a non-disclosure caveat and a cherry on top.
Long should be called on the carpet for making mediation his "first rock." Either he is innocent or guilty, (the truth) including, yet not limited to the specific accusations. He's never acted as such (innocent) and should be held accountable. He is completely innocent or he is guilty of all sorts of crimes in the court of public opinion, above and beyond sexual coercion. This question remains, irrespective of whether the allegations eventually make their way into a courtroom.
The answer to that question is becoming clearer by the day. Why the media and New Birth congregation haven't recognized the obvious is still cloudy.
Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is author of the syndicated entertainment and socio-political column The Mo'Kelly Report. For more Mo'Kelly, go to his site. Mo'Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he welcomes all commentary.