News that Bishop Eddie Long died earlier this year inspired one of the most bitterly divided timelines that I have seen from many of my Black Facebook friends. Some, the majority from the anecdotal evidence I observed, invoked the “only God can judge” mantra and preached forgiveness of his sins. Others, the minority but a very passionate one, fell squarely in the “he can rot for all I care” school of thought.
My two cents:
Whenever lawyers conduct voir-dire or jury selection in advance of a trial, one of a series of questions that are posed to potential jurors is whether their religious or moral beliefs would prevent them from “sitting in judgment” of one accused of breaking the law. You see, while I was taught in Sunday School to believe that God forgives freely those who repent and seek His mercy, I was taught in middle school civics and later in law school that the State of Florida is separated from church dogma, as such, if the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant has committed a crime, then a jury that returns a verdict of “guilty” is not judging said defendant’s immortal soul, but his criminal acts on the date in question.
I raise this point because pedophilia is a crime and a tort under the law, not just a moral failing or sin like lying, adultery, gluttony etc. There are many thousands of men and women in prison for various forms of pedophilia. The Catholic Church has paid billions of dollars to settle tort claims of pedophilia by their priests. Further, there are many tens of thousands of individuals who are never charged with pedophilia or sued for the same as their victims suffer in silence—many for a lifetime.
In the Black community, pedophilia and other forms of sexual battery and incest have often been swept under the rug because on some level, many Black folks who already were skeptical of the criminal justice system after slavery, during Jim Crow and the time since simply did not want to involve the oft unjust justice system in private affairs lest that father, uncle, brother or cousin the molester begins a long spell in prison. Sadly, chances are that someone reading this either has been molested or knows someone who has been molested—but you just may not “know” because they have suffered in the silence that “forgive them their trespasses” has often compelled them to do.
Now, Eddie Long was never arrested for pedophilia. But like many wealthy celebrities, he was sued and settled out of court for acts of sexual molestation of young boys/men. This is not speculation or conjecture, this is a fact. We all know that Long, ironically, was a vocal crusader against homosexuality. Many Black folks and myriad Black pastors are extremely comfortable with condemning the lifestyles of gays and lesbians as being sinful. Such condemnation is part of the reason that Bible Belt Republicans typically find great support from Black Democrats on measures that seek to usurp homosexual civil rights.
But it is critically important to note that there is a distinct difference between being a homosexual and a pedophile. Attempts to equate the two are among many reasons that our homosexual brothers and sisters are hurt or killed by fools who are too ignorant to separate one from the other or to realize that most acts of pedophilia that are prosecuted are heterosexual in nature. But for those zealots who are not convinced that there is a further distinction between a sin and crime/tort, while it is true that only God can judge whether Long repented from any of his sins from a moral standpoint, such does not mean that those who abhor pedophilia should not discuss how rampant these criminal/tortious acts are in Black churches, Black schools and Black homes. Or, that folks who abhor pedophilia should not be able to express lingering anger that Long never publically apologized for his legally acknolwedged tortious acts of pedophilia.
Growing up, there was a false and wholly prejudicial concept that I heard among Black folks that pedophilia and incest was “their” problem (read — whites) and not ours. 18 years of practice as a prosecutor, defense and civil trial lawyer tells me that pedophilia and other forms of child abuse are endemic across racial, religious and sexual orientations in America.
As such, I stand in agreement with those who say that only God can judge Eddie Long’s soul, while also standing in agreement with those blasting his pedophilia and praying for his victims in hopes that other children and adolescents do not have to suffer in silence at the hands of family members, teachers, coaches and yes, preachers who abuse their bodies and their minds.