Civil rights leader Julian Bond said today that if the sexual coercion allegations made by four young men against Bishop Eddie Long are true, it will be a "sad victory for gay rights."

Civil rights leader Julian Bond speaks out on Eddie Long same-sex scandal

Bond is former chair of the NAACP as well as an outspoken advocate for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In 2006, he refused to attend the funeral of his friend Coretta Scott King because it was held at Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest black churches in the nation boasting some 25,000 members.

“I knew she was a big defender of gay rights. I knew that Bishop Long was a raving homophobe and I knew she was twisting in her grave if she were buried there and I’d be twisting in my grave eventually if I went to the funeral there, so I stayed away,” he said today at Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency.

Bond’s interview comes a day after a fourth young man filed a civil lawsuit against Long. All four men, now in their 20s and former members of New Birth, say that while in their teens Long used his power as their spiritual leader to force them into sexual relationships.

“You hope these charges are not true because it’s bad news for his family, bad news for his church,” Bond said.

“If they are true, it’s typical of people who are raving homophobes who are secretly homosexual. They have this self loathing, self hate, and they have to let it come out some way.”

Long has said homosexuality is worthy of death, his church offers “ex-gay” counseling and seminars, and in 2004 he led a march through the streets of Atlanta against same-sex marriage. In 2005, two black gay activists targeted Long as well as other prominent anti-gay black pastors in an online “outing” campaign.

Bond said while he isn’t a psychologist, there is a common phenomenon that has played out over and over in national headlines where many publicly anti-gay people who are actually gay themselves eventually are exposed through scandal.

“There’s a phenomenon among many groups of people that are stigmatized by larger society as being unworthy of equal treatment. Some members of these groups internalize this and become self loathers and dislike themselves. They become self-hating and act out against their own kind,” Bond said.

“It’s awfully destructive to the person, and to the larger society.”

Bond explained that the level of homophobia among black Christians remains high because many believe that gay people choose to be gay and, if they wanted, could choose not to be gay.

“That’s nonsense and silly,” he said. “But it’s made campaigning for gay rights in black communities very difficult because of the religious bias. But I think that’s lessening.”

If one of the most powerful black preachers in the nation, who has preached vehemently against gay rights, actually turns out to be gay himself, there will have to be a lot of self-reflection taking place among the much larger black church community — and that could be good for those seeking equality for LGBT people.

“It’s sad to say, but if the charges against Bishop Long are true, it’s going to be a victory for gay rights in black America. A sad victory,” Bond said.

Long’s attorney has denied the allegations made against his client. Long himself has not yet addressed the public about the allegations but is expected to address the New Birth congregation during its services tomorrow to address the charges.