This developing story was just brought to the attention of Apprising Ministries and it begins with this news report (video below) from Anita Kissée of KATU News of Portland, OR.
May 12 Kissée and the KATU staff informed us:
A church pastor is suing a mother and daughter for $500,000 because they gave the church bad reviews online. The family being sued left the church a few years ago and Julie Anne Smith says she and her family were shunned and couldn’t understand why.
So she went online and wrote Google and DEX reviews of the church and then started a blog. ”I thought, I’m just going to post a review,” Smith said. “We do it with restaurants and hotels and whatnot, and I thought, why not do it with this church?”
Never did she think Beaverton Grace Bible Church and Pastor Charles O’Neal would slap her with the lawsuit. (source)
Although, according to KATU, Beaverton Grace Bible Church and pastor Charles O’Neal declined to comment concerning their story, apparently they did issue a press release on the 16th.
Portions of it went online at The Wartburg Watch:
There is another side to the story. Beaverton Grace Bible Church wants to present its side of the story before anyone rushes to judgment. In Nov. of 2008 a man was removed from the staff of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC). Since that time, Pastor Charles O’Neal and the Beaverton Grace Bible Church have been the targets of a three and a half year campaign of defamation by a group of former church members and attenders who are close personal friends of the former staff member.
The church elders and the pastor did little to defend themselves over these three and a half years, believing that the individuals would tire of the effort and eventually cease the defamation. However, that did not prove to be successful. In fact it was counter-productive. The defamation campaign escalated recently when one of the former congregants established a blog on the internet with the intent of reaching a broader audience.
This divisive group has used review websites, blogs, the police, the Department of Human Services, and now the local media in their three and a half year campaign to destroy Pastor O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church with false accusations that range from ridiculous to criminal. The facts will show that this is not a free speech case… (source)
The negative review involves the Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors blog of Julie Anne Smith who tells us in her profile:
I began this blog in Feb. 2012 after noticing that the Google reviews I had posted of my former church were being removed. Days after the commencement of this blog, I received a legal summons suing me and three others for defamation to the tune of $500,000.
The story of spiritual abuse needs to be told. People are being hurt emotionally and spiritually by pastors who use bully tactics and we need a place to learn, to talk freely, and to heal. I will not be silenced. (source)
As if this all wasn’t messy enough, and there’s no excuse for pastoral bullying, it seems a rumor started circulating that the elders of John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church had become involved.
It was said they encouraged BGBC and pastor O’Neal to go ahead with the lawsuit. Anyone who knows MacArthur’s work would know that wasn’t true. Even so, Phil Johnson responded:
“In a story currently circulating on the Internet, a claim is being made that the elders of Grace Community Church (John MacArthur, Pastor) advised a church in another state to file a defamation lawsuit against a former member.
For the record, we would not approve of such a lawsuit, for multiple reasons… [John MacArthur says] “Christians who take fellow Christians to court lose spiritually before the case is heard… The right attitude of a Christian is to rather be wronged, to rather be defrauded, than to sue a fellow Christian.”
“It is far better to lose financially than to lose spiritually. Even when we are clearly in the legal right, we do not have the moral and spiritual right to insist on our legal right in a public court…” That is our official position, and it is not merely theoretical. (source)
Needless to say, Phil Johnson, one of the GCC elders, is exactly right and we have no reason to believe that foolish rumor. Stayed tuned because now it appears the BGBC press release has been altered.
You can find the latest at FBC Jax Watchdogs in Some Thoughts on the Julie Anne Smith Case: