Apprising Ministries first brought the sad saga of Chuck O’Neal to your attention in Beaverton Grace Bible Church To Sue Ex-Member For Negative Blog Review?
It begins with this news report (video below) from Anita Kissée of KATU News of Portland, OR. May 12, 2012 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 later make the decision to go ahead and issue a press release.
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)
On July 26th of this past year Emily Smith of The Oregonian would then inform us that Beaverton Grace Bible Church loses in lawsuit against former church members:
A Washington County judge has dismissed a Beaverton church’s libel lawsuit against a former congregant who blogged about her experience there. The Beaverton Grace Bible Church and its pastor, Charles O’Neal, sought $500,000 in damages in their suit against former church members Julie Anne Smith, her daughter, Hannah Smith, and Meaghan Varela.
The church claimed the women had defamed it and O’Neal in Google reviews and Julie Anne Smith’s blog about the church. Their attorney, Linda K. Williams, said the church practices “Old Testament shunning” and her clients were all eventually ostracized by the church. Their negative comments, which they published online, were protected free speech, she said.
Circuit Judge Jim Fun announced his decision in a letter he mailed to the parties… Fun granted the defendants’ special motions to strike and ordered the plaintiffs to pay their costs and attorney fees:
“The court finds that the defendant’s Internet postings on plaintiff’s website and defendant Julie Anne Smith’s blog site were made in a public forum and concern an issue of public interest. The court further finds that plaintiff has not met the burden of presenting substantial evidence the defendant’s statements are defamatory.” (source)
That same day Julie Anne also shared the Judge’s Decision:
I just got off the phone with my attorney, Linda Williams. WE WON!!! Every single claim of defamation was dismissed, Hannah’s, Meaghan’s, and mine… (source)
Unfortunately, this was not the end of the story. You see, nine days ago as of this writing we would happen across Todd Rhoades On Pastor Chuck O’Neal’s Website Attacking “Church Attackers.”
Rhoades, who works with Leadership Network, tweeted:
The link takes us to his piece Pastor starts website to attack church’s attackers where both Chuck O’Neal and his wife appear in the comments section. Rhoades would offer:
According to the pastor:
The PURPOSE of this website and the videos on it is to protect Beaverton Grace Bible Church and our families from ongoing slander and criminal accusations of the worst kind. Meaghan Varela has lied to her family, friends, pastors, the police, the Department of Human Services (Child Protection), the court, and the world. Julie Anne Smith has joined her in her lies and heralded them forth to the world on her blog (BGBC Survivors) dedicated to the destruction of our church and families. Exodus 20:16 says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Meaghan Varela and Julie Anne Smith have given “false witness” against our church and families for four years. The statements and videos on this website tell our story of suffering and surviving their assault. We are the TRUE BGBC SURVIVORS.
But… what would you do?
What would you do if you were accused (wrongfully) of child abuse… if your church was accused of horrible things?
I have no idea whether or not any of these abuses actually happened.
What I do know is that, regardless, this is a horrible public glimpse into a church conflict. (source)
I’ve talked with Rhoades a few times so in answer to his question I said: “Todd, yes it is. The question then becomes: What’s finally going to be done about it?” Well, today sources told me something has been done about it.
They said that his license was revoked. So today I spoke on the phone with Dr. Greg Howell who has confirmed to me that Chuck O’Neal’s ministerial credentials are no longer recognized by his now former credentialing body.
Stay tuned to Apprising Ministries for any further details as we follow this apparently still developing story.