About 20 news outlets have picked up this story. Today…want to hazard a guess? 200? It’s on Reddit. Fark. Christian bloggers are understandably all over it. KATU:
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.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom. I teach my kids at home, and this is just not the amount of money that normal moms have.”
When the family left the church, Smith says friends were told to end all contact with her.
“If I went to Costco or any place in town, if I ran into somebody, they would turn their heads and walk the other way,” she said. “All we did was asked questions. We just raised concerns. There’s no sin in that.”
Dissatisfied, she went online to write reviews. Other church members counteracted them with church praise. So Smith started a blog called “Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors.”
But the pastor claims in the lawsuit he filed that her words, “creepy,” “cult,” “control tactics,” and “spiritual abuse,” are defamation.
You have to be kidding me, reviews on Google are not on the top of everyone’s reading list, let alone reviews of a church which were put up two years ago. Now, news of Chuck O’Neal’s unpastorly and hypocritical behavior has gone world wide. Three days after starting the blog, Julie Anne was sued by Chuck, along with her daughter and two other former members.
What lawyer wouldn’t want to defend Julie Anne? Her lawyer filed a motion to dismiss in April and it goes to a judge May 21st. Chuck still doesn’t get it. He amended his lawsuit the first week of May, adding another person and again claiming defamation. Needless to say the Google reviews on his church are multiplying, and those reviews are not in favour of pastor Chuck and Beaverton Grace Bible Church.
One of the weirder things about Chucks decision making process is his love of Rev. John MacArthur. Rather than associate and consult with pastors in his area, Chuck phoned MacArthur’s church and was counselled by one of MacArthers staff pastors to sue. Chuck’s explanation:
DEFAMATION IS A CRIME: Pastor Chuck O’ Neal, his wife, his children, and Beaverton Grace Bible Church as a whole, have suffered JulieAnne’s hateful lying slander for well over three years. After seeking counsel from a pastor on staff with Grace Community Church (under Pastor John MacArthur) and reading him several excerpts from JulieAnne’s endless defamation, he recommended that we FILE A LAWSUIT in an appeal to Ceasar as the Apostle Paul did when falsely accused of crimes against God and the state. The lawsuit has been filed in the Washington County courthouse.
Opps. MacArthur is a mega-celebrity in Calvinist circles, and image matters. The staff man that egged Chuck on is going to have some explaining to do.
Perhaps Chuck O’Neal is burned out, and dreams of winning a lawsuit may be too good to pass up. O’Neals lawyers need to sit him down and give him a definition of defamation and slander 101, but if that hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to. O’Neal’s behavior is merely proving Julie Anne’s wisdom in pointing out the problems with authoritarianism. There is a great deal of difference between criticism and slander.
There are ministers who take serious abuse from parishioners, and even life threatening abuse, through no fault of their own. Chuck’s authoritarianism is drearily self-defeating.
Why hasn’t someone from MacArthur’s church called him up, heard him out and counselled Chuck to let go? Beaverton Grace Bible Church doesn’t believe in mental health counselling, as more comes out, a portrait of a standard control freak emerges. It’s unlikely anyone will get through to him before the Streisand effect kicks into full gear.
There is an up side to suing Julie Anne and four others. Former Beaverton Grace Bible Church members who were disciplined, kicked out and shunned are finding her blog, and a safe place to discuss spiritual abuse.
Interesting post from July 2011, where Chuck O’Neal creeps out a Jewish family with his door to door evangelizing.
Update: via: The Wartburg Watch Phil Johnson, an elder Grace Community Church has responded to Chuck O’Neals claim that one of the staff pastors told him to sue. It appears no one at John MacArthur’s church has talked to O’Neal, like many others, they can’t reach him.
“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.
‘First, Scripture expressly teaches that it is better to be defrauded than to take a fellow Christian to court: “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? . . . It is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7). Here is what John MacArthur says about that passage:
Christians who take fellow Christians to court lose spiritually before the case is heard. The fact that they have lawsuits at all is a sign of moral and spiritual defeat (hettema, a word used of defeat in court). A believer who takes a fellow believer to court for any reason always loses the case in God’s sight. He has already suffered a spiritual defeat. He is selfish, and he discredits the power, wisdom, and work of God, when he tries to get what he wants through the judgment of unbelievers.
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. . . .
. . . If we cannot convince the brother to make things right, and if he will not listen to fellow believers, we are better off to suffer the loss or the injustice than to bring a lawsuit against him. “Do not resist him who is evil,” Jesus commanded, “but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (Matt. 5:39-40). Contrary to the world’s standard, it is better to be sued and lose than to sue and win. Spiritually, it is impossible for a Christian to sue and win. When we are deprived wrongfully we are to cast ourselves on the care of God, who is able to work that for our good and His glory. [The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians (Chicago: Moody, 1984), 139-40.]
Second, Jesus was very clear about what Christians should do even when we are vilified by unbelievers: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:11-12). “Do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (vv. 39-40).’
That is our official position, and it is not merely theoretical. Having been at times targets of malicious slander in various gossip-forums on the Internet, we do appreciate the frustration of dealing with relentless character assassination.
But the example we were given to follow by Christ Himself deals with exactly such situations: “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).”
Phil Johnson – Elder, Grace Community Church
Update: Phil Johnson has been in touch with Julie and and the pastor who is suing her – Pastor Chuck O’Neal issued a very long statement which can be found here.
Update: The O’Neal/Beaverton lawyer dropped one of the defendants in the suit. The next hearing is July 21st.