Church suing former member for defamation.


From KATU news in Oregon:

BEAVERTON, Ore. – 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.

“What somebody does in the church is one thing, but when you get out into society we have the right to free speech, and it may not be what people want to hear, but we absolutely have that right,” Smith said.

The lawsuit didn’t just target Smith. Her daughter and three other commenters are also being sued.

“He can say what he wants in the church and say, don’t talk about this or don’t talk about that, or don’t talk to this person, but when you’re out in the civil world, you don’t do that anymore,” Smith said. “And he’s not my pastor anymore. He does not have that right to keep people from talking.”

The Smiths filed a special free speech motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It goes before a judge later this month.

KATU News called the church, went there, went to the pastor’s home and spoke to his wife. KATU News also called the pastor’s attorney. All of them declined to give their side of the story.

Here’s the video from KATU news and here’s the blog of one of the people being sued.

16 thoughts on “Church suing former member for defamation.

  1. Ofcourse this church and pastor are completely in the wrong to sue. No genuine Christian is going to support their desire to do so. And what motivates them to even consider such a unscriptural notion I cannot say. What I can say is it serves as an opportunity for the TRULY creepy to come online and attack all Christians, all churches and anything outside their empty pagan, antinomian, anti-God, Christian-hating ugly and empty worldview.


  2. How acrimonious this Pastor is. he’s in the wrong –Scripturally when it comes to suing. This suing and the amount of $$$ is just ridiculous.

    I believe the double-edged sword can occur if this goes through. Take people like the LGBT’s who can take anything a Christian says to SUE and will use it to “silence” people on the internet. Oh well, this is the sad and sorry state of our world and many “Christians”. 2 Timothy 3 ~


  3. This is terribly sad and inappropriate behavior. Is someone holding this pastor accountable, biblically? He is most certainly doing the wrong thing!!


  4. I suppose I should thank the “pastor” of my previous church for not suing me when I left and wrote about on the web site I had until 5 months ago. Folks who hate God disregard His Word and follow the world in many ways. Come quickly, Lord. Give us grace to stand and proclaim your gospel.


  5. From what little information is given in this article, it sounds like protected opinion speech to me. If the woman was posting opinions and/or factual truth, then she should be fine — and it might be a good idea to look into a countersuit to see if she can recover anything from the church, such as her legal fees.


  6. I read here often but have never left a comment. This church is cult-like. My husband and I are former members and the woman being sued is our good friend. In fact, my husband was the evangelism coordinator at this “church” and when he started questioning the pastor he was fired. This is an authoritarian abusive “church” and we pray those remaining will leave.

    An interesting aspect to this story is how the pastor says he was encouraged to file the lawsuit by a pastor on staff at John MacArthur’s church. Here is what he said in a Google review of his own church:
    “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 Caesar as the Apostle Paul did when falsely accused of crimes against God and the state.”
    The following blog has done a great job covering this story.

    This pastor, Chuck O’Neal, takes several men every year to Macarthur’s Shepherd’s Conference, the church website has an extensive doctrinal statement, he leads Friday night evangelism. On the surface it looks good but underneath is all sorts of hypocrisy and legalism. We were not very discerning when we first started attending but God has been very gracious to teach us some difficult lessons. Praise the Lord!

    A look at the church website,, and listening to a sermon should be enough to convince one that this is not a healthy “church”.

    Thanks for highlighting the story and for contending earnestly for the faith.


  7. There are abusive churches out there. I don’t know anything about this particular church so I cannot comment on it. But the pastor’s reaction to this lady and the two others is totally lacking in the grace of God. Grace implies that we will become more gracious over time (even though we have many ups and downs along the way).

    I cannot understand how a church with “grace” in its name should shun the former members (Julie Ann Smith and her family) and approve of their pastor filing a lawsuit for defamation of $500,000. I hope the pastor backs away and withdraws this suit and seeks reconciliation with these people.

    IF the church has been abusive , as is claimed, the church should confess its wrong doing and make amends by changing its ways and, in particuar, make amends for the psychological trauma they have caused this family and apparently others too (if in fact, this is what has happened).

    Speaking of spiritual, psychological and emotional abuse in many Fundamentalist churches, is it any wonder that many Christians have been badly scared and some have given up church altogether. Can you blame them? Some leave and join other churches but this is not the choice of all. I do not think that these folks should go back to this church while it is abusive, if such be the case.

    Churches need to become communities of compassion and healing mercy where wounds and deep psychological scars can, over time, be healed by the free and overflowing favour of God made freely available to its members and their relationships with each other.

    John Arthur


  8. Looks like I am in to be sued by the AOG, RCC, and SDA “churches”..

    Does anyone here have contacts to prove or deny the allegation that this was done under the advise of Grace Community Church ?


  9. This sounds like a good case for the “plurality of elders”….where no one man is making all the decisions and where each elder is held accountable. There’s wisdom in having more than one elder.


  10. Maybe I’m missing something from reading the comment section…I hope that this comment would be a balance appeal to tread carefully concerning the whole affair.
    1.) I agree with the need for plurality of elders, and when one read the church’s doctrinal statement it does embrace the belief in plurality of elders (of course, in practice is something else).
    2.) I was surprised at the allusion to John MacArthur and Grace Community church in the comments, of someone from the pastoral staff recommending that church or that pastor to sue. I am rather surprised, because the Master’s Seminary stance as taught in the Master’s of Divinity program does not encourage Christians to sue Christians. Moreover, I think the lady being sued in her recent blog entry has an official statement from Grace Community showing otherwise:
    3.) While I don’t think the pastor or church should sue the lady, I do think we also need to realize that there are always more than one side to a story; I’m cautious with all these “survivors” blog out there, and sometimes the more I read them, the less edifying I find them, the more it prepetuate a victim mentality, and sometimes you see the weak theology flooding forward.

    I do pray for peace for all the parties involve.


  11. “es anyone here have contacts to prove or deny the allegation that this was done under the advise of Grace Community Church ?”

    I read on her blog that Phil Johnson, also on behalf of John Mcarthur both reject what this “pastor” is doing in suing a former member. Glad to hear that. Nicolatian is a word all christians should be aware of. -Jim


  12. What did this woman and her daughter get, though, out of bashing this church using very unChristian words like creepy and cult? They were just as much in the wrong as the minister who is suing. Jesus says that if we have a problem with each other, we are to privately try to resolve it. If after attempts with elders involved fail, then the split. It stops there. He doesn’t go on to say ‘bash and sue each other’. If anything, this woman should be praying for her former church. This seems to me a case of sour, unforgiving grapes on both sides. This is why the world laughs at us and calls us hypocrits. Shame on ALL of them.


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