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Church sues woman for $500,000 after negative Google review

Posted by on May. 15, 2012 at 2:02 PM
  • 71 Replies

Julie Anne Smith sued by Beaverton Grace Bible Church

 

A church in Beaverton, Oregon is suing a woman after she posted a negative Google review calling them a “cult.”

Julie Anne Smith revealed on her blog in March that Pastor Chuck O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church had sued her for $500,000 over negative reviews on Google and DEX that claimed that she had been shunned for no reason.

“I thought, I’m just going to post a review,” Smith told KATU. “We do it with restaurants and hotels and whatnot, and I thought, why not do it with this church?”


Smith said that after leaving the church a few years ago, the pastor instructed members to shun her family.

“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 explained. “All we did was asked questions. We just raised concerns. There’s no sin in that.”

In their 54-page lawsuit, Beaverton Grace Bible Church claimed that Smith had defamed them by using words like “creepy,” “cult,” “control tactics” and “spiritual abuse.”

“What we had was indoctrination… That is how cult leaders work,” the suit alleges Smith wrote. “Don’t waste your precious lives and relationships being held emotionally/spiritually captive by this so-called church.”

Another message claimed that the “beloved pastor knew about a sex offender in the church who had access to the nursery and children on a weekly basis and did not have any safeguards in place.”

“This is a very destructive and disturbing ‘church.’ … The exra-Biblical legalistic teaching is wrong. The gossip/slander, disclosure of what goes on in private counseling sessions, sex offenders have free reign in childrens’ [sic] areas with no disclosure to parents. … This is not a safe place.”


According to comments posted on Google Maps, O’Neal had first threatened to sue Smith on February 25.

“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,” O’Neal wrote. “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.”

“Her many lies and vicious criminal accusations will not stand in the light of day in the Washington County courthouse or in the coming courtroom before God.”

Smith’s profile says that she started her blog after noticing that her negative reviews had been removed from Google.

“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,” she recalled. “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.”

The lawsuit also target’s Smith’s daughter and three other commenters.

At the time of publication, Beaverton Grace Bible Church had a rating of one and a half stars on Google.

Watch this video from KATU, broadcast May 12, 2012.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/05/15/church-sues-woman-for-500000-after-negative-google-review/

by on May. 15, 2012 at 2:02 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Lachrymose
by Member on May. 15, 2012 at 2:05 PM

This is why I only post anonymous reviews.. you just never know if you'll get sued for slander, libel, etc.  It sucks though.. especially when you were treated horribly or wrongly at a public place..

JessicaN27
by Bronze Member on May. 15, 2012 at 2:06 PM
6 moms liked this

Attacking anyone who doesn't like you is a great way to seem like a legitimate church

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on May. 15, 2012 at 2:09 PM

How awful for this family.

Anonymity can be a good thing sometimes!

Euphoric
by Bazinga! on May. 15, 2012 at 2:11 PM

 Yikes! This is only about 45 minutes away from where I live. booooo Beaverton! bad

skittlebeans88
by Member on May. 15, 2012 at 2:15 PM
1 mom liked this
They shouldn't be able to sue her. Seems wrong.
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Tanya93
by on May. 15, 2012 at 2:20 PM
2 moms liked this

If it is slander, they do have the right if she has harmed them or the church by what she stated.

ButterMeUp
by Silver Member on May. 15, 2012 at 2:26 PM

I would sue as well, but it depends on the circumstances. My family owns a few businesses, we do ask for reviews. Most places will take the suggestions and move on but if it was taking thousands from them, I can see their anger. If she can  not outright prove they are a cult, it's slander. Crappy lawsuit but you just have to be really careful I guess. I hope they can work it out.

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Raintree
by Ruby Member on May. 15, 2012 at 2:45 PM
1 mom liked this

Her blog is very well written. The church has been accused (not only by her) of secretly recording people who have left the church, and just being very wacked out in the way they approach, what seems to be, control of the congregation.

Sounds like a real hoot of a place to go to church!

I think she should countersue. For double- for infringing on her *actual* freedom of speech.

kailu1835
by Ruby Member on May. 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM

 If what she says is true, they won't have a leg to stand on, but they can drag it out until she is bankrupt, since they probably have more money than her.

Raintree
by Ruby Member on May. 15, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Yes, I think it's pretty clear this is all about the money.

Do you think it a good idea for a church business to have comments on google reviews removed? Why have the possibility of a review, then?

Last time I checked, this isn't the UK, and our standards for libel don't place complete burden of proof on the person who supposedly commits libel- but on the people making a claim against that person. Is there freedom of speech or not? Is there a free market or not?

Quoting ButterMeUp:

I would sue as well, but it depends on the circumstances. My family owns a few businesses, we do ask for reviews. Most places will take the suggestions and move on but if it was taking thousands from them, I can see their anger. If she can  not outright prove they are a cult, it's slander. Crappy lawsuit but you just have to be really careful I guess. I hope they can work it out.


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