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