I choose not to give energy to the emotions of revenge, hatred or the desire to subjugate. Roseanne Cash
A few months ago, we received a call from Julie Ann Smith who explained that she was being sued by a former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, of Beaverton Grace Bible Church in Oregon here.
Julie Anne relayed to me the pain that caused her to leave her former church. I attempted to reach the pastor at the time but he did not return my call. Today, at 3:00 PM EST, his inbox is completely filled up. Could it be calls from the national media? Poor Chuck. I would not want to be his attorney.
The Story Heats Up
The story broke with local news media. Let’s pick it up here with KATU news.
“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.
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," 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."link. But the pastor claims in the lawsuit he filed that her words, "creepy," "cult," "control tactics," and "spiritual abuse," are defamation.
The lawsuit targeted Smith, her daughter and three other commenters . He is asking for $500,000 in damages. Here is the KATU broadcast.
Did a pastor(s) at John MacArthur’s church misuse the office of the pastor?
Julie Anne has since moved out of state but this pastor is hell bent on this lawsuit, pursuing her across state lines. Why? At FBC Jax here, we learn: (O'Neal speaking)
"After seeking counsel from a pastor on staff with Grace Community Church (under Pastor John MacArthur) and reading him several excerpts from Julie Anne'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."
What follows next is my own conjecture. I have not spoken to Julie about this concern.
I have some background to add to O’Neal’s statement. According to Julie Anne , a few months ago, knowing Chuck O’Neal’s devotion to everything John MacArthur, she called MacArthur’s church, asking for help in resolving/mediating this situation. She said a pastor, Bill Shannon, spoke with her at length about the situation and said he would speak with O’Neal. She later was told that there was nothing the church could do to stop O’Neal’s lawsuit.
Was there more to this story? Could it be that pastor(s) at Grace Community Church (MacArthur’s) were actively counseling this pastor to sue his former church member? If they were, did they not have the obligation to tell Julie Anne that they were involved in advocating the pastor to sue her?
This could give the appearance of duplicity. For example, it could appear, in the conversations with Julie, that they were seeking information to help O’Neal. If this were so, it could be viewed as a despicable act, misusing the office of pastor for the gain of one of their devoted followers. But, they could also have been on the side of the angels, encouraging Chuck to reconcile and trying to help Julie.
I believe that Grace Community Church has an obligation to clear up this matter. Approximately 5 hours ago I called Grace Community Church and spoke with two secretaries, stating that I planned to post questions regarding their involvement in this situation. I warned the church that news of this poorly conceived lawsuit has now garnered the attention of ABC News here, Fox News here (and now the UK here) indicating that this will become a internationally discussed case. I carefully spelled out my concerns, warning them that I would post this in 5 hours. If you are reading this, you can assume that TWW did not receive a response.
If Grace Community Church played any role in encouraging this lawsuit, then I hope the lawyer for the defense will depose the church and expose their involvement. I pray that it isn’t so.
Bene Diction and The Streisand Effect
Meantime, Bene Diction Blogs On, here, provides some interesting insights as well.
“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.”
Bene cleverly points out that this pastor may find out that he is the recipient of the “Streisand Effect.” From Wikipedia, we learn “The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.” In other words, O'Neal and his church will now be the recipient of all sorts of unwanted attention.
Chuck O’Neal: Is this Hypocrisy?
Tom Rich, over at the FBC jax post linked above, had this to add.
“If you go back and listen to one of Chuck's sermons entitled "Emergent Church Apostasy – Wolves in Our Midst" – Chuck goes after emergent church leaders Doug Pagitt, Brian Mclaron, and Rob Bell for their false teachings. Chuck says that Brian Mclaron "serves the devil", he claims all three men are "wolves in sheep's clothing", he calls them "false prophets", and says Rob Bell is a "dangerous man". It is a very scathing sermon and he attacks these men's motives and their character and their ministries. And no doubt Chuck will say that he is doing it because he is called by God to call out and expose what he perceives to be false teachers.
For Chuck to file a lawsuit against Julie Anne for criticizing religious leaders, while Chuck himself uses his pulpit to criticize harshly religious leaders, makes Chuck a hypocrite. And we know what Jesus thinks about religious hypocrites. Chuck, whether you like it or not, Julie Anne Smith is just as called of God as you are to expose what she believes to be false and harmful teachers. “
Here is a link to a post O’Neal did at eChristian. Let’s see who he calls apostates. (This means people who have renounced their faith). And he has the chutzpah to go after Julie Anne ??!! (Note to Julie: Make sure the judge sees this one)!
Yale Divinity School professors originally authored the apostate letter, but there are over 300 “Christian” theologians, pastors, and leaders that have signed on. The list reads mostly as a who’s who of apostates, but there are probably a few that we would all be surprised to find in apostate company supporting an apostate letter. Here are just a few of the notable names:
- Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
- David Yonggi Cho, Founder and Senior Pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea -
- Lynn Green, International Chairman, Youth With A Mission -
- Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, IL
- Duane Litfin, President, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
- Richard Mouw, President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
- Rev. Roy Oksnevad, Director Muslim Ministry, Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, IL
- Doug Pennoyer, Dean, School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University -
- Rev. Dr. John Stott, Rector Emeritus, All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, UK
- Michael W. Treneer, International President, The Navigators, Colorado Springs, CO
- Rick Warren, Founder and Senior Pastor, Saddleback Church, and The Purpose Driven Life, Lake Forest, CA
Bloggers: Be Aware of SLAPP tactics
It is also important to note that O’Neal could possibly be pulling a SLAPP. Bloggers everywhere need to be aware of this tactic. Thankfully, Oregon recognizes this unsavory device and has implemented recourse for victims. I have it on good authority that an Anti-Slapp motion may have been employed in this matter. The following is a simple explanation of this tactic from Wikipedia here.
"A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. The difficulty, of course, is that plaintiffs do not present themselves to the Court admitting that their intent is to censor, intimidate or silence their critics.
Other widely mentioned elements of a SLAPP are the actual effectiveness at silencing critics, the timing of the suit, inclusion of extra or spurious defendants (such as relatives or hosts of legitimate defendants)attempts to identify anonymous or pseudonymous critics and attempts to run up defendants' costs even if this clearly costs more to the plaintiffs."
TWW’s take on the matter
- This is a foolish lawsuit which will bring shame to the pastor and the church.
- Julie Anne and the other defendants will win this lawsuit.
- Chuck O’Neal should drop the suit and save himself (and his church) money and ridicule.
- Julie will receive remuneration for her court and attorney costs and fees.
- John MacArthur’s church should speak out immediately about Grace Community Church’s involvement in this fiasco and distance themselves from this pastor.
- Christian bloggers need to be aware that “big names” may be involving themselves in blogging issues. In such cases, be aware of anti-SLAPP guidelines.
- This is a First Amendment case, pure and simple.
- The pastor should learn to turn the other cheek and show grace under pressure.
Now, we leave you with a performance of the musical hit ,“Barbra Streisand,” performed by the cast of Glee (Chris Peterman-we are thinking of you!). Each time you hear “Barbra Streisand,” substitute Chuck O’Neal and pray for Julie Anne. Julie Anne, we will join in the dance when you prevail, and you will!
Addendum 7:20 PM-I just spoke at length with Julie Anne. She has been encouraged by the outpouring of support from Christians, as well as the media. Keep an eye on the news. All media outlets are jumping on the story and are very sympathetic to Julie Anne's situation. Julie Anne states that this is about "spiritual abuse." I think she is correct.