Church Sues Former Member for Online Criticisms
An Oregon woman's online critiques of her former church could cost her $500,000.
The pastor of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) sued Julie Anne Smith, her daughter, and three other former church members for $500,000 in damages, alleging that Smith's blog, Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors, amounts to defamation.
Smith and her family left the church a few years ago and were subsequently shunned by their church friends, she told KATU News.
"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 told KATU. "All we did was ask questions. We just raised concerns. There's no sin in that."
Smith posted critical reviews of the church on Google that were later removed. In February, she started her blog, which accuses BGBC of spiritual abuse and its pastor, Charles O'Neal, of "narcissism in the pulpit," ABC News reported.
Within days of starting the blog, BGBC filed its lawsuit. The suit goes before a judge later this month, though Smith has filed a motion to dismiss it. Her attorney, Linda Williams, told KGW News that it's rare for cases like this to go to court.
The church has not made a statement regarding the case. On her blog, Smith wrote she has no plans to back down.
"The story of spiritual abuse needs to be told," she wrote. "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."
In 2010, Christianity Today reported a similar legal tussle between a Baptist church in Florida and its online critics.