Woman Says What She Thinks About Former Church Onlline; Pastor Files A Half-Million Dollar Defamation Suit

“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”

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.

Editor’s Note: Other news sources added the following:

“You will be fine at this church if you never question the elders or pastor,” Smith wrote on Sept. 29, 2011, one of many online reviews she wrote critical of the church, according to court documents.

She said Pastor Charles O’Neal was guilty of “narcissism in the pulpit” and had “chosen to mislead the congregation.”

Smith described a church that told members what to wear, had communal foot washings and discouraged members from having friends outside the church.

“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,” she wrote on her blog.

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