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Church Sues Former Member for Online Criticisms

  • Religion Today
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2012 May 17
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An Oregon pastor has sued a woman for $500,000 in damages, alleging that her online critiques of her former church amount to defamation, Christianity Today reports. Julie Anne Smith and her family left Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) a few years ago and, she says, were subsequently shunned by their church friends. "If I went to ... any place in town, if I ran into somebody, they would turn their heads and walk the other way," Smith said. "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, and in February, she started a blog, Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors, in which she accused BGBC of spiritual abuse and its pastor, Charles O'Neal, of "narcissism in the pulpit." Within days, BGBC filed its lawsuit against Smith, her daughter and three other former members. The suit goes before a judge later this month, though Smith has filed a motion to dismiss it. The church has made no statement regarding the case, but Smith wrote on her blog that she has no plans to back down. "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," she said. "I will not be silenced."