Another moment of extreme church behavior. Our friends over at Out of Ur share this story about a church that has sued a mother of three for writing a bad online review. Did she simply criticize the church or are her efforts part of a larger conspiracy against the church led by a disgruntled former staff member?
Here is part of the church’s side of the story. (The church’s full statement on the matter can be read here)
BEAVERTON GRACE BIBLE CHURCH PRESS RELEASE:
*Things are not always what they first seem to be. Here is a portion of the rest of the story.
In Nov. of 2008 a man was removed from the staff of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC). Since that time, Pastor Charles O’Neal and the Beaverton Grace Bible Church have been the targets of a three and a half year campaign of defamation by a group of former church members and attenders who are close personal friends of the former staff member. The church elders and the pastor did little to defend themselves over these three and a half years, believing that the individuals would tire of the effort and eventually cease the defamation. However, that did not prove to be successful. In fact it was counter-productive. The defamation campaign escalated recently when one of the former congregants established a blog on the internet with the intent of reaching a broader audience. This divisive group has used review websites, blogs, the police, the Department of Human Services, and now the local media in their three and a half year campaign to destroy Pastor O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church with false accusations that range from ridiculous to criminal.
The facts will show that this is not a free speech case. As the campaign of defamation has escalated the postings on the internet have falsely accused Pastor O’Neal of being a “wolf,” a “liar,” a” narcissist” and one who “knew about a sex offender in the church who had access to the nursery and the children on a weekly basis and did not have any safeguards in place.” In yet further escalation, Julie Anne Smith stated in her Google reviews that the church allows “sex offenders having free reign in childrens’ area with no discloser to parents… .” She has accused Pastor O’Neal and BGBC of “turn[ing] a blind eye to known sex offenders in the church” day and night, 24/7 on the World Wide Web. This is most likely the second worst thing that can be said about a pastor and a church, to the broadest possible audience, and most certainly constitutes defamation.
Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Pastor O’Neal, and his family have patiently suffered these accusations for three and a half years. In light of the escalation of postings on the internet and the creation of the blog dedicated to continuing the accusations and spreading them to and even wider audience, the elders of the church concluded that their only viable option was legal action. They very reluctantly decided to defend their church and their pastor against these allegations in the courts of Oregon where they believe that truth will prevail. They trust that application of the law will demonstrate that defamation on the internet is not the type of speech that is protected by either the U.S. Constitution or the Oregon Constitution.
What a gigantic mess this whole thing is. Lord have mercy on us all. I don’t know anything about the situation and whether or not one or both of the parties is in the wrong, but I know that a situation like this is simply a failure. Lord have mercy.