BEAVERTON, Ore. (CBS Seattle) — A pastor is suing former church members for half-a-million dollars for defamation over critical reviews they wrote of him online.
Stay-at-home mom Julie Anne Smith and four others have been sued by Pastor Charles O’Neal of the Beaverton Grace Bible Church for defamation. The lawsuit, which was filed March 1, states that the reviews called the church “creepy,” that the pastor is a “narcissist” and that he has “chosen to mislead the congregation.”
“This is the country of freedom where we can say things,” Smith told KGW-TV, who left the church a few years prior. “I have to laugh because what I have on my blog is so tame compared to what I read on the Internet.”
Smith has kept a blog called “Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors” for people who are “being hurt emotionally and spiritually by pastors who use bully tactics.” She launched the blog after she found that critical reviews she wrote of the church on Google were being deleted.
“Since my voice was removed from Google and was not staying there, I felt like I needed a place to have a voice,” Smith told KGW.
Smith claims that Pastor O’Neal forced parishioners to stop talking to her because she left the church.
“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,” Smith told KATU-TV. “All we did was asked questions. We just raised concerns. There’s no sin in that.”
Pastor O’Neal and the church have yet to comment about the lawsuit.