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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Mother and Daughter Being Sued by Their Former Pastor - Pastor Claims He Was Told to Sue by John MacArthur's Church

Mother and Daughter Being Sued by Their Former Pastor - Pastor Claims He Was Told to Sue by John MacArthur's Church

The man at left is Chuck O'Neal, pastor of Beaverton Grace Bible Church.

Why is Chuck's picture here on the Watchdog blog? Well, as reported by Portland TV station KATU, Chuck is suing one of his former church members.

What did this former church member, Julie Anne Smith, do in order to receive the wrath of Chuck and his lawyer? Well, Julie Anne started a blog about her church and her pastor to document the spiritual abuse that she says she endured at the hands of the good pastor and his church.

Chuck wants $500,000 in damages from Julie Anne, Julie Anne's daughter, and a few other blog commenters that have criticized Chuck for what Julie claims is spiritual abuse she has endured after being kicked out of Chuck's church.

No good pastor would sue a church member without invoking some sort of biblical justification, right? Chuck compares his situation to that of the Apostle Paul, who appealed to Caesar when he was accused of crimes. Read what Chuck posted on Julie Anne's review site explaining why he filed his defamation lawsuit:

"After seeking counsel from a pastor on staff with Grace Community Church (under Pastor John MacArthur) and reading him several excerpts from JulieAnne's endless defamation, he recommended that we FILE A LAWSUIT in an appeal to Caesar as the Apostle Paul did when falsely accused of crimes against God and the state."

Of course!  Chuck justifies his lawsuit against Julie and her daughter by claiming he is only doing what the Apostle Paul did in Acts 25! Forget that Paul was being pursued by powerful religious leaders who wanted to kill him, and that Julie Anne is, well, a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom who is writing about her former church and pastor that she believes has spiritually abused her family and other families.

Chuck has it completely backwards. In this saga, he and his church represent the Jewish leaders seeking Paul's (Julie Anne's) head because they don't like what Julie Anne is saying, while Julie Anne is more like the Apostle Paul who is merely doing what her faith calls her to do: to call out and expose what she perceives to be a false teacher and a spiritual abuser. Chuck, you're the religious zealot who is trying to silence a Christian, Julie Anne is the Apostle Paul doing what Christ has commanded her to do.

Julie Anne says that when she and her family left the church, her friends were told to end all contact with her. Yep, good old-fashioned "church discipline" once again, perpetrated against the evil-doer who dares to criticize the pastor. Julie says in the KATU news report below:

"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....All we did was asked questions. We just raised concerns. There's no sin in that."

As Julie is finding out, just as I found out 3 1/2 years ago, in today's modern evangelical church one of THE biggest sins is asking questions and raising concerns in your church, especially if you do it in a way that is not approved by the holy men of God. And God help you if you publicly criticize your pastor; that will get you shown the exit faster than if you are an embezzler or child molester.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this case is Chuck "the Apostle Paul" O'Neal claiming that filing a defamation lawsuit was a course of action recommended to him by John MacArthur's church, Grace Community Church. I hope as the press continues to cover this story that they follow-up with John MacArthur. I don't believe for a second that John MacArthur or any of his staff members would stand by Chuck O'Neal's decision to sue a mother and her daughter. I hope Julie's lawyer raises this as an issue in Chuck's deposition and interrogatories, and finds out just who at Grace Community Church was advising Chuck, and I hope they depose that minister to find out if perhaps Chuck "the Apostle Paul" O'Neal defamed Julie in the process.

I think Chuck O'Neal is showing himself to be a coward here. Why on earth would O'Neal consult with John MacArthur's church in this matter? How could John MacArthur's church staff possibly know all of the facts of Julie's experience and her claims of spiritual abuse at the hands of Chuck and his church that she chronicles on her blog and at her Google review site? Does Chuck need the approval and blessing of John MacArthur to sue one of his members?

And lastly, let me just say this, and perhaps this will get me added to Chuck's defamation complaint filed with the court:  Chuck O'Neal is a hypocrite. If you click here, you can read some of Chuck's complaint filed against Julie. Julie was merely expressing her views of Chuck and Beaverton Grace Bible Church; she is doing what she as a Christian is supposed to do. She is calling out what she believes to be a false teacher. In fact, Julie is just doing what Chuck himself does in his sermons. He calls out people by name who he thinks are false teachers and who are harming Christians.

If you go back and listen to one of Chuck's sermons entitled "Emergent Church Apostasy - Wolves in Our Midst" - Chuck goes after emergent church leaders Doug Pagitt, Brian Mclaron, and Rob Bell for their false teachings. Chuck says that Brian Mclaron "serves the devil", he claims all three men are "wolves in sheep's clothing", he calls them "false prophets", and says Rob Bell is a "dangerous man". It is a very scathing sermon and he attacks these men's motives and their character and their ministries. And no doubt Chuck will say that he is doing it because he is called by God to call out and expose what he perceives to be false teachers.

For Chuck to file a lawsuit against Julie Anne for criticizing religious leaders, while Chuck himself uses his pulpit to criticize harshly religious leaders, makes Chuck a hypocrite. And we know what Jesus thinks about religious hypocrites. Chuck, whether you like it or not, Julie Anne Smith is just as called of God as you are to expose what she believes to be false and harmful teachers. 

Finally, Julie Anne, Happy Mother's Day to you, and thank you for not caving in to the pressure and cult tactics employed by your church, and for standing strong and daring to write about your experience at the hands of your church and pastor. The best thing you can do is to not be silent, to speak of what has been done to you and your family and to speak the truth even if your former pastor and church hate you for it.

You are doing God's work


Beaverton church sues family after they criticize it online


By Anita Kissée KATU News and Staff Published: May 12, 2012 at 12:48 AM PDT

BEAVERTON, Ore. - 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.

"What somebody does in the church is one thing, but when you get out into society we have the right to free speech, and it may not be what people want to hear, but we absolutely have that right," Smith said.

The lawsuit didn’t just target Smith. Her daughter and three other commenters are also being sued.

"He can say what he wants in the church and say, don't talk about this or don't talk about that, or don't talk to this person, but when you're out in the civil world, you don't do that anymore," Smith said. "And he's not my pastor anymore. He does not have that right to keep people from talking."

The Smiths filed a special free speech motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It goes before a judge later this month.

KATU News called the church, went there, went to the pastor's home and spoke to his wife. KATU News also called the pastor's attorney. All of them declined to give their side of the story.


Abuse: Shepherds – or Fleecers – of God's Flock?

 By June Hunt , Special to CP
June 30, 2012|12:20 pm

"Will you continue to stand by and let your church drown financially?"¹

So began an ad for "Financial Empowerment Seminars." The target audience: church members wanting to invest profitably, while also benefitting their churches and communities. The seminars were led by a man who now faces federal prosecution by the SEC for defrauding investors of more than $11 million in a Ponzi scheme. Meanwhile, these "investors" need to rebuild not only their financial security, but also their emotional security, especially after being betrayed by "spiritual leaders" who were found to be spiritual abusers.

This new term "spiritual abuse" may not be something you're familiar with, but you may have heard about it or seen its effects in the life of someone you know … or you may be recovering from it yourself. (It is possible to be in a spiritually abusive relationship … and not even know it.)

Spiritual abuse is an umbrella term primarily describing three different kinds of harmful acts: (1) mistreatment: a person in spiritual authority mistreating another person; (2) manipulation: the use of religious words or acts to manipulate someone for personal gain or control; and (3) Scripture twisting: any intentional misuse of Scripture in order to twist the truth. Works of a spiritual nature can look noble, virtuous and inspiring, however, as the old saying goes, "Looks can be deceiving." Or, to quote Proverbs 16:2 (NIV): "All a person's ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD."

Although spiritual abuse is a relatively new term, its practice has persisted ever since the serpent in the Garden of Eden distorted and outright lied about God's words to Adam and Eve. In doing so, he managed to create doubt in their minds regarding the character of God and His relationship to those He had created.

The result, of course, was that they found the thought of becoming like God more appealing than remaining dependent on God. That thought led them to trust Satan's words rather than God's words, and their descendants have struggled with this same problem ever since. The serpent said to Eve, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?' … 'You will not certainly die …. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" (Genesis 3:1, 4-5 NIV).

The serpent skewed God's words and seduced the first couple into taking the fatal bite!

At the core of spiritual abuse is excessive control of others. Spiritual abuse is acting "spiritual" to benefit oneself by using self-centered efforts to control others. Some common examples of spiritually abusive relationships include:

• Church leaders who use guilt or greed to compel attendance, financial giving or service
• Spiritual leaders who take emotional or sexual advantage of others in the name of "comfort or compassion"
• Religious people who accuse those who disagree with them of being rebellious against God
• Ministry leaders who demand absolute, unquestioned obedience no matter what … whether reasonable or not … whether biblical or not

Jesus taught about domineering, spiritual leaders who wield their authority and "lord it over" the people.

"Instead," He added, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:42-45 NIV). Spiritual leaders are called to be servants, not dictators – to be sacrificial toward their followers, not to be exploitive of their followers.

How well I remember a recent caller on Hope In the Night who said she had donated all of her assets – $70,000 from her home – to help build a church. Later, she learned the spiritual leader had used the money to buy a comfortable home … for herself. Then the caller somehow became the scapegoat for problems at the ministry, even being blamed for the unrelated deaths of the leader's two relatives.

Illegalities aside, such spiritual abuse is blatant manipulation. No wonder this naïve, new Christian vowed to never darken the door of a church again!

If you are trying to determine whether or not a particular group may be spiritually abusive, consider the following questions:

 ___ Do they exalt someone as an irrefutable authority in the group?
___ Do they demand your absolute allegiance?
___ Do they discourage your questions?
___ Do they shame people publicly?
___ Do they insist on making major decisions in your life?
___ Do they have a long list of rules related to dress, hairstyle, diet or activities?
___ Do they judge those who do not keep their list of rules?
___ Do they consider themselves the "only true church"?
___ Do they consider those who leave their group "apostates," "backsliders" or "doomed"?
___ Do they teach that godly people should give more financially so that they will receive more?

Notice Paul's words of warning: "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ … he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing." [And who is teaching these different doctrines? Those who are … ] "… imagining that godliness is a means of gain. … But as for you, O man of God, flee these things" (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 11 ESV).

Yes, flee! Having assisted others to leave, I can assure you that separating from a spiritually abusive group can be grueling because the leaders use fear, false guilt and shame to keep members from leaving. If you are in such a group, daily pray the following prayer: "For you are my rock and my fortress … lead me and guide me; you take me out from the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge" (Psalm 31:3-4 ESV).

Regardless of the difficulty, you must leave. Your spiritual life depends on it!


First Baptist Pastor Mac Brunson makes apology to blogger

The lawsuit against the church 'has been resolved,' blogger says.

Posted: April 2, 2012 - 12:54am  |  Updated: April 2, 2012 - 8:29pm

Pastor Mac Brunson of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville apologized Sunday for certain terms he used in statements about a blogger who criticized his leadership. The apology came at the end of the morning service, and the congregation responded with applause.

In April 2009, Brunson was quoted in a Times-Union story as saying that persistent criticism on indicated the blogger, Tom Rich, had an "obsessive compulsive problem" and was a "sociopath."

In the apology Sunday, Brunson said that he regretted using the terms and that Rich is not "obsessive compulsive" or a "sociopath."

The church's spokesman, Jeff Stoll, and the pastor's son, Trey Brunson, declined to comment.

Rich filed a lawsuit against the church claiming defamation, and litigation had been ongoing. He said Sunday that "it has been resolved."

"We have reached an amicable resolution to the lawsuit," Rich said.

When asked if Brunson's apology was part of a deal ending litigation, Rich said he could not comment.

Stan Jordan, a former Duval County School Board member and state legislator, said he was in attendance when Brunson made the "statesmanlike" apology.

"It was the right thing to do. That's what Christian life is all about," Jordan said. "I respect him for it. When you err, you fix it."

Before the suit, Rich was blogging anonymously, but his identity was revealed when the church asked police to investigate "possible criminal overtones," the Times-Union story said.

The church then barred Rich and his wife, longtime members, from its premises.

Rich also filed legal action that said the Jacksonville Sheriff's and State Attorney's offices violated his First Amendment right to free speech and anonymity because his name was revealed to the church. According to an October 2010 story in the Times-Union, the city and state settled the lawsuit, agreeing that Rich would be paid $50,000 and the city's General Counsel's Office would train police on privacy and free-speech rights.