Officials at Beaverton Grace Bible Church weren't too thrilled to learn that a former member had written negative online reviews of the service and congregation, so they filed a lawsuit against an Oregon mother and her family.
Julie Anne Smith, her daughter and three other commenters are facing a $500,000 defamation claim after Pastor Charles O'Neal indicated their reviews included harmful descriptors such as "cult," "creepy," and "spiritual abuse," KATU reports.
Smith attended the church a few years ago, but after leaving the congregation, she took to the Internet to express her feelings.
"We do it with restaurants and hotels and whatnot, and I thought, why not do it with this church?" Smith told the station, referring to the online reviews.
But after churchgoers began adding their own positive remarks, Smith created a blog titled "Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors" to share her thoughts.
In her introduction, Smith states she received the lawsuit just days after the blog went live in February. Since then, she has used the platform to chronicle her journey in dealing with the lawsuit and the church.
The blog also contains scanned images of the original complaint, which include phrases from Smith's reviews that allegedly troubled Pastor O'Neal.
According to the complaint, Smith wrote the following statements about the church on the Internet:
Sept. 29, 2011:
"You will be fine at this church if you never question the elders or the pastor."
Jan. 5, 2012:
"What we had was indoctrination... That is how cult leaders work. Don't waste your precious lives and relationships by being held emotionally/spiritually captive at this so-called church."
Jan. 9, 2012:
"How can she forget that her own beloved pastor knew about a sex offender in the church who had access to the nursery and children on a weekly basis and did not have any safeguards in place."
Smith's attorney, Linda Williams, told KGW News she doesn't think O'Neal has a strong case.
"It would be extremely difficult to determine that wording or posting caused that tremendous $500,000 worth of damage... It just didn't," Williams said.
A motion to dismiss the lawsuit is scheduled for May 21, KGW reports. The church has not commented on the story.
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