I’ll get to the subject of the former church member sued in just a moment, but want to make sure this point is told: I believe that suing former church members is just an extension of the spiritual abuse. How can that be? Let me explain.This is old news – the no-talk rule in spiritually abusive environment. We are going to discuss it once again. Please read this definition to make sure you understand the powerful effect it has on continuing the cycle of spiritual abuse. This is so important. Breaking this particular rule will often be the first step in getting out of the trap of spiritual abuse:
In abusive spiritual systems, people’s lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken. Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy churches or families but are not said out loud. Because they are not said out loud, you don’t find out that they’re there until you break them.
The most powerful of all unspoken rules in the abusive system is what we have already termed the “can’t talk” rule. The “can’t talk” [rule] has this thinking behind it: “The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change; so it must be protected behind walls of silence (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak about the problem, you are the problem. (The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse By David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen (Bethany House, 1991, 2005))
One of the most common characteristics of someone who is a spiritual abuser is they try to control their congregants and even former congregants. Sometimes they try to control aspects of their personal life – as in what they can and cannot say. In the church, if you talk about the problem, you are told that you are not obeying the authority God has placed before you, or you need to check the sin in your own heart, that you are being divisive, gossiping, etc.When you voice the problem outside the church after leaving, you may be told that you are a Jezebel, have the sin of Korah, you are waging war with God and His church, slanderers, divisive, etc. We, former congregants, have become the big “problem” in the no-talk rule.
For those new to this blog, my former pastor did not like me posting negative Google reviews about my experiences and had them removed. This is an example of the no-talk rule. I got tired of my reviews being removed and began this blog. Within a few days of beginning this blog, I received my subpoena. He did not want me to have this blog and to post my story because he knew it meant that the “problem” was going to be discussed. In an unhealthy church, outside appearances are paramount and it ruins that perfect image by saying there are problems. He was unable to get my blog removed as he had done with Google reviews. Instead, he resorted to civil/legal measures to continue that spiritual abuse (no-talk rule) and used the lawsuit in order to force me and others into not talking.
The original lawsuit included four defendants: a mother and adult son, my adult daughter (Hannah), and me. The adult son was recently dropped from the lawsuit before our May 21 court date, so that left 3 defendants remaining. We had heard that they were going to subpoena another former church, Meaghan, and received documents to that effect, but nothing happened, even though her name was written on court documents.While normal people were enjoying this Memorial Weekend, Meaghan was finally served and got the formal notification that her former pastor was in fact taking her to court for saying her mind and for standing up against someone who seems to be trying to keep people from talking.
Meaghan was the first former congregant to leave her real name on a comment on this blog. He apparently didn’t like Meaghan commenting and soon after that first comment, my attorney was notified that Meaghan would be subpoenaed. Doesn’t it make sense that by suing the first person who left her name, he is sending the very strong message that if you dare to post on Julie Anne’s blog, you, too, could be sued? Are you getting the pattern?
How the No-Talk Rule was Enforced by the Pastor
I posted negative Google reviews —–> pastor removed them
I began blog ——> pastor sued me
Meaghan leaves comment on my blog ——> pastor sued Meaghan
I blogged ——-> pastor amended lawsuit & added add’l “defamatory” phrases
I remember the first time I saw Meaghan’s comment with her name. My heart skipped a beat as I realized what a strong woman she was, willing to stand strong in what she believes to be the truth. Meaghan, I know there are so many who are reading this who are applauding you and your bold stance.
Note to my blog readers: you’ve seen the pattern. If you leave your name on a comment in my blog, you very well could be sued. If you leave a negative review on a review site, you could be sued. I want you to be free to voice your comments and I am absolutely fine with people using pseudonyms in comments – make up a name – no need to add an URL. There is no way for me to track ISPs or personal information from people who leave comments here. I don’t want that fear to control you and keep you from talking if you want to share something here.
This method of bullying people into not talking by using lawsuits to keep quiet will only go so far. There are over 970 reviews on the Google site now, approximately 940 are negative. It costs $505 for the court filing fee. There are also most likely attorney fees.Soon the congregants will most likely tire of seeing their church’s name and pastor in the limelight for doing something they and most Christians know is forbidden in scripture. Maybe it will eventually sink in that the church leaders they have respected for years (John MacArthur, Phil Johnson) absolutely disagree with lawsuits against Christians and they may not want to align themselves with a pastor who seems to be doing his own thing by disregarding the wisdom of so many.
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
A number of pastors have privately e-mailed me and told me they have sent Chuck e-mails encouraging him to withdraw the lawsuit. It appears he continues to disagree with their wise scriptural counsel, in lieu of protecting image/reputation. This is a principle that is completely against scripture. God is not so concerned about personal reputation and image, but the heart.
My former pastor doesn’t know me too well. He may have thought that I would back down in fear after being subpoenaed. Chuck, I know you read this blog. I saw the pile of papers in front of you as you sat next to me during the court hearing. (How could I miss my son’s large drawing from the blog page you printed out? ) I do not fear men, I fear God. I will continue to tell my story. Now, more than ever, I am compelled to stand up – not only for those who were bullied at my former church, but for all spiritual abuse victims who have contacted me in the comment section and via private e-mail – some who are living in fear, afraid to step one foot in church because of the similar spiritual bullies they have encountered.This is much bigger than BGBC. It’s about all of those who use their spiritual authority to bully others. Thanks, Chuck, for suing me so that I have a platform to speak out against this atrocity in churches. If you keep suing others, it will be clear to all Christians and atheists alike what is going on. Those who spiritually bully people do NOT represent Christ.
There is righteous anger burning inside of me. These precious souls should not be living in fear, afraid of pastors, unable to trust even decent and true Shepherds. They need to be able to be free from that fear, to be able to be in a place with love and grace and truth.
Meaghan – the world is watching as our former pastor sues 4 women: 3 moms and 1 young lady. I love you, friend, and we stand together. God is in control.