I began this blog in Feb. 2012 after noticing that the Google reviews I had posted of my former church were being removed. Days after the commencement of this blog, I received a legal summons suing me and three others for defamation to the tune of $500,000. The story of spiritual abuse needs to be told. People are being hurt emotionally and spiritually by abusive pastors who use bully tactics; we need a place to learn, to talk freely, and to heal. I will not be silenced.
On May 21, 2012, we had our first court hearing. Two of the original 4 defendants were voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit, leaving Hannah and me. Later, Meaghan was added to the lawsuit, plaintiffs claiming her comments on my blog were defamatory.
I believe the lawsuit is an extension of the spiritual abuse we incurred. A key part of spiritual abuse is control and especially controlling what people can and cannot say, in this case, months and years after leaving a church. When Chuck O’Neal and BGBC decided to sue us in the legal court system, they challenged the rights of free speech for everyone who shares their stories and opinions online. This story should be of grave concern to all in the United States, especially bloggers, opinion and review sites, political sites, etc. July 13, 2012 is the court hearing at the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon. The time is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. The judge’s decision could have a profound effect on those who use the internet to express their thoughts and opinions.
UPDATE: On July 28, 2012, Judge Fun dismissed the entire case. We won! Chuck O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church had to pay all court costs and attorney fees for the prevailing defendants – approximately $60,000.
Legal online sites are acknowledging the threat. Here is one from Citizen Media Law Project, including court documents.
Here is my court declaration.
A few people have asked for a condensed version of “my story”. My story is not written out like that, but in bits and pieces as posts for the blog. So, in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to have one post which includes links to the key posts to my story so readers do not have to wade through all of them. ~ja
How Dare You Leave Our Church!– – – In this article, I describe the atmosphere presented at the church – that our pastor proclaimed our church to be the best. This was an unhealthy elitism. I also describe a pattern that I noticed of families staying for 4-6 months and then vanishing without ever mentioning them again. This was one of the first clear signs of something amiss.
False Teachers Who Mark and Avoid Church Members – Pastors who twist scripture are doing so for their own personal gain. This shocking article is about how some pastors twist scripture and Mark and Avoid church members/former members by the very painful and destructive practice of shunning. This method is used by cults.
You Won’t Find a Better Church – This article discusses more of the elitism we were taught. No church could ever measure up to our church. What are the implications of that kind of thinking?
The Lawsuit – – These are my thoughts after I received the subpoena (Mar. 2012)
Disobedient Children and Meetings with the Pastor – -The pattern we observed was that all children/teens would be brought to the pastor’s office for discipline issues at one time or another. These intense meetings represented the underlying tone we experienced.
Children’s Church – In the 2 yrs 2 mos we attended the church, the children only covered Ephesians 1:1-17. Weeks and weeks were spent on one verse at a time. How much of the Bible would have been covered by the time they became an adult at this rate?
Youth Groups? Not at Our Church! – In the pastor’s attempt to have an elite church, he expressed great disdain for modern youth groups. While our former church had no official youth group, the youth most certainly did meet and the “fruit” of the “unofficial youth groups” was far worse than I’ve seen in conventional supervised youth groups.
The Bully Pulpit We found the pastor frequently used the “bully pulpit” to preach to the congregation when someone was caught in sin. It’s not a pleasant environment when you have been caught in sin and the pastor uses the teaching time to address your sin from the pulpit. You know he is talking about you the whole time. This sometimes happened for several weeks in a row – and many times was on the topic of sexual immorality.
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here? Part 1… – We discovered a pattern of scriptures used in reference to people who he felt was being divisive and labeling them as “Korah”. This is an example of hyper-authoritarian behavior which created a very uncomfortable church atmosphere.
Baptism: Was It Genuine or for Show? – We saw evidence of baptism being more of a show, rather than a genuine act of obedience in faith. This was very disturbing. Some were not even convinced of their salvation after being baptised – they did it because of feeling pressure.
Evangelize When it Looks Good – There was a strong emphasis on evangelism at this church, but why was there no willingness to go after my “wayward” daughter or other “tough cases”? Evangelizing only when it’s easy or looks good? Maybe.
Damage Control – How Do I Look? After the lawsuit, we saw the church go into “damage control” mode on their church website, making it a softer, gentler, family friendly site. Again, it’s all about the image.
Lawsuit Update: New Information!! – Meaghan V. was added to the lawsuit after posting a comment using her real name (most other members feel the need to post anonymously because they don’t want to be sued). I reference 3 of the pastor’s sermons on submitting to State authority.
Legalism: Do Not Expose Your Thighs! – What is it like living in a church with legalistic rules about where the hem of shorts should land on your legs and you have a son who is 6’8”?
In Honor of Hannah – This post is the most popular post on the blog. So much of we experienced is difficult to describe in clear facts. This describes the emotional part of what I dealt with in a very real way – when our adult daughter abruptly moved out of the home because of the intense emotional/physical pressures she was facing by the demands of the church in addition to her busy life as a student/nanny. This was very difficult to write.
Walk the Talk! This post discusses the hypocrisy (and once again image) I saw at the Steps for Life walk in Portland year after year (a pro-life walkathon). Publicly showing/walking/praying that you respect life, even the life of the unborn, yet failing to get in the trenches with people in real need at your own church seems hypocritical.
Hyper-Modesty in the Church, Part 1 This is the beginning of a 3-part series on hyper-modesty which I believe led to a preoccupation with body parts and sexualizing. Sexual immorality was a big problem here, much more in any other church I attended and I would attribute it to the legalistic/high authoritarian teachings.
It’s the Same Message No Matter How you Mix it! This is a 3-part series on repetitive sermons. I started timing the sermons after comparing my notes and realizing that the pastor was using the basically the same sermons and mixing the order up with only 10-15 minutes of new material (in a 60-min. sermon). In our 2-years there, he covered only Romans 12 to Romans 13:7. In this series you will get to “experience” what it felt like for many of us 🙂 Be sure to read all three parts. You may go crazy. I did when writing it 🙂