Court Ruling on Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier’s Lawsuit against His Son and Former Member

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Court Ruling on Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier against his step-son, Alex Grenier and Tim Taylor

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With Alex Grenier’s permission, I am cross-posting the entire article he published yesterday. Since hearing this news, I have found myself in tears, angry, and shocked at this ruling and the implications. I can’t believe Tim and Alex have had this dark cloud hanging over their heads for over 2 years and they still aren’t done. The emotional toll is difficult. Please pray for my friends who dared to speak out against clergy abuse and are now paying a hefty cost emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

If you’d like some background on this story, here is an article I did a while back:  Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier: Stories of Abuse As Told by His Children


 

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MAJOR UPDATE: Bob Grenier Calvary Chapel Pastor’s lawsuit vs. Alex and Tim

by Alex Grenier

We had a major set-back in our defense against my step-dad pastor’s (Bob Grenier) defamation lawsuit.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled him “not a public figure” despite his multi-state radio program, book, speaking at conferences around the nation and world, etc…and they denied our Anti-SLAPP motion to strike (which would have ended the suit) and he can continue his lawsuit in the lower court.

It is perceived as a big victory by him and his attorney and is certainly a legal set-back for us…but is not a final ruling on the matter in terms of winning or losing the defamation suit. The Court did not rule whether the statements (those we actually made) were untrue beyond a “preponderance of evidence” (previous version said “reasonable doubt”).

We can try to Petition the California Supreme Court (very much a long-shot, slim odds, but not impossible) to review whether or not clergy/pastors are limited purpose public figures. We can fight an old-fashioned defamation suit in the lower court (that will cost a lot of time and money and we don’t have a church and followers behind us to fund us). The most distasteful option for me personally, but an option, is to choke it down and try to settle with something both sides can live with (but I think this option is slim, Bob is very vindictive and despite what he preaches from the pulpit, he’s about as hateful and vengeful a person as you’ll ever meet and he wants blood and money).

We’re in talks with attorneys and planning our next moves. I’ll keep you posted as to significant developments.

Bob is currently doing a victory lap posting bible verses about how God will smite all his enemies and God upholds the righteous etc, typical Bob.

Bob’s attorney, Nick Pritchett, trolled me on a mutual friend’s Facebook page…I’m sure he’d love to see a broken family continue to fight so he can bill his client some fresh Jesus money and put food on his rich table.

Our attorneys are filing some sort of motion in an attempt to correct a factual error in the published Appellate opinion…something I cannot fathom happens very often in a prestigious State like California. The court must’ve missed something as they attributed a quote in their ruling to either me or Tim and concluded their opinion with that online statement…again, something that wasn’t my comment or Tim’s….something we pointed out in the case…something I have emails to back up calling this to the attention of my attorneys, etc…yet there the mistake is in a published opinion. I’ve got no problem standing behind the words I stated (and will)…but how can comments we didn’t make end up in a published opinion in such a credible and big State like California?

Obviously, we’re disappointed with the ruling and disagree…however, the Court is an authority and they saw it Bob’s way (despite the factual error in the opinion of the statement that someone else made online). We accept the decision, minus that error, and we will regroup and figure out what options are available and which of those options is the best from here.

This published opinion is significant because we believe it now defines pretty much all clergy (unless they are national figures like a  Billy Graham) as “not” limited purpose public figures…so anyone making comments online that a pastor doesn’t like can be sued with the low bar of Prima Facia…meaning the pastor can simply claim the comment defamed him and sue you without the threat of a high bar of Actual Malice and without the ability to Anti-SLAPP the suit. That’s scary, but that’s what it looks like. That will create quite a chill in the Church Abuse blogging community. My advice is be very careful, you can be easily sued for speaking out publicly about a pastor now…even if that pastor is very public.

Here is an article covering the Appellate Court Decision:

http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/02/19/pastors-defamation-suit-against-son-advances.htm

54 comments on “Court Ruling on Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier’s Lawsuit against His Son and Former Member

  1. Ugh!

    “Bob is currently doing a victory lap posting bible verses about how God will smite all his enemies and God upholds the righteous etc, typical Bob.” -What a loving pastor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That bothered me too, Kathi. So “Christian,” isn’t it? And this: “Bob’s attorney, Nick Pritchett, trolled me on a mutual friend’s Facebook page.”

    I’m embarrassed at what passes for Christianity in the US, but, unfortunately, not surprised any more.

    Alex, I’m so sorry the court ruled this way. It sets a frightening precedent.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well, it’s obvious that Bob is not “righteous”. That being said, I know that you, Julie Anne, had a “Donate” thing set up for you. Is there something like that for Alex and Tim. I’m sure that many people know about this law suit outside of “local” church’s, right? Publicity is a key, too, as you were on local and national news…I saw you on “FOX” news, you know, that bad station that nobody but me likes…hehe!! The world knew about your case, as even the Huff and Puff (Huffington Post) picked up your story.

    The reason that I am asking about that is because, in California, that is the most liberal state in the country, and local cases involving anything “religion” get shot down all the time, it seems, in the lower courts, and even the appellate courts, aka, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. But when it gets to the State Supreme courts, there is a much better chance, as the history of the 9th Circuit court is tipped on the liberal side. Money is needed for these guys. I can’t afford to help financially, but if they had more national publicity, maybe donations could be flowing, big time.

    Ed

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The plaintiff still has to prove that false, slanderous statements were intentionally made. Speaking the truth is NOT libelous. You just have to be able to prove it. Personally I predict that Ole BOB will be the next Mark Driscoll and lose this case too. He has made a real ass of himself and “exposed himself ” to the light of truth and publicity. I don’t think that will work out well for him in the end.

    Personally I can’t believe people go to this idiot’s church. He is a lousy example of Christian living, a hypocrite and a fraud.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Pingback: » Court Ruling on Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier’s Lawsuit against His Son and Former Member

  6. You’re right, Ed. It’s so strange how my story took off. I think it pulled at emotional heartstrings: what kind of pastor would sue moms?

    You can be sure that Alex and I are talking and I will help in any way I can. We had a group together helping with the “Who Would Jesus Sue” media campaign to try to bring media attention to the case a couple of years ago. Alex and Tim really need to get some $$ backing and media support.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Scott, you have a point. And Bob really is a fool because Alex has a lot of info he has been filing away over the years from many, many people. It’s going to look very bad for Bob Grenier when this “private” information gets public in the courthouse in the discovery process.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Just an explanation of the court system here in California, this case was heard in a state superior court. It was appealed to a state appellate court (the Fifth Circuit) which reviews the trial court for errors in law and doesn’t have an entire court trial like the superior court. The next place to ask for an appeal would be the California Supreme Court, if they agree to hear the case.

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the appellate court for the federal trial courts (known as district courts) in this part of the U.S.

    The Ninth Circuit would not be hearing an appeal for this type of case.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The opinion describes child abuse and theft as ‘private conduct.’ How can serious crimes be private conduct when our very society depends upon preventing them and punishment when they occur?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This really scares me. Our country has become more and more about protecting the elite/privileged. There is more and more government control over the lives of those who are not wealthy– every day. We are have less choices and less protection.

    I do not get it. Pastors…especially mega church types spend most of their careers trying to amass followers. They seek attention and do all they can to be in the public eye. You just have to wonder if the court was not concerned about all those Calvary Chapel lemmings in California. Numbers speak. I could see there might be a similar problem in my neck of the woods with some of the mega and seminary luminaries.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. One of these cases needs to go up to SCOTUS. I agree with Lydia that the elite/privileged have a definite advantage, but our Free Speech rights must be defended. That being said, litigation has costs, and not just the obvious monetary ones. Maybe they will get a better shake in the federal system.

    Hester: Thanks for the link!

    JA: I love your Nothing Says I Love You Like a Lawsuit!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Marsha: I found the idea that such conduct would be considered “private conduct” odd as well. Both have been considered public offenses since before the foundation of the republic, i.e. not private wrongs (civil matters).

    Liked by 2 people

  13. “Thanks for your expertise explanations. I’m glad we have people here that are familiar with how things work in law and court. ” -Ed

    You are welcome, Ed.

    Digital Media Law Project’s helpful links about public figures, private figures, and the rest for purposes of libel/defamation.
    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/proving-fault-actual-malice-and-negligence

    Chart of examples between public and private figures for purposes of libel/defamation:
    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/examples-public-and-private-figures

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The appellate decision (http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/02/19/F067263.PDF) includes the following statements:

    “Mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, or petty oppressions are not sufficient.”

    And

    “Alex and Tim’s statements are not mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions or other trivialities. Rather, they accuse Bob of criminal conduct that includes vile and depraved activities, i.e., child molestation.”

    This is very unfortunate. Given this state of the law in California, the more outrageous a perpetrator’s conduct, the greater the risk a victim takes by exposing it. So long as he can avoid accountability until expiration of the statute of limitations, a pedophile who “merely” fondles his young daughter will be more at risk of exposure than one who repeatedly drugs her before engaging vaginal, anal and oral penetration with his gentiles.

    For the record, I express no opinion regarding what Bob and Gayle Grenier did or did not do. That, apparently, would be dangerous indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. The same thing will happen to Julie McMahon.

    Bob Grenier, I spit on your stench. You foul the earth with your wickedness.

    Tony Jones and Bob Grenier will burn in hell, If there is one.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. The court systems in this country are failing us. This country is going in a terribly wrong direction.

    I regularly get petitions in my email. Some having to do with court cases and getting people to sign when injustices are taking place. I’ll have to get the name of it. They get signatures and get them back to the powers that be and often have positive outcome. What about the American Family Association, do you think they might get involved?

    Liked by 4 people

  17. “I regularly get petitions in my email. Some having to do with court cases and getting people to sign when injustices are taking place. I’ll have to get the name of it.”

    Same here, Brenda. I once signed a petition on Change.org and now get emails about other petitions that might interest me.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I disagree with the thought that “it now defines pretty much all clergy (unless they are national figures like a Billy Graham) as “not” limited purpose public figures.” The reason is because this is a more complex case since they are related to one another. I lean toward the thought that if they were not related, that the ruling may have been different. That said, my heart goes out to Alex and Tim.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. btdt, That is it–Change.org. There may be another one, but that is the one I was thinking of. Well done. Now we need someone who knows enough information to write it up. I don’t think that is me.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Lois,

    “I disagree with the thought that “it now defines pretty much all clergy (unless they are national figures like a Billy Graham) as “not” limited purpose public figures.” The reason is because this is a more complex case since they are related to one another. I lean toward the thought that if they were not related, that the ruling may have been different. That said, my heart goes out to Alex and Tim.”

    That is a good point. Should this be a family criminal case, rather than a public clergy civil case?

    Ed

    Liked by 1 person

  21. No, it should be a clergy civil case. I’ve posted Tina’s personal story and there are many more posted on Alex’s site. There are so many stories of abuse allegedly at the hands of Bob Grenier. (Ja carefully inserts “alleged” so as not to get her you know what sued again. I don’t have time for a lawsuit.)

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I would also add that a California appellate court ruling in this case from the state’s Fifth Circuit is NOT binding on other California state appellate courts and IS NOT at all binding on non-California courts. That is merely how the defamation/libel law will be applied in California’s Fifth Circuit since they are the highest court in that area, until it is overturned by a higher court (i.e. the California Supreme Court).

    There are plenty of times that different California appellate courts have arrived at different legal conclusions for nearly identical facts. That is called “a split of authority”. And when that happens the California Supreme Court has to weigh in on what the law actually means.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. @Rueben,

    There are lots of factual differences between this California case and the case of Julie M regarding his ex-husband Tony Jones and one of his defenders Brian McLaren (who previously threatened to sue Julie).

    Both Tony Jones and Brian McLaren are public figures. They are authors of books, speakers, Christian leaders, bloggers and are nationally known. Brian McLaren has been featured in Time Magazine and has written for nationally-known publications, including in the Huffington Post.

    Julie never accused McLaren of criminal acts. She accused him of not helping her when her husband Tony Jones was having an affair with another woman and left her and their young children. Big difference.

    And McLaren did have a Biblical responsibility to confront Tony Jones as well has his paramour Courtney (who was also married at the time). McLaren and Doug Pagitt (at the same church with Jones/friend/business partner) had a responsibility to tell Tony Jones to step down entirely from Christian ministry and attend to his marriage and his children. They didn’t. When Tony Jones left his wife and young children for the other woman that became a Biblical disqualifier for him to even serve in Christian ministry. Pagitt, McLaren and others in their circle failed to stop Jones and tell him, “Hey you’re now entirely Biblically unqualified to serve in Christian ministry. Step down.”

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Michaela – I’m not understanding your post directed to Reuben about McLaren.

    I believe he’s talking about clergy in authority trying to shut down the speech of those who speak out about abuse they’ve experienced at the hands of church leaders. That is what is going on in both cases.

    The big difference is that with Grenier – we have an ongoing defamation lawsuit – over 2 years old. And in Julie’s case, there has been no defamation lawsuit as of yet, but there have been attempts by leaders in Emergent circles to use legal threats to shut people down (David Hayward).

    As far as Bob Grenier not being a public figure. I disagree. He is an author, he speaks nationally/internationally. The Calvary Chapel franchises, if combined would likely be the 3rd largest Christian group and Grenier is very well known in the upper ranks and has hung with those leaders for years. If you recall, many people on TWW didn’t even know Emergent, let alone the names Tony Jones/Brian McLaren. I believe Grenier/Jones are equally known among their groups.

    There are going to be differences in these cases, but we need to focus on the main issue of people in church authority attempting to use legal means to squelch people from sharing their experiences. That is wrong.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Personally I can’t believe people go to this idiot’s church. He is a lousy example of Christian living, a hypocrite and a fraud.

    I do. It’s a Calvary Chapel, and There Is No Salvation Outside of Calvary Chapel. (And its Mini-Moseses…)

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I believe he’s talking about clergy in authority trying to shut down the speech of those who speak out about abuse they’ve experienced at the hands of church leaders. That is what is going on in both cases.

    JUST. LIKE. SCIENTOLOGY.
    A lot of these MoGs seem to be using Elron’s playbook.
    Especially Fair Game Law LRH.
    Or Operation Freakout LRH.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. I am sorry Alex but I did come to one conclusion I will acquiesce to the constant refrain, I am a dog returning to its vomit and there is no room at the inn. I will be walking away from the faith, I should have a long time ago, I still have a faith but it is not evangelical, thank God. I no longer have time for all the nonsense. Because it is not nonsense because many get hurt. To them I am Satan, I cannot compete with that, so I figured I will just live up to their low calling, they win, my issue, they always win. I grow tired of placating tribal deities.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. brian – here’s the deal – I think the “christianity” our abusers served us was a farce – it only served our abusers, not God. You and I both know that.

    Let’s not stop until we find the Real Deal, One who doesn’t leave us, One who collects our tears in our sadness, One who sings over us with joy. That is the God I want to encounter and serve.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Regarding California courts being prestigious, they’re also the ones where a certain all-pro running back was exonerated despite a huge amount of DNA evidence being found at both the home of the victim and the home of the assailant–more or less because someone recorded one of the many officers on scene as having used a racial slur about a decade before.

    But that said, one semi-plausible defense to their decision is that while the father has his radio network, he may not be seen as having access to the mainstream media. It thus seems to build on Gertz v. Welch.

    End story, however, is what our gracious hostess noted before. The father is going to look like Adrian Peterson on steroids after the discovery phase is over, as it appears that there are multiple credible witnesses saying he did it, and the father has more or less admitted already that a portion of it is true.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. What’s interesting is the anti-SLAPP laws originated in CA – they should have this down now. To be so confused on whether he was a public figure is odd. But as I’ve said before, my attorney said there are not so many defamation cases and sometimes even judges don’t understand/interpret that law well. I believe that is why she spent so much time as she did in explaining anti-SLAPP history and how it works in my case while presenting my side.

    Like

  31. It sounds like Bob Grenier is really counting on Alex and the others not having the money to fight this. Can he really think he can win if the case goes to trial? I just hope that more contributors will come forward so the truth will be established.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Julie Anne,
    ” I believe that is why she spent so much time as she did in explaining anti-SLAPP history and how it works in my case while presenting my side.”

    Too bad that your attorney can’t school the California judges/attorney’s in something that California created to begin with. I wish that she would get involved. I’m wondering if the problem isn’t with Alex’s own attorney. How much experience does he have in this SLAPP thing vs. your attorney. She seems to be more of an expert, knowing the in’s and out’s probably better than those who wrote the law.

    Ed

    Liked by 1 person

  33. It sounds like Bob Grenier is really counting on Alex and the others not having the money to fight this. Can he really think he can win if the case goes to trial?

    In California Lawsuits, whoever pours the most money into their lawyer WINS. PERIOD.

    Just like Magic the Gathering, where whoever pours the most money into the biggest killer deck WINS.

    And Pastor Bob of CC Visalia has UNLIMITED money for lawyers, thanks to all the CC-droid tithing units under Pastor. “TITHE! TITHE! TITHE!”

    Like

  34. End story, however, is what our gracious hostess noted before. The father is going to look like Adrian Peterson on steroids after the discovery phase is over, as it appears that there are multiple credible witnesses saying he did it, and the father has more or less admitted already that a portion of it is true.

    Means absolutely nothing. Pour more money (“TITHE! TITHE! TITHE!”) into more lawyers, more appeals, more delays, more technicalities, more legal minutiae until the other side runs out of money and caves, then CROW IN TRIUMPH and countersue for revenge.

    Welcome to California, where the lawyer-to-people ratio is as high as DC and there is only one amount to sue for: Everything They’ve Got. Everything.

    Like

  35. I really, really, really want to argue with you, HUG, but having seen some of the weirdness of the legal system in general and California specifically, I’m at a loss….and I’m sure you too are praying that you will be wrong regarding this case.

    Sigh, and :^).

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Here is another disturbing case allegedly of sexual, physical and spiritual abuse. A blogger warned about a Catholic cleric working at a Haitian orphanage, saying that he had molested children. Alleged victims had been coming forward for years but no arrests had been made. The brother and the nonprofit sued the blogger for defamation. During the discovery process, the blogger learned about more incriminating evidence. Despite the court order he shared it, hoping to it would force the orphanage to protect the children. A judge has ordered the blogger to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs in responding to the public airing of what was supposed to be confidential information – even though the judge admits that said information would have eventually become public as the defamation suit went to trial. Here is the kicker. Nineteen months after the defamation suit was filed, the cleric was indeed arrested for child molestation.

    The cleric and the nonprofit asked the judge to find the blogger guilty of defamation without a trial because of his ‘misconduct’. The judge says he is waiting to see if the cleric is convicted of the charges.

    The blogger is paying a high cost for his desire to protect children. So I gather that if you write about yet-to-be prosecuted abuse and the alleged perpetrator is NOT a public figure, there is no recourse such as an anti-SLAPP motion and the reporter will have to pay to defend himself in an expensive lawsuit?

    Bloggers don’t have the resources to defend these cases like major news outlets do. Yet the major outlets are not spending the money on investigative journalism that they used to. So when the authorities don’t respond to victims, who is to speak for them?

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/02/child-abuse-watchdog-will-pay-a-price-for-defying-court-order-to-warn-haiti-about-accused-cleric/

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Bike Bubba,

    You had said to HUG,
    “I’m sure you too are praying that you will be wrong regarding this case.”

    I think HUG was discussing removing the “r” from the word “praying”.

    Ed

    Like

  38. Per Marsha’s comment and (ugh) link, it strikes me that rule #1 for the person who has been abused or has seen abuse is “lawyer up and listen to your lawyer.” And rule #1 for anyone helping an abuse victim report his story is “lawyer up and listen to your lawyer.”

    Like

  39. I think it is important to contribute to Alex’s fund because we cannot let stand a decision which says that (1) a well known pastor is not a public figure for the purpose of anti-SLAPP motions and (2) child abuse and theft are private acts.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. @J.A.,

    I agree with your post, however that’s not how the California state appellate court ruled in the Calvary Chapel case about the step-father/pastor not being an all-purpose public figure for purposes of libel/defamation law in that jurisdiction.

    Yes, I agree that these clergy members (Calvary and Emergent) are trying to shut down their opponents.

    As for Brian McLaren’s attempts, he truly doesn’t have a constitutional leg to stand on and he would be laughed out of court for even trying and ALL over the news media for making himself look like a fool.

    Like

  41. This is horribly sad & angry-making.
    But why am I surprised? After all, Scripture speaks of the wicked as flourishing like the green bay tree. (Mind you, there is a coda to that verse, & said wicked should, perhaps, pull out Alexander Cruden & read the rest of the package, before tossing confetti & cheering.

    Like

  42. Hi Julie Anne,

    I raised Brian McLaren’s name since Rueben mentioned Tony Jones and the Calvary Chapel pastor in his post. Brian McLaren is part of the Tony Jones crowd and recently threatened Jones’ ex-wife Julie with legal action. McLaren has also tried to silence his critics.

    Like

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