Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

Free Thinker, Atheist, Christian Blogger, Thought Reform, Patriarchy, Spiritual Abuse, Cults

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at a Free Thinkers group. Privilege, some might ask? You bet. I will take any opportunity afforded to share the truth, set the record straight, and especially let people know that I, as a Christian, am displeased by the state of the Body of Christ when it comes to abuse and our response to abuse.

I feel I have a connection with many atheists. You see, when my defamation lawsuit went viral, I received over 500 emails of support. Many of those emails were sent by people who were harmed in the church, and then became atheist. This was originally a surprise to me, and  it saddened me. So many of these folks get spiritual abuse. They see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of celebrity pastors and leaders. Many of them are upset by what they see, and rightly so. If only those within the Body of Christ would get worked up about it!

It all started when I was in my Environmental Science class at school. Continue reading

Bill Gothard Documentary

Bill Gothard, Advanced Training Institute (ATI), Institutes in Basic Life Principles (IBLP)


When I was in Chicago visiting my daughter in the fall, I met with Jake Youngman who had contacted me weeks earlier about the cult of Bill Gothard, Institutes in Basic Life Principles and ATI. He wanted to interview me based on my knowledge of cults and the culture of this group, why I viewed it as a cult, and why it caused/causes harm especially to girls and women.

My background: I remember hearing about Gothard’s program in the 70s which was then called Basic Youth Conflicts. Many Christians and their families from various denominations attended their seminars. My family went through the Basic and Advanced seminars in the 90s, when it was called Institutes in Basic Life Principles. Our children went to the Children’s Institute. Others continued further with the program and joined the ATI (Advanced Training Institute) homeschool program, and even sent their kids to some of the “training” facilities throughout the country and the world.

Bill Gothard’s training was sold as a program to help Christian families to be successful if we just followed his formula. He had answers to all of life’s problems.

The reality is that he didn’t. Not only do his teachings harm women/girls, they also harm men/boys because they teach that men are to rule over women, that women cause men to stumble sexually, etc. That is only one of many problems, but one that I know about most because of listening to the stories of victims who were harmed by Gothard.

When reading over his teaching materials on sex abuse, it occurred to me that Gothard’s teachings is essentially grooming material for young men/men to sexually abuse girls and get away with it, blaming girls instead: for dressing immodestly, for having unconfessed sin in their life, etc. The blame is consistently shifted to the victim, with no responsibility placed on the perpetrator. (The Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting used this curricula and is it any wonder Josh Duggar got into so much sexual trouble?)

A couple of years ago, I contacted Bill Gothard himself and asked him pointed questions. He danced around the questions I asked regarding repentance and asking forgiveness from his victims. Instead, he tried to shift the conversation to his latest program, just like a used cars salesman. The man is evil. He should have no place in ministry.

Here is the documentary that was made by Jake Youngman about cult leader, Bill Gothard.

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Flashback: This Week At the Shepherds’ Conference with Pastor Chuck O’Neal Three Years Ago


Three years ago, I was sued by my ex-pastor, Chuck O’Neal, pastor of Beaverton Grace Bible Church, for speaking out on social media about the abuse we and other families incurred.

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Some Pastors Think They Get to Control the Details of Your Lives, Even the Colors of Clothes You Wear

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Spiritual Abuse: Interview with Doug Bursch


Spiritual Abuse, interview, podcast, Doug Bursch, Julie Anne, Spiritual Sounding Board Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 7.56.42 AM


Yesterday I did an interview with Doug Bursch from Seattle’s KGNW radio station.  Doug describes himself in his bio as “a speaker, writer, pastor, teacher and evangelist.”  We spoke about spiritual abuse, healthy and unhealthy churches.  I’ve done quite a few interviews since the lawsuit, but this one is my new favorite.  If you know of someone who might have gone through spiritual abuse or wants to understand what it means, what it looks like, this would be a good interview to listen to because Doug really gets it.

Here’s a little excerpt I transcribed because I wanted you to get a glimpse into this guy’s heart.  His compassion made me tear up.  This is the kind of heart we want to see from a pastor:

Julie Anne, not to be sentimental, but I want to apologize, as a pastor.  I know that it doesn’t necessarily help with the harm that has been done to you or the people you’ve had to walk through with  tears and weeping as they’ve dealt with hurts, but at least I’d like say that I apologize for any pastor or person who has misused their power to harm you or harm your family.  My prayer is that we can facilitate a dialogue where there is healing and there’s love.  I think there’ll be more leaders rising up and there’ll be more safe places and I think that’s the ultimate goal.

I encourage you to listen beyond the interview as Doug discusses how not only did Jesus die for sinners, but He identifies with those who were sinned against.  He knew what it was like to be unjustly treated.  He understands our pain.

During the first few minutes, Doug introduces the program by talking about what’s coming up in the show and tells the story about someone who experienced spiritual abuse. The actual interview is right around the 42:25 mark.  You can listen to the interview here.



Restoring What the Locust Has Eaten: Two Years of Blogging Milestone Today and Gratefulness


Two years of blogging, two years of growth, hope for those hurt by church abuse

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Drew Marshall Show Interview

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I had been asked to post the link to the interview I did a couple Saturdays ago, on Canada’s #1 Christian talk show, The Drew Marshall Show.   Click on the SoundCloud clip (orange play button) at the bottom of the screen to hear the interview or listen direction from The Drew Marshall Show website.   Below is a screen shot from the website at the time (it has since changed).

Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 11.13.34 PM

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Drew Marshall Interview and Welcome

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If you are stopping by after listening to the interview on The Drew Marshall Show, a warm welcome to you!!

These are not fun subjects.  They have affected me and a lot of my readers to the core.  But if you took the time to look up  my blog, perhaps something struck a chord.

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Media Inaccuracies: Setting the Record Straight

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There have been some inaccuracies in news stories around the internet and I want to set them straight.  This post will be updated if I see more inaccuracies:

  • I am not single.  I am married and have been married to the same man since 1985.  We are still married and living under the same roof, all of our children are ours, no prior husbands, no step-children or children outside our marriage.
  • As soon as we left BGBC,  we did spent a couple months looking for a new church before settling in a new church.  We loved that new church, but had to leave due to a job change.  Since moving to our new location, we have attended the same church for nearly a year.  At no point have we not gone to church as has been reported.
  • The ACLU has not taken my case, although they have commented on the case in various reports.  My attorney is Linda Williams.
  • I never reported to anyone that Chuck O’Neal was a sexual abuser.  I do not believe that to be an accurate statement and haven’t had any reason to question that he might be a sexual abuser.  Any reports you may have read that say otherwise are simply not true.
  • I never stated that elders or elders wives looked through the closets of women from church to approve their clothing.  That statement was most likely lifted from the comments section of my blog and was incorrectly attributed to me.  I had never heard of that “practice” before reading the comment.  Perhaps that was done before my time, I don’t know.  But I was not aware of that happening during our time there.
  • This part of the MSNBC article is incorrect:  “Court filings state that another defendant, Meaghan Varela, allegedly made accusations of child abuse against the pastor, which led to a December 2008 visit from the Oregon Department of Human Services. The social worker informed O’Neal’s daughter that someone also reported that pornography was being distributed to children at church. “The allegations of child abuse filed by Meaghan Varela were extremely painful to my family,” O’Neal’s daughter said in a statement.”

Julie Anne’s comment:  This is ridiculous.  DHS never discloses who files reports and they certainly do not report what was said.  This is pure speculation on the part of O’Neal’s daughter.  This same speculation was reported by Chuck O’Neal in his press release here:  “Just after the release of the before mentioned staff member, in Dec. of 2008, a member of this group called the police and the DHS to deliver a false report accusing Pastor O’Neal of physically abusing his own children and allowing pornography to be distributed to adolescents in the church.”.   It is impossible for him to verify this with DHS (as they will not release it to him).  I find it irresponsible for MSNBC to report such information as surely they know that DHS holds in strict confidence the identity of anyone who reports a suspected abuse situation.

  • The MSNBC article mentioned only one child who was sexually abused.  Chuck O’Neal’s own court declaration mentioned more than one child when he used the word “siblings” twice.   Additionally, the sex offender’s mother also used the word “siblings” to identify the sexual abuse victims.  There was clearly more than one child abused.  Who is minimizing this story to the press?  Also, the MSNBC article stated “inappropriate touch” by the sexual offender.  This is also not true.  He was charged with rape and other counts of sexual misconduct.  Why is this crime being minimized to the media when court records show otherwise?

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Justice: Becoming Free

“Flying Free” by 9-yr old Resident Artist

Now, on to much lovelier topics.  I really want you to read this . . .

I want to share a story with you about a person named Justice.  Justice is not this person’s real name and you’ll have to pardon the awkwardness of pronouns in this article because I am not going to reveal whether Justice is male or female for privacy reasons.

A number of weeks ago, I got word from someone who was formerly at the church that he/she had been reading the blog and wanted to contact me and tell me his/her story.    Because I’ve been getting so many e-mails from strangers, I wanted to see if this person was legitimate.  Justice gave me the names of a couple former members I might know for verification, so I contacted them.

Both contacts told me:  you must hear this person’s story.  Could this person really share more with me than I had already heard?  I didn’t think so, but agreed to talk.  We exchanged information and set up a time for a phone call.

The scheduled time came for Justice to call me and the phone didn’t ring.  Thirty minutes passed and the phone remained silent.  I sent a couple messages to those mutual friends on Facebook to see if they knew what was going on.  One of those friends sent me a message saying they were speaking with Justice on the phone at that moment.  I asked if they could tell Justice that I was ready to speak.   My friend replied that Justice knew, but he/she was scared to talk with me.   I thought to myself:  come on, you’ve read my blog,  I’m on your side, there’s nothing to worry about.

The fear that Justice was feeling hit me like a ton of bricks.  The fear was paralyzing him/her.   Justice, knew in his/her mind that I was a “safe” person to talk to, his/her friends had vouched for me, but Justice still had to overcome this fear.

By the time we finally connected by phone, I could feel the fear in his/her voice.  Justice acknowledged to me that he/she was physically shaking.

With perfectly executed timing, my children started arguing.   Isn’t that a universal phenomenon?  Parent gets on phone, children act up.  But what a beautiful time for Justice to catch his/her breath, hear that life is fairly normal at the Smith home with kids who act like kids and begin to argue when a parent is on the phone.  I think that interruption helped calm some nerves and that’s how we started the conversation:  discussing that crazy phenomenon of kids’ behavior while parents are on phones.    That broke the ice.  Thank you, dear children,  . . . . just this once.

After that intro, we started talking.   I heard story and then another.  The stories made my heart grieve.  I felt physically sick to my stomach.  I won’t share specifics of what Justice endured.  That is his/her story to share.

But here is a small part of Justice’s story.  Justice suffers from flashbacks.  Sometimes Justice would read a story from my blog and it would trigger his/her own memories from the past.  Justice would re-live what had happened to him/her all over again.  Sometimes it would take days to get rid of the memories so that the day could begin fresh.  This has happened time and again since reading my blog.   It’s hard, but it’s pushing him/her one more step to healing.  As time goes by, the flashbacks will diminish and be replaced with a calm peace with only a distant memory of the pain.  But at least the pain will not overwhelm anymore.

When you have experienced emotional trauma in your life, one of the most scary feelings is the sense of being alone.  The cycle of triggering memories and re-living the pain has been difficult, but it was very helpful to finally realize that while Justice had once felt alone in these memories, reading the stories of others made him/her realize that he/she was not going crazy and imagining these situations.  These experiences he/she read about really did happen to others and it made Justice realize he/she was not alone.  Even though the stories I have posted may not have occurred at the same time as Justice’s experiences, there was an emotional connection with the person in the story.

As time has gone by, this very timid and fearful Justice has gotten more bold.  Justice has realized how much he/she has lost because of his/her experiences at the church, and Justice wanted to speak out.  Perhaps you have read some of Justice’s comments.  Even though Justice uses “Anonymous” to post,  Justice now has a voice.  For once, Justice’s thoughts and words can be seen and read by everyone who reads this blog, including those who have and continue to shun him/her.  It is very powerful for someone who was hurt to finally have a voice.  That voice says:  I don’t have to hide anymore, I can tell my story, I can express myself, I am free from the being held emotionally captive and the fear.

Come to me, 

all you who are weary and burdened, 

and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 

for I am gentle and humble in heart, 

and you will find rest for your souls. 

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. 

(Matthew 11: 28-31)

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That is what this blog is about and I have been wonderfully thrilled to have a small part in this “gathering” place and discuss what was never, ever to be discussed.  People, if you have never experienced spiritual abuse, you need to really get this part of the picture – the emotional scars of spiritual abuse can take years and years to heal and only prolong in silence.  In order for healing, the truth must be exposed and the heart needs to feel safe to heal.

Amidst Justice’s daily past emotional demons, Justice continued to send me private notes of support.  Wow, that blessed me.  He/she told me that what I was doing here was so important and was helping him/her as well.

And then, Justice did probably one of the most powerful things he/she has done.  Justice, whose voice was once silent, decided that this story needed to be shared on a larger scale.  Justice and a dear friend took it upon themselves to let the local media know of our case.  Within only hours, the e-mails were coming in requesting interviews and Justice and his/her friend coordinated those efforts with me.

Justice, it is because of YOU that this thing went viral.  This was such a monumental feat for you to do despite the amount of pain you have suffered.  I know there are days that are paralyzing for you, but what you did not only affects you and members from our former little church, but you enabled the world to know about the problem of spiritual abuse.

I began one Google review and blog which started things,  but what you have done is amazing!  I’m having a hard time keeping up with the personal stories in my e-mail that are telling me “thank you” for doing this.  Reporters introduce me by saying that this story (Justice, YOUR story) has gone crazy viral all over the world and back and around again   And I have to publicly say,  Justice you did it!  I am so proud of your strength.

The pain that you have experienced is now being used worldwide for His glory as He has given us the opportunity to expose to the world what some churches have been hiding for years – the problem of spiritual abuse.  It’s time to clean up the churches.  There are so many spiritually abandoned sheep.  God is the Good Shepherd who tends His sheep and does not want to lose even one of them.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27

I am so excited about this aspect of this story.  One person.  Just one person!  Do you see how valuable you are?  And I also want to give a shout-out to that dear friend who has stood beside you, showing you unconditional love, grace and genuine compassion.

Justice’s friend:  you know the true meaning of friendship.   Thank you, too!

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:12-13
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A Few Notes from Julie Anne

Countdown:  5 days till court date,  drawn by JA’s 9-yr old

Just a few things to share before a “regular” blog post coming up as my 9-yr old is busy with his drawing for the post.

Phil Johnson from Grace Community Church (John MacArthur’s church) reached out to me yesterday and we had a lengthy conversation.  As you may recall, in one of the earlier reviews that Chuck O’Neal posted on Google (oy, a lot of activity here!), he said something to the effect that a pastor had given him the okay to sue us.  John MacArthur has continuously preached/taught that Christians should not sue and so it was important to find out if they in fact had recommended Chuck sue us.  I don’t know if there will be more of an official statement coming out than was issued yesterday, but I personally don’t think they outright encouraged Chuck to sue.  This would make sense also by the fact that Chuck recently removed that particular review from the Google site.  There might have been some gray area in communication and understanding, but I just don’t believe they encouraged it.  Regardless, I was very pleased with the conversation and I think he left with new insights regarding the situation between Chuck O’Neal and the defendants of the law suit or at least my perspective on situations.  I felt he was warm and genuine and really listened.   He said there would be a staff meeting today and would be bringing up this situation.   Ya think?

During my first two conversations with pastors from Grace Community, I did not feel like our issues were heard very well or even acknowledged and this was conveyed to Phil.  He apologized for that.  In hindsight, they are probably aware that things could have been done differently.   Who ever would have thought this would have gone so viral?  Wow!   LOL  Go Streisand Effect!

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It appears that Chuck O’Neal has broke his silence. featured the first story I’ve seen which includes comments from Chuck.

* * * *New edit here:  Regarding the issue of were we asked to leave or did we leave on or own accord, this is the quote:

Smith, who used to play piano at the Beaverton church, said she and her family were asked to leave the congregation in November 2008, but it was almost a year before she took her grievances online. Church leaders, however, deny ever asking the Smiths to leave and claim her family left of their own accord.  (

Oopsie:  look at this post and judge for yourself.

I copied the top part of the review.  I have underlined the important phrase:

Chuck O’Neal ‎ – Nov 18, 2009

JulieAnne’s Destructive Slander Continues To Whom It May Concern: Almost a year ago JulieAnne and her husband were Biblically put out of Beaverton Grace Bible Church with a group of families and individuals that were engaged in ongoing divisive slander. 

This is Chuck’s “review” on Google.  I have a screen shot of it in case it is removed from Google.

Also, I found out early this morning that a press release was issued.  I’ve read it, it’s long, drawn out and has no place here on my blog and he does not get to have a platform here.   Amen.  Amen.  And Amen!

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I’ve added links to blog stories and interviews (both tv and radio) on the right side bar.  I did an interview with  Don Miller in FL and would love to find a copy of that.  If anyone can locate it, please send me an e-mail.  Don Miller was the first media personality to discuss the case as it pertains to spiritual abuse and I very much appreciated that.  I’d love for you to hear it.