Why is Chuck's picture here on the Watchdog blog? Well, as reported by Portland TV station KATU, Chuck is suing one of his former church members.
What did this former church member, Julie Anne Smith, do in order to receive the wrath of Chuck and his lawyer? Well, Julie Anne started a blog about her church and her pastor to document the spiritual abuse that she says she endured at the hands of the good pastor and his church.
Chuck wants $500,000 in damages from Julie Anne, Julie Anne's daughter, and a few other blog commenters that have criticized Chuck for what Julie claims is spiritual abuse she has endured after being kicked out of Chuck's church.
No good pastor would sue a church member without invoking some sort of biblical justification, right? Chuck compares his situation to that of the Apostle Paul, who appealed to Caesar when he was accused of crimes. Read what Chuck posted on Julie Anne's review site explaining why he filed his defamation lawsuit:
"After seeking counsel from a pastor on staff with Grace Community Church (under Pastor John MacArthur) and reading him several excerpts from JulieAnne's endless defamation, he recommended that we FILE A LAWSUIT in an appeal to Caesar as the Apostle Paul did when falsely accused of crimes against God and the state."
Chuck has it completely backwards. In this saga, he and his church represent the Jewish leaders seeking Paul's (Julie Anne's) head because they don't like what Julie Anne is saying, while Julie Anne is more like the Apostle Paul who is merely doing what her faith calls her to do: to call out and expose what she perceives to be a false teacher and a spiritual abuser. Chuck, you're the religious zealot who is trying to silence a Christian, Julie Anne is the Apostle Paul doing what Christ has commanded her to do.
Julie Anne says that when she and her family left the church, her friends were told to end all contact with her. Yep, good old-fashioned "church discipline" once again, perpetrated against the evil-doer who dares to criticize the pastor. Julie says in the KATU news report below:
"If I went to Costco or any place in town, if I ran into somebody, they would turn their heads and walk the other way....All we did was asked questions. We just raised concerns. There's no sin in that."
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this case is Chuck "the Apostle Paul" O'Neal claiming that filing a defamation lawsuit was a course of action recommended to him by John MacArthur's church, Grace Community Church. I hope as the press continues to cover this story that they follow-up with John MacArthur. I don't believe for a second that John MacArthur or any of his staff members would stand by Chuck O'Neal's decision to sue a mother and her daughter. I hope Julie's lawyer raises this as an issue in Chuck's deposition and interrogatories, and finds out just who at Grace Community Church was advising Chuck, and I hope they depose that minister to find out if perhaps Chuck "the Apostle Paul" O'Neal defamed Julie in the process.
I think Chuck O'Neal is showing himself to be a coward here. Why on earth would O'Neal consult with John MacArthur's church in this matter? How could John MacArthur's church staff possibly know all of the facts of Julie's experience and her claims of spiritual abuse at the hands of Chuck and his church that she chronicles on her blog and at her Google review site? Does Chuck need the approval and blessing of John MacArthur to sue one of his members?
And lastly, let me just say this, and perhaps this will get me added to Chuck's defamation complaint filed with the court: Chuck O'Neal is a hypocrite. If you click here, you can read some of Chuck's complaint filed against Julie. Julie was merely expressing her views of Chuck and Beaverton Grace Bible Church; she is doing what she as a Christian is supposed to do. She is calling out what she believes to be a false teacher. In fact, Julie is just doing what Chuck himself does in his sermons. He calls out people by name who he thinks are false teachers and who are harming Christians.
If you go back and listen to one of Chuck's sermons entitled "Emergent Church Apostasy - Wolves in Our Midst" - Chuck goes after emergent church leaders Doug Pagitt, Brian Mclaron, and Rob Bell for their false teachings. Chuck says that Brian Mclaron "serves the devil", he claims all three men are "wolves in sheep's clothing", he calls them "false prophets", and says Rob Bell is a "dangerous man". It is a very scathing sermon and he attacks these men's motives and their character and their ministries. And no doubt Chuck will say that he is doing it because he is called by God to call out and expose what he perceives to be false teachers.
For Chuck to file a lawsuit against Julie Anne for criticizing religious leaders, while Chuck himself uses his pulpit to criticize harshly religious leaders, makes Chuck a hypocrite. And we know what Jesus thinks about religious hypocrites. Chuck, whether you like it or not, Julie Anne Smith is just as called of God as you are to expose what she believes to be false and harmful teachers.
Finally, Julie Anne, Happy Mother's Day to you, and thank you for not caving in to the pressure and cult tactics employed by your church, and for standing strong and daring to write about your experience at the hands of your church and pastor. The best thing you can do is to not be silent, to speak of what has been done to you and your family and to speak the truth even if your former pastor and church hate you for it.
You are doing God's work