This Friday an important court hearing in Oregon will take place in the pastor Chuck O'Neal slander lawsuit. As I've discussed here on this blog, O'Neal is the pastor of Beaverton Grace Bible Church who has filed a $500,000 slander lawsuit against former church member Julie Anne Smith and others who dared to publicly criticize O'Neal and his church.
Friday's hearing will be for the judge to rule on Julie Anne's "anti-SLAPP" motion filed to dismiss O'Neal's ridiculous lawsuit. "SLAPP" is short for "strategic lawsuit against public participation" - meaning a defamation lawsuit designed to silence a critic by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense. In response to an increase in SLAPP's filed in the 1990's harming free speech, some states have created an "Anti-SLAPP" legal defense, which when exercised by a defendant, the plaintiff has a high burden to prove their case has merit else the judge must dismiss the lawsuit.
As this important hearing approaches, I wanted to encourage readers to consider making a contribution to the BGBC Survivors Legal Defense Fund by clicking below:
It is extremely important that we come to the aid of Julie Anne Smith and others who have been sued by their former pastor, Chuck O'Neal, for daring to use social media to raise awareness of what they consider to be a spiritually abusive pastor and church. Julie Anne faces mounting legal bills, and so do other defendants in this lawsuit - some have thousands of dollars of legal fees simply because O'Neal and BGBC decide to sue them but then later modified the complaint and dropped those defendants from the suit. Oh, the love of a pastor that sues and then drops the charges against the sheep.
Since blogging arrived on the scene as a powerful force for Christian expression in 2005 and 2006, much opposition has arisen against those daring to speak up against preachers and denominational leaders. We can go back to the brutal attempts by IMB leadership to silence and discredit Wade Burleson in 2006, to Ergun Caner's sermon at the Georgia State Evangelism Conference in 2007 bashing bloggers, to Jerry Vines' spitting on anonymous emails at the 2007 Pastor's Conference. In the fall of 2007 the Georgia Baptist Convention passed their "Resolution on Blogging", and then the following year a Jacksonville police detective who also conveniently served on his church's discipline committee used subpoenas to find the author of this blog, and when sued the state attorney's office conveniently lost all the associated paperwork which may have justified pulling investigative subpoenas. Next we saw in 2009 at how Perry Noble's church staff went after a college professor who dared to criticize NewSpring church. And just a few weeks ago we had Ed Young declaring "Blog" stands for "basement living, opinion giving", and declaring bloggers live with their parents and blog in their undergarments.
Even in the midst of many bloggers acting independently to research and
expose Ergun Caner's "decade of deceit" during 2010, Caner and his defenders tried to
discredit bloggers as being "Calvinists" and "frustrated people in their basement" eating
Cheetos. Ed Young followed Caner's example last month, blasting the evil "Calvinist" bloggers for being his harshest critics.
If nothing else, blogging has exposed these
supposed "Men of God" as mere mortals who are really just professional religious profiteers whose religion and power has turned them into the very thing they preach against. This really is nothing new, all through the history of Christianity we see abusive professional religious men seeking to get their hands on people's money (and/or their genitals) to build religious institutions, satisfy their egos, and then to silence critics who rise up from within.
True, us bloggers don't always get things right, we make mistakes like any other human who dares to criticize those in power. But unlike most pastors, we welcome open dialogue on our blogs, and we can engage our harshest critics in the discussion on our blogs.
But back to Julie Anne's situation: in the past few months we've now seen a pastor go on the legal offensive to try to shut down a blogger. The outcome of this case will be incredibly important. Julie Anne's lawyer is wisely using the anti-SLAPP provisions of the law to protect Julie Anne from this frivolous lawsuit designed to keep her from exercising her first amendment rights.
If Julie Anne loses her anti-SLAPP motion, I think more pastors will follow Chuck's lead - especially when they see their revenues and church attendance continue to dwindle and they blame the evil bloggers. Church pastors don't have the financial constraints bloggers have: pastors can tap into their church coffers to pay for their legal maneuvers, and they likely have very rich friends who will help. Nothing can silence someone faster than the prospect of having to drain their financial resources to defend themselves against a frivolous lawsuit brought by a loving Man of God.
So let's help Julie Anne and the others affected by Chuck O'Neal's and BGBC's lawsuit. Give generously to help a person who is doing God's work in standing up to her former pastor and daring to speak about spiritual abuse.