An Oregon pastor is reportedly suing a mother and daughter over a blog that features reviews describing the church he leads as "cult-like."
Former Beaverton Grace Bible Church member Julie Ann Smith is being sued by Pastor Charles O'Neal for what he argues were defamatory comments against his church.
In a blog started by Smith, who left the church with her husband a few years back, she called the Beaverton Grace Bible Church "creepy" and said the church deployed "control tactics." Smith also described the church as "cult-like" and equated its practices to "spiritual abuse."
"I thought, I'm just going to post a review. We do it with restaurants and hotels and whatnot, and I thought, why not do it with this church," Smith told KATU.com
O'Neal is suing the stay at home mother, her daughter, and three other commenters on the blog for $500,000, but Smith maintains that her First Amendment rights protect her from the pastor's claims.
"What somebody does in the church is one thing, but when you get out into society we have the right to free speech, and it may not be what people want to hear, but we absolutely have that right," Smith said.
"He can say what he wants in the church and say, don't talk about this or don't talk about that, or don't talk to this person, but when you're out in the civil world, you don't do that anymore … And he's not my pastor anymore. He does not have that right to keep people from talking," she told the KATU.com.
Smith's lawyer also agrees that his client's comments are protected by the Bill of Rights and will seek to have the case dismissed at a May 21 court hearing.