#WhoWouldJesusSue: Media FAQs and Resources

by monax

MEDIA FAQS

Who is involved?

The plaintiffs are Bob Grenier, pastor of Calvary Chapel Visalia, California, and his wife, Gayle. They are represented by Nick A. Pritchett of Williams, Jordan, Brodersen & Pritchett LLP of Visalia.

The defendants are Tim Taylor, a former member of Calvary Chapel Visalia, and Alex Grenier, a step-son of Bob/son of Gayle Grenier. Tim lives in Visalia and Alex lives in Idaho. They are represented by Paul Clifford of the California Anti-SLAPP Project.

The lawsuit is being heard in the Superior Court of Tulare County, California, by Superior Court Judge Paul Anthony Vortmann.

What is this lawsuit about?

This is a defamation lawsuit, filed October 17, 2012. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants committed “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress,” “Defamation,” and “Conspiracy to Defame.” Bob Grenier claims to be an innocent victim of their “cyber-bullying hate campaign.” The plaintiffs are asking for an award “of exemplary and punitive damages.” To them, it is an issue of damage to reputation.

The defendants view this as a legal maneuver by the plaintiffs and by Bob Grenier in particular to intimidate and silence them and others from speaking out against sexual abuse, physical abuse, and ecclesiastical corruption they allege he perpetrated. To them, it is an issue of freedom of speech.

Because this is a civil lawsuit and not a criminal case, the standard for winning is “the preponderance of evidence,” i.e., at least 51% in one party’s direction – not the “beyond a reasonable doubt” required in criminal cases for conviction.

Also, because this is a defamation lawsuit that deals with freedom of speech issues, the California statutes on anti-SLAPP apply. An anti-SLAPP motion was filed December 17, 2012, contending this is a frivolous lawsuit designed as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. (See section of this post for Analysis and Commentary on Anti-SLAPP.)

What is SLAPP/anti-SLAPP about?

The following overview on SLAPP and anti-SLAPP was written by spiritual abuse survivor and blogger Brad Sargent in January 2013, as part of the BGBC Defamation Lawsuit Archive.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. These are civil suits whose purposes are generally designed to silence or intimidate opponents. SLAPP suits are often frivolous and insidious, and are typically used by individuals or entities with “deep pockets” – ample funds to outlast and outlawyer their opponents.

This paragraph from the wikipedia article on SLAPP and anti-SLAPP is very instructive about this type of defamation lawsuit. I strongly suggest that ALL court documents, blog posts, blog comments, news interviews, and any other primary and secondary sources of information about an SLAPP case should be carefully evaluated with this information in mind:

“Other widely mentioned elements of a SLAPP are the actual effectiveness at silencing critics, the timing of the suit, inclusion of extra or spurious defendants (such as relatives or hosts of legitimate defendants), inclusion of plaintiffs with no real claim (such as corporations that are affiliated with legitimate plaintiffs), making claims that are very difficult to disprove or rely on no written record, ambiguous or deliberately mangled wording that lets plaintiffs make spurious allegations without fear of perjury, refusal to consider any settlement (or none other than cash), characterization of all offers to settle as insincere, extensive and unnecessary demands for discovery, attempts to identify anonymous or pseudonymous critics, appeals on minor points of law, demands for broad rulings when appeal is accepted on such minor points of law, and attempts to run up defendants’ costs even if this clearly costs more to the plaintiffs.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-SLAPP)

Typically, an anti-SLAPP motion is filed to counter SLAPP defamation lawsuits. It was designed to protect defendants from frivolous lawsuits. Many states have some version of an anti-SLAPP statute. Oregon is one of them. (As of January 2013, there is no federal anti-SLAPP statute in place. However, according to the Public Participation Project, 29 states currently have a statute.) The Anti-SLAPP statutes developed in California have served as a model for those in other states like Oregon, where the Beaverton Grace Bible Church v. Smith court case was heard.

Who is not directly involved as a defendant who might otherwise have been?

Paul Grenier is Alex’s younger half-brother and the oldest biological son of Bob and Gayle Grenier. He is NOT a defendant in the case. However, some of the allegations about sexual abuse mentioned in the case have to do with Paul. He did not speak out with specifics on this subject until he supplied a sworn court Declaration on behalf of the defendants.

Why is the venue in Visalia, California and not in Idaho?

Defendant Tim Taylor resides in Visalia, as do plaintiffs Bob and Gayle Grenier. Defendant Alex Grenier resides in Idaho.

Defamation deals with reputation, and Bob and Gayle Grenier are long-time Visalia residents. Bob Grenier is Pastor of Calvary Chapel Visalia. He has also served for many years as a chaplain to the local police force.

The question of venue for the lawsuit has been raised as an issue by some critics of the lawsuit, seeing as Bob Grenier has extensive connections in the police, legal, and judicial communities from his work as a police chaplain. Perhaps in light of these connections and the need for local public servants to recuse themselves from the situation, Bob Grenier was asked to take a leave of absence from his role of police chaplain, as of February 19, 2013, and he agreed to take a leave.

Suing one’s own family members seems drastic. What is the backstory that led up to this lawsuit?

The bare-bones outline of the backstory is below. For a detailed account, watch for a new document, “Alex Grenier’s Account of Attempts to Bring Bob Grenier to Accountability,” which is edited from sources Alex provided. Connect with #WhoWouldJesusSue Media rep, Julie Anne Smith, on availability.

In 2004-2005, Alex confronted Pastor Bob Grenier and Greg and Sue Dowds, elders of Calvary Chapel Visalia, concerning the physical abuse he and his younger half-brother Paul say they suffered at the hands of Bob Grenier when they were children. This also included sexual abuse of Paul as a child. These church leaders refused to address these grievances.

Alex remained silent until 2009, when his wife found an online forum of former Calvary Chapel Visalia church members, who share their personal accounts of spiritual abuse. Tim Taylor was the former CCV member who started this forum.

The forum went viral and, in July 2010, Alex began a spiritual abuse survivor blog—Calvary Chapel Abuse. From there, news of the allegations about Bob Grenier spread, as did investigations into various kinds of abuses of spiritual authority within the Calvary Chapel franchise. The website received over 3 million hits in its first three years (2010-2012).

How does the national Calvary Chapel association figure into this case?

As implied by its name – Calvary Chapel Abuse – Alex Grenier’s blog covers not only issues specific to Calvary Chapel Visalia, but also for other abuses and controversies in Pastor Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel franchise of churches.

Those systemic issues were addressed by reporter David Sessions from The Daily Beast in a January 26, 2013, article: “Calvary Chapel’s Tangled Web.” Besides examining some of the organizational dynamics related to the murder of Calvary Albuquerque prison ministry Pastor Greg Griego, he lists other problems. Accusations of lack of accountability, cover-up of sexual abuse, local abuse of authority, and interference in local affairs by national leaders dog Calvary Chapel—and other similar kinds of evangelical associations of so-called “independent” local churches, and denominations.

Like those in other controversies involving Calvary Chapel members, Alex Grenier was also unsuccessful in attempts to have Pastor Chuck Smith or any other national Calvary Chapel leaders intervene in the situation with his step-father, where the positive public face of Bob Grenier was denied by destructive actions hidden at home . So, Alex’s only recourse has been to publicize the abusive experiences that would otherwise remain hidden in his step-father’s private life.

Why should anyone care what happens with a church of less than 600 people in Visalia, California?

Three key kinds of abuses have been alleged against Bob Grenier: child physical and sexual abuse, attempts to suppress free speech, and spiritual abuse. The defendants contend that these are all issues of public interest, despite the seeming small-town profile of Visalia or the “private family matter” argument put forward on behalf of the plaintiffs. Here are a few details on these three main issues:

  • Various online statements and sworn court Declarations of Alex and Paul Grenier especially address issues of child physical and sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by Bob Grenier.
  • The filing of what appears to be a frivolous SLAPP lawsuit relates with attempts to stifle freedom of speech.
  • Online statements by Tim Taylor and Alex Grenier consider concerns over “ecclesiastical corruption” and various forms of spiritual abuse of authority – both in Calvary Chapel Visalia and the broader systems context created in the Calvary Chapel franchise headed by Pastor Chuck Smith. Critics suggest that such abuses of authority are directly attributable to the “Moses Model” of church governance where the pastors are not accountable to anyone – “Not even to Chuck Smith,” says Pastor Chuck Smith.

The question of “public interest” is important to note, as an anti-SLAPP suit typically explores whether the object of spoken or written statements has a public presence, and whether the topics spoken or written about are clear issues of public interest. As a clear indicator of public interest in these concerns and in this particular case, Alex Grenier’s Calvary Chapel Abuse blog received over 3 million hits in its first three years (2010-2012).

What are key dates from court history of this lawsuit and related events?

October 17, 2012. The lawsuit Complaint was filed in Tulare County, California.

February 8, 2013. Paul Grenier submitted to the court a sworn Declaration supporting Alex’s allegations. For instance, Paul claims that as a five-year-old boy he “was forced to perform oral sex on Bob.” He also details a childhood of suffering sadistic physical and sexual abuse by his father. Note: Just to emphasize, this is Paul Grenier’s sworn testimony, provided to the court under pain of perjury, should it be false. Also, please be warned: Paul’s sworn testimony statement is intense and graphic about alleged physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by his father, Bob Grenier.

December 17, 2012. The defendants’ attorney, Paul Clifford, filed an anti-SLAPP motion, contending this is a clear violation of freedom of speech and suggesting the lawsuit is frivolous.

February 19, 2013. Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas asked Bob Grenier to take a leave of absence from his position as a Police Chaplain for the City of Visalia, and he agreed to do so.

February 25, 2013. A tentative ruling on the motion will be made on February 25, with a court hearing scheduled for February 26 before Tulare County, California, Superior Court Judge Paul Anthony Vortmann.

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LAWSUIT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Grenier & Grenier v. Taylor & Grenier is a civil lawsuit that pits Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia (California) and his wife Gayle against his step-son/her son Alex Grenier and against former CCV member Tim Taylor.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants have committed “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress,” “Defamation,” and “Conspiracy to Defame.” The defendants have publicized allegations of physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by Bob Grenier, as well as ecclesiastical corruption and spiritual abuse of authority.

The case was filed in Tulare County, California, on October 17, 2012. Seeing it as a freedom of speech case, the attorney for the defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion. If successful, this motion will expedite the case, and require stringent proof for the allegations as “defamation.”

The anti-SLAPP motion will be determined by Superior Court Judge Paul Anthony Vortmann. A tentative decision is due to be posted February 25, 2013, followed by a court hearing on February 26.

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#WHOWOULDJESUS SUE? LINKS

WhoWouldJesusSue? Social Media Campaign

Press Release #1

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MEDIA INFORMATION/CONTACTS

Twitter: #WhoWouldJesusSue. @CalvaryChapel. @Bobgrenier.

Official Website: Calvary Chapel Abuse.

Media contact: Julie Anne Smith. Email: spiritualsb@gmail.com.

Ms. Smith was the main defendant in the 2012 Oregon case of Beaverton Grace Bible Church v. Smith. Her former pastor and church sued Ms. Smith and four other defendants for $500,000 over claims of defamatory statements posted online about spiritual abuse by the church and its leaders. As in this California case of Grenier & Grenier v. Taylor and Grenier, an anti-SLAPP motion was filed in BGBC v. Smith. So there are significant parallels between the two lawsuits. Ms. Smith now blogs at Spiritual Sounding Board, a site focused on advocacy for survivors of spiritually abusive pastors, churches, ministries, and movements.

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 COURT DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE ONLINE

Plaintiffs’ Complaint. This document contains the allegations by Bob and Gayle Grenier of defamation and other contentions against the defendants, Tim Taylor and Alex Grenier.

Paul Grenier’s Declaration. Warning: Paul’s sworn testimony statement is intense and graphic about alleged physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by his father, Bob Grenier.

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 RELATED MEDIA ARTICLES

Various Sources

Calvary Chapel’s Tangled Web,” by David Sessions – The Daily Beast (January 26, 2013).

Son accuses Visalia pastor Bob Grenier of sex abuse,” by Lewis Griswold – The Fresno Bee (February 16, 2013). (The Fresno Bee also covered the initial child abuse story several years ago. An initial search did not yield the link for this article. We will add it if we are able to locate it later.)

OC Weekly

OC Weekly has given extensive coverage to breaking news of this lawsuit, especially focusing in on the relationship between the lawsuit and Pastor Chuck Smith’s franchise of Calvary Chapel churches.

Is Calvary Chapel Head Chuck Smith Covering for a Child Beater?” by Gustavo Arellano (August 10, 2010).

Chuck Smith Meets with Calvary Chapel Abuse Survivor, Calls His Blog ‘A Bunch of Lies’,” by Gustavo Arellano (September 27, 2011).

Chuck Smith Blasts, Threatens Calvary Chapel Abuse Survivor from the Pulpit of CC Costa Mesa,” by Gustavo Arellano (October 18, 2011).

Alex Grenier, Frequent Calvary Chapel Critic, Seeks to Have Defamation Lawsuit Filed by His Pastor Father Dismissed,” by Gustavo Arellano (February 11, 2013).

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 RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Calvary Chapel Abuse

Calvary Chapel Abuse is the official blog for the Grenier & Grenier v. Taylor & Grenier lawsuit. Alex Grenier is its author. Blog posts are “uncategorized,” but there are many posts in the Archives related to the lawsuit. Also, there are several especially relevant pages:

The Wartburg Watch

Calvary Chapel: Mini-Moses Bob Grenier Sues His Own Son! (September 27, 2012).

Outrage Growing Over Calvary Chapel’s Bob Grenier Suit Against Allegedly Abused Son (February 14, 2013).

Breaking News: Calvary Chapel Visalia’s Bob Grenier Takes Leave of Absence as Police Chaplain (February 19, 2013).

Spiritual Sounding Board

Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel to File Defamation Lawsuit Against Son and Blogger? (September 21, 2012).

Calvary Chapel Pastor Pastor Bob Grenier: Stories of Abuse As Told by His Children (September 26, 2012).

Alex Grenier Responds to Notice of Imminent Lawsuit by Calvary Chapel Visalia & Pastor Bob Grenier (October 2, 2012).

Calvary Chapel Visalia Pastor Bob Grenier Files Lawsuit against Son and Former Church Member (October 19, 2012).

Is Calvary Chapel Visalia Pastor Bob Grenier Tweeting about Lawsuit? (October 19, 2012).

Calvary Chapel Visalia Pastor Bob Grenier is Helping Which Victims? (November 9, 2012).

Is There a Pattern for Church Leaders Who Disregard Church Abuses? (January 27, 2013).

Calvary Chapel Visalia Lawsuit, Pastor Bob Grenier, and Sex Abuse (February 14, 2013).

Breakings News: Calvary Chapel Grenier Lawsuit Anti-SLAPP (February 15, 2013).

Calvary Chapel Visalia Lawsuit, Local News Article, Court Declaration (February 19, 2013).

Gearing Up to Blow the Bullhorn on Calvary Chapel Visalia’s Pastor Bob Grenier and His Alleged Abuses (February 20, 2013).

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