Decision due February 25 on suit by Calvary Chapel pastor against step-son and former member
Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel Visalia (CCV), California, is suing Tim Taylor of Visalia and also one of his own step-sons, Alex Grenier of Idaho. He specifically contends that Taylor and Alex Grenier have committed “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress,” “Defamation,” and “Conspiracy to Defame.” The defendants view this as a legal maneuver to intimidate and silence them and others from speaking out against sexual abuse, physical abuse, and ecclesiastical corruption they allege he perpetrated.
In 2004-2005, Alex confronted Pastor Grenier and the elders of CCV concerning the child abuse he and his younger half-brother Paul say they suffered at the hands of their step-father/father. These church leaders refused to address these grievances. Alex remained silent until 2009, when he found an online forum of former CCV church members, who share their personal accounts of spiritual abuse.
The forum went viral and, in July 2010, Alex began a spiritual abuse survivor blog – Calvary Chapel Abuse. It received over 3 million hits in its first three years. He sees this as a clear indicator of public interest in this case, as well as in 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.
Alex Grenier was also unsuccessful in attempts to have Pastor Smith or any other national Calvary Chapel leaders intervene in the CCV situation with his step-father. So, his only recourse has been to publicize the abusive experiences that would otherwise remain hidden in his step-father’s private life.
The lawsuit was filed on October 17, 2012, in Tulare County, California, where Pastor Grenier served til recently as a chaplain to the local police force. (He agreed to a leave of absence on February 19, 2013.) In his lawsuit, filed with his wife and co-plaintiff Gayle (who is Alex’s and Paul’s mother), Pastor Grenier claims to be an innocent victim of a “cyber-bullying hate campaign.” They are asking for an award “of exemplary and punitive damages.”
On 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.
The defendants’ attorney, Paul Clifford, filed an anti-SLAPP motion on December 17, 2012, contending this is a clear issue of freedom of speech and suggesting the lawsuit is frivolous. A tentative ruling on the motion will be made on February 25, 2013, with a court hearing scheduled for February 26 before Superior Court Judge Paul Anthony Vortmann.
The decision on this case has momentous ramifications for First Amendment rights as “citizen journalist” bloggers and spiritual abuse survivors organize and speak out against ecclesiastical abusers. This may also involve separation of church and state. A social media campaignaround the theme of #WhoWouldJesusSue begins February 20 to publicize the suit.
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.
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.