An atheist couple who says their child was “forcibly” baptized against his will has filed suit in Ohio state court against the church and others, alleging that the child suffered emotional distress.
American Atheists filed suit in April on behalf of Gregg and April DeFibaugh, whose disabled child – known only as “V” in court documents – was “taken to a church picnic in August 2016” by a Big Brother/Big Sisters of Northeast Ohio mentor. During the picnic, “the mentor and the church’s pastor subjected V to a full-immersion baptism, against the wishes of V’s parents.” The boy was 11 at the time.
The couple first filed suit in federal court, but a federal judge dismissed the suit last year. They then filed suit in state court. The congregation, Morning Star Friends Church in Chardon, Ohio, is named in the complaint.
Attorney Kenneth D. Myers of Cleveland, Ohio, is representing the couple.
“No one has the right to lay a finger on a child without parental consent, let alone forcibly submerge a child in water,” he said.
The family is seeking “declaratory judgment that the conduct of the named defendants was a violation of their rights under the law, compensatory and punitive damages, and counsel fees and costs,” American Atheists said in a press release.
The baptism, the press release said, was the “culmination of more than a year of religious harassment.”
A video of the baptism was posted online. The boy, who has chronic brain damage, says, “I want to be baptized because … I’m not in the mood to do a lot and I’ve always had a sad time in life. And I thought being baptized would make God happy and make me happy as well.” He then walks into the baptistry – an outdoor kiddie pool with shallow water – and is baptized.
You can watch the video of the baptism below.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/UllrichG
Publication date: May 17, 2018