A leading anti-religion group has filed a lawsuit claiming that a young disabled boy was “forcibly baptized” in Ohio.
In a statement published on the American Atheists website, the group asserts that action was taken “against the expressed wishes of his parents.”
According to parents April and Gregg DeFibaugh, the child, who is referred to as “V” in the court filing, was allegedly taken to a church picnic in August 2016 by his “Big Brother” mentor. During the picnic, the mentor and the church’s pastor offered the child a full-immersion baptism, “against the wishes of V’s parents,” according to the American Atheists.
“The forced baptism was the culmination of more than a year of religious harassment by V’s guardian ad litem and V’s mentor,” the organization argued.
The mentorship was organized through Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northeast Ohio (BBBS). The DeFibaughs initially filed a lawsuit in March of last year, but it was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge. Now, the atheist group is assisting the couple in launching another legal challenge.
The incident took place at the Morning Star Friends Church in Chardon in 2016. The church pastor, Matthew Chesnes, has been accused of forcibly baptizing the child along with the child’s mentor. Since the incident, American Atheists noted that “V has suffered anxiety and extreme emotional distress.”
“Ms. Vaughan’s, Pastor Chesnes’, and Mr. Guanera’s actions are appalling,” said Geoffrey Blackwell, American Atheists’ staff attorney. “We are pleased that the DeFibaugh family will finally have their day in court.”
But in a video of the baptism, which was posted online, the boy can be heard saying: “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.”
American Atheists is an organization that “envisions a world in which public policy is made using the best evidence we have rather than religious dogma and where religious beliefs are no longer seen as an excuse for bigotry or cause to receive special treatment from the government.”
Faithwire has reached out to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northeast Ohio for comment on this odd case.