"My Trusty Gavel" by Brian Turner / CC BY 2.0

Atheists Settle Lawsuit Involving Son’s Forced Baptism By Court-Approved Mentor

May 28, 2020

By Hemant Mehta

A lawsuit involving the forced baptism of a special needs child has finally been settled. It took several years to get to this point, but it’s the outcome the family wanted.

Here’s the backstory: Normally, having a mentor from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is supposed to be an educational, uplifting experience. Ohio native April Defibaugh certainly thought it would help her then-11-year-old, developmentally disabled son. And everything was fine until her son’s mentor took him to get baptized at nobody’s request. The pastor held the boy underwater, to his surprise, leading him to have recurring nightmares.

In 2016, Defibaugh filed a police report calling for criminal charges against everyone involved.

“They held my son under water. It wasn’t like they sprinkled water on his head, it was like full immersion. He kicked, he screamed and told them beforehand that he was afraid. Every day since then he’s had nightmares, the same recurring dream, about being baptized over and over like he’s drowning,” says Defibaugh.

Now she wants assault and child endangering charges filed against the Morning Star Friends Church in Chardon, the pastor, the big brother and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization itself.

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