Lance Fisher is licensed under  CC BY 2.0

Lance Fisher is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ohio Parents sue autistic son’s mentor after they held him underwater in a forced baptism

An eleven-year-old boy was baptized in Geauga County’s Morning Star Friends Church, and his parents want criminal charges to be filed against not only the church, but his mentor from the local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter as well.

April Defibaugh says her son has “autistic tendencies” and doesn’t process things as quickly as other children his age, and this makes his baptism an assault that has given him recurring nightmares.

The baptism took place at a church picnic in August 2016. The child was taken to the picnic by his mentor, Margaret Vaughan. American Atheists says Vaughan repeatedly proselytized the family, stating “families need God to raise children.”

Defibaugh also explained this was a full immersion baptism, as her son was held under the water. “…if I held you underwater and you didn’t understand, wouldn’t you consider that assault?”

Police advised her shortly after the incident was reported that it was most likely a civil issue, not criminal, because no physical harm was done.

But Defibaugh persists, saying her son has a nightmare every night about drowning. She wants assault and child endangerment charges filed against the Morning Star Friends Church in Chardon, the pastor, the mentor, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

Tim Kehres, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties, said, “Sometimes people’s values conflict. They just conflict.”

Training for his big brothers and big sisters regarding “respecting boundaries” is coming, acknowledging that the organization understands that they must “respect peoples’ different values.”

Defibaugh says she wants a law to prevent anybody from baptizing a child without the express consent of his or her parents, saying it is wrong to “force or manipulate a minor into anything.”

American Atheists is also filing a lawsuit on behalf of Defibaugh and her family as nothing seems to be happening with the original request.

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