Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Suit Claims Forced Baptism of Child Facilitated By Guardian Ad Litem

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on this week's filing in an Ohio federal district court of a lawsuit  alleging that a court-appointed CASA volunteer acting as guardian ad litem for a developmentally disabled child recruited a mentor who in turn had the child baptized against his parent's wishes.  The complaint (full text) in Defiaugh v. Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of Northeast Ohio Board of Trustees, (ND OH, filed 3/27/2017), alleges that in doing so, defendants committed various torts and also violated plaintiffs' free exercise rights.  A press release from American Atheists describes the allegations in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that V’s court-appointed guardian ad litem, Margaret Vaughan, repeatedly proselytized to V’s parents, April and Gregg DeFibaugh, and their children and told them that “families need God to raise children.” Despite complaining multiple times to Vaughan’s supervisors, no corrective action was taken by the agency. In 2015, Vaughan recruited David Guarnero, a member of her church, to act as a mentor for V through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Northeast Ohio (BBBS).
According to the suit, despite explicit instructions from the DeFibaughs to refrain from religious activities with V, Guarnero would frequently discuss religion with V. On August 28, 2016, Guarnero took V to a picnic at his church, the Morning Star Friends Church in Chardon, and, along with the church pastor, Matthew Chesnes, forcibly baptized V, pushing him under water. Since the incident, V has suffered anxiety and extreme emotional distress.