Parents' Lawsuit says Son was Baptized Against Their Wishes

CLEVELAND (AP) — The parents of a developmentally disabled boy in Ohio have sued his former court-appointed guardian, a minister and the child's mentor claiming he was baptized at an evangelical church last year against the couple's wishes.

A Geauga (jee-AH'-guh) County judge on Wednesday said the family's court involvement ended 14 months before the baptism, something the lawsuit failed to note.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland by April and Gregg DeFibaugh, of Chardon. The lawsuit claims the couple's rights of religious freedom were violated by individuals "acting under the color of state law." Chardon is 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of downtown Cleveland.

The lawsuit said a man from a local Big Brothers Big Sisters group took the boy without his parents to a Morning Star Friends Church picnic last August and threatened to stop taking him to minor league baseball games unless he agreed to be baptized.

The lawsuit also alleged that the court-appointed guardian, a member of the church, preached to the boy's family about God and left religious books and tapes with them.

The minister and the boy's Big Brother didn't return messages Wednesday seeking comment.

The lawsuit was filed by an attorney for the Washington-based American Atheists Legal Center. The suit seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.

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