A weird little lawsuit

American Atheists today filed a lawsuit in the Common Pleas Court of Lake County, Ohio, alleging that a developmentally disabled child was forcibly baptized against the expressed wishes of his parents by a minister and a court-approved “Big Brother” mentor.

The child, referred to as “V” in the court filing, was taken to a church picnic in August 2016 by the child’s mentor. During the picnic, the mentor and the church’s pastor subjected V to a full-immersion baptism, against the wishes of V’s parents ….

(Atheists File Lawsuit After Child Forcibly Baptized by Court-Approved Mentor; H/T Religion Clause)

Let us grant that an 11-year-old, even without developmental delays, should not be baptized against his parents’ wishes. (She shouldn’t be able to get an abortion against their wishes, either, but that’s not how the law seems to roll. Go figure.)

Back in the day, forced Christian baptism could eventuate in outrages that are still echoing today.

Plaintiffs allege that the baptism of the child was a battery and that his immersion left him feeling like he was choking. So far, so good, though it hardly sounds like a big-ticket lawsuit.

But the lawsuit still puzzles me. Plaintiffs allege under various legal counts that they are suffering extreme emotional distress. That’s the puzzler. I don’t think “that really, really pissed me off” out to qualify because that puts a premium on ginned up outrage. So why, other than their wishes being disregarded, do they reasonably suffer extreme emotional distress?

Let me put it this way:

  1. Do they think the baptism made little V a Christian, ontologically and indelibly, ex opere operato? With Evangelicals, you never can tell, but I doubt that even Morning Star Friends Church, the offending religious body, believes that about its baptisms. They’d be far outside the Evangelical mainstream if they do. But if Plaintiffs do believe that, then shouldn’t they reconsider their opposition to a church with such strong magic?
  2. Do think the baptism made little V wet and breathless for a few minutes? Does that warrant extreme emotional distress?

If the latter, this really sounds like the “declaratory judgment” is what this is about, but the facts are so singular that I’m glad I don’t have to write the judgment.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.