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Megachurch Pastor Named in Lawsuit for Allegedly Failing to Protect Intern Against Sexual Abuse

An Alabama megachurch pastor has been sued for allegedly failing to protect a former intern at a Mississippi church from sexual harassment.

In the lawsuit, Laura Eagan claims the then-lead pastor of Vibrant Church of Columbus, Mississippi, Jason Delgado, sent her sexually explicit messages and propositioned her when she was an intern in early 2020.

The lawsuit alleges five counts of discrimination, harassment, fraud, emotional distress, and negligence, and asks for unspecified damages.

Eagan had previously filed a workplace harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April.

Dino Rizzo, an associate pastor at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, and co-founder of evangelical church-planting organization the Association of Related Churches (ARC), is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with Vibrant Church, Delgado, and his parents, Ron Delgado and Miriam Delgado, AL.com reported.

Vibrant is an ARC member, but ARC is not a named defendant in the federal suit, which was filed in Mississippi.

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In a statement sent to AL.com, ARC said it has “no legal, governmental or corporate oversight or control over any of the churches associated with us” but “does not condone any illegal, immoral, improper or unethical conduct or actions opposed to Biblical teachings.”

The lawsuit says the defendants knew about abuse claims involving several victims against Delgado dating back to 2016 and that Ron Delgado asked the victims not to “ruin” his son by reporting him.

Eagan said she told church officials about Delgado’s behavior but he remained pastor, and she felt that with both his parents serving as senior members of the megachurch’s staff, she had “nowhere to turn” to resolve the issue.

She also alleges that Delgado admitted having previous adulterous sexual relationships.

Delgado resigned as lead pastor of Vibrant in April 2021 after apologizing for unspecified “inappropriate behavior.” ARC told AL.com that he is no longer associated with the organization or any of its churches.

Rizzo joined the staff at Church of the Highlands in 2013,14 months after he was forced to resign as senior pastor of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after admitting to an extramarital affair, per The Christian Post.

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.