Church of the Highlands Pastor Accused of Failing to Act after a Former Intern Reported Being Sexually Harassed
A former intern at a church in Mississippi is suing Dino Rizzo, a member of the Church of the Highlands' senior leadership team in Alabama.
According to The Christian Post, the former intern, Laura Ashley Eagan, says that Rizzo allegedly failed to intervene when she told him a senior pastor had sexually harassed her at Vibrant Church in Mississippi.
Rizzo works with the Alabama team, but he also is the executive director and founder of the Association of Related Churches, an umbrella group that Vibrant Church is under.
Church of the Highlands and ARC officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.
A Vibrant Church official told CP that they were "not making any statements or comments on the issue at this time."
Eagan alleges discrimination/sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. Her lawsuit lists Rizzo, senior pastor Jason Delgado, Vibrant Church staff pastor Ronald D. Delgado and Vibrant Church's human resource director Miriam Delgado.
As part of the lawsuit, John Does 1-25 were also named.
Delgado resigned from Vibrant Church after sexual allegations arose earlier this year that claimed he made unwanted sexual advances by "various electronic means" starting in February 2020.
Eagan said she had told Ronald Delgado during a counseling session that her marriage was struggling. She said she believes that Ronald shared that information with his son.
She was referred to Jason Delgado for mentoring, and later Jason began sending Eagan messages.
"Mr. Jason Delgado used his position of confidence, and his knowledge of Mrs. Eagan's situation to fulfill his sexual perversions," the suit alleges. "At best, this is a deliberate manipulation of those in need to fulfill unnatural, sexual fantasies. At worst, this is a calculated sexual predator, with his free pick of vulnerable victims."
She said she didn't believe she could turn to Ronald Delgado, Jason's father. She said instead, she reached out to some 25 other church officials who "did nothing" to help.
Previously, Rizzo had resigned as senior pastor of the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, because of an alleged affair with another woman. In 2013, he returned to ministry at Church of the Highlands.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.