Former Muslim sues Oklahoma church for announcing his baptism
A former Muslim filed suit Monday against First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma for publishing an online notice announcing that he had been baptized.
The man, identified only as John Doe, said in court documents that the online notice resulted in him being tortured and nearly killed in Syria in January 2013.
Doe says that he was baptized in private by Rev. Dr. James Miller on December 30, 2012. He maintains that he told the pastor and other church leaders that his conversion to Christianity had to be a secret because he would soon be visiting his home country of Syria, where apostasy is punishable by death.
"Before and after his baptism by Dr. Miller, Plaintiff was assured his baptism would not be publicized," the complaint read.
On January 2, 2013, Doe arrived in Damascus, Syria. Unbeknownst to him, the church published an announcement with Doe's name and date of baptism to the internet on January 6. Church leaders Gary and Marilyn Slick allegedly told Doe a day later that they were "horrified" by the mistake, and the posting would be removed. According to the lawsuit, the announcement was not deleted until April 2014.
While still in Syria in mid-January 2013, Doe says he was approached by radical Muslims who saw the announcement online. Although he denied having converted to Christianity, they were undeterred. Doe, who is in his 40s according to Tulsa World, says he was kidnapped, bound, blindfolded, beaten, shot, and spent up to 18 hours per day in an electrified drum.
He saw a chance to escape before his beheading, and grabbed a gun from one of his captors. Doe says that he was forced to shoot one of the men—his paternal uncle—and is now wanted in Syria for murder.
After escaping the kidnappers, he encountered his cousin, who stabbed him in the chest for killing his father. Miraculously, Doe managed to return to the United States. His attorney, Keith Ward, said the case is a strange one.
"We understand the skepticism toward the claim," he told the Tulsa World, "but his injuries and all the allegations are well documented."
Ward said that Doe has undergone four surgeries because of the torture he sustained in Syria, and still receives death threats from the country. He is suing for $75,000 in damages, breach of contract, and negligence.
Rev. Miller denied the allegations.
"The lawsuit is brought by a person who received the Sacrament of Baptism before the congregation during a regular Sunday service at First Church," he said in a statement.
"As the facts and truth of these events are revealed during the judicial process, it will become clear that First Church followed its normal procedures in baptizing this person and the claims made in the suit are not proper."