Home Christian News Church of the Highlands Pastor Named Co-Defendant in Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Church of the Highlands Pastor Named Co-Defendant in Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Dino Rizzo

Dino Rizzo, a member of the Senior Pastor Leadership Team at The Church of the Highlands in Alabama, is one of several defendants named in a recent lawsuit filed by Laura Ashley Eagan. Eagan claims that while she was an intern at Vibrant Church in Mississippi last year, she was subjected to sexual harassment, negligence, and deceit at the hands of senior pastor Jason Delgado. 

“Mr. Jason Delgado used his position of confidence, and his knowledge of Mrs. Eagan’s situation to fulfill his sexual perversions,” states the suit, which was filed Sept. 30. “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.”

Delgado resigned as pastor of Vibrant Church in April 2021 due to accusations of sexual impropriety. Both Vibrant, located in Columbus, Miss., and Birmigham-based The Church of the Highlands have ties to the Association of Relational Churches (ARC), which Rizzo helped found and where he currently serves as executive director. Notably, Micahn Carter, another pastor at The Church of the Highlands, resigned several months ago following a rape allegation. Carter had been undergoing “ministerial restoration” at the time.

Dino Rizzo’s Involvement ‘Ironic,’ Says Suit

According to the lawsuit, Eagan started marital counseling with Ron Delgado, who is Jason Delgado’s father and a staff pastor, in February of 2020. Her whole community was comprised of people connected to Vibrant, says the suit. “In essence, Plaintiff put her whole life in the hands of the Church.” 

Eagan began interning with the church in the fall of 2020 and in December 2020, her supervisor allegedly gave her a poor performance review on the basis that she was “‘too sexy’ to be an intern.” After that incident, the church referred Eagan to Jason Delgado to mentor her through her internship. “Shortly thereafter,” says the suit, “Mr. Jason Delgado began contacting Plaintiff through various electronic means. These communications began at inappropriate times but were initially believed by the Plaintiff as benign in nature.”

The suit claims that through these communications Eagan learned that Jason Delgado knew information she had shared in confidence with Ron Delgado during marriage counseling.

From this point forward, the communication spiraled downward from Mr. Jason Delgado. Initial communication turned into suggestive comments, and then devolved into disgusting, graphic communications of a sexual nature. Mr. Delgado even admitted to performing this sort of activity in the past, stating he had sexual relationships with other women than his wife. 

Eagan felt that she could not go to church leadership with her concerns since Ron Delgado had already broken her confidence and the Human Resources Director is Ron’s wife, Miriam.

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Jessica is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past five years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.