A Marietta couple was arrested Tuesday night for sexually assaulting a teenage family member, acts they say ccurred due to their religious beliefs.
Arrested were Daniel R. Hess, 45, and his live-in girlfriend, Lacey K. Day, 30, of 728 Mount Tom Road, Marietta. The couple was charged with third-degree sexual battery after allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old girl on three occasions beginning in late 2010.
"We've been conducting the investigation for about the last two weeks. It came to our attention through another public service agency within the county," said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
Upon his arrest, Hess maintained the assault was a result of his religious beliefs, according to the sheriff.
"The guy sort of alluded to the fact the reason he did it was his belief in Wicca," Mincks explained.
The Wiccan religion is almost a completely decentralized religion, but believes in a deity construct, reincarnation, the law of attraction and power through knowledge, according to wicca.org. Wiccans are also believers in the power of magic.
One principle of Wicca states, "we value sex as pleasure as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energy used in magical practice and religious worship."
Regardless of what religious belief a practitioner has, it does not justify the assault of a child, say officials with Washington County Children Services.
"It doesn't matter what kind of religion it is. In America, in Ohio, in Washington County, it is illegal to sexually abuse a child," said Alice Stewart, intake assessment supervisor with Washington County Children Services.
According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Hess and Day engaged in various sexual acts with the victim on three occasions while she was visiting their residence on Mount Tom Road.
Questioned by police, Day admitted to being involved in sexual acts with the victim and Hess during the three incidents.
According to the sheriff's office, Hess refused to make any specific statements regarding the assault, but indicated what the victim said was the truth.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and its amendments, but the practice of religion must be maintained within the law of the country, Stewart said.
"There is absolutely freedom of religion, but you also have to follow the laws in the country where you live. So they can be whatever religion they want to be, but they cannot use religion to sexually abuse a child," Stewart said.