Many strange “religious freedom” arguments have been made in court cases over the years, and a recent case adds a more disturbing twist. Two alleged rapists and pedophiles in Ohio are attempting to use the Bible as their defense for serially raping a 13-year-old girl in captivity from 2012 to 2015.
Timothy Ciboro and his son, Esten Ciboro of Toledo, are accused of raping Timothy’s stepdaughter, who authorities said had been shackled and abused throughout the three-year period; she escaped while the Ciboros were out of the house. They also allegedly sexually assaulted the girl’s younger sibling during that time frame.
These allegations are horrendous, and the Ciboros’ attempt to use the Bible as their only defense is morally and legally wrong. In a Jan. 20 pretrial hearing, the Ciboros, who are defending themselves in court, asked if they could bring the Bible to court to question witnesses because to them, it’s “the only law book that truly matters,” The Toledo Blade reported. (Perhaps they don’t know the U.S. Constitution exists.)
“There’s a great deal of strategy in Scripture, and I use those strategies in everything I do,” Esten Ciboro told the judge. “It’s a vital part of everything I do.”
While Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings said the two may bring a Bible during the trial, which started Jan. 23, she properly denied their request to use the book to question witnesses.
This is not the law of the land.
“It’s the court’s opinion that while the Bible is very important, it is not a law book in a court of law,” Jennings said.
She made the right call. What the Bible – or any other religious book, for that matter – says about sexual assault is hardly relevant, as our laws are not based on religious texts. If these two are found guilty by a jury, they’ll have to pay the consequences, regardless of what they think scripture says.
But the Ciboros saw things differently. The Blade reported that during a November hearing, Esten Ciboro told Jennings that he doesn’t trust lawyers to defend him and that he’d rather rest his legal defense on God.
“Professionals built the Titanic. Amateurs built the ark,” he said.
This isn’t the first time people have tried to use religion as a justification for crimes they’ve committed. We previously wrote about an Indiana woman’s attempt to use Indiana’s “religious freedom” law to justify physically abusing her son. (The court rightfully rejected this claim.) In another case we covered, an Indiana man cited the same law to argue that paying state income taxes violated his religious freedom. (This, too, deservedly failed.)
While their trial is ongoing, it looks like the Ciboros’ aren’t likely to have much success pressing the Bible into service for their defense – nor should they.