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Questions surround Hicksville couple's church

HICKSVILLE, Ohio (WANE) - A Hicksville couple will go in front of a grand jury later this month. Police accuse them of not seeking medical attention for their dying son hours after he was born in 2016. The church they attend is part of the investigation, but little is known about it.

Sarah and Jared Stark are said to be members of the Gospel Light Tabernacle Church in Hicksville. Very little can be found on it online, and repeated calls to the church by NewsChannel 15 have resulted in hang-ups.

However, the Defiance County Sheriff's Office said the church is part of the investigation as to why the Starks may not have provided medical attention for their son Ezra. He died ten hours after birth. He was found on the Starks' property last month.

IPFW Professor of History and Religious Studies Quinton Dixie is not familiar with Gospel Light Tabernacle or the Stark's case. However, he said similar cases have come out of other churches across the counry.

"Modern medicine for these people probably shows a lack of faith," Dixie said. "Someone who puts their trust in the world rather than God is showing a real lack of faith."

Dixie said these groups are small, and they're hard to find online. He said, along with other things, they also may not open up to modern technology.

"Their organizations function best through isolation," Dixie said. "You find small churches, often family-based churches."

A grand jury will decide if the Starks will be charged with felonies. If so, the prosecutors will file the charges most likely leading to more details about if the church or religious beliefs are connected, and why police did not start their investigation into the baby's death until a year and a half after it happened.

Dixie said there's not a hard and fast rule for the courts when dealing with crimes and religious beliefs.

"If certain medical attention is available that's life saving," Dixie said. "Often courts have ruled the parent has a responsibility. How far do we go? If it's something like not vaccinating a child based on one's religious beliefs is that different than not providing vital care?"

The Starks are facing preliminary charges of child endangerment. Jared Stark is also facing an abuse of a corpse charge.


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