The parents were influenced by a self-proclaimed "apostle" who rewrote sections of the Bible and said siblings should sleep with each other.
Trigger warning: The story contains details of sexual abuse that might be distressing to some readers.
At the age of 16, young Serah Bellar ran away from home and stayed hidden for about a year before finally revealing secrets about her family from Athens, Ohio. After Serah came forward with allegations of sexual abuse going on in her family, her parents—Robert Bellar, 54, and his wife Deborah Bellar, 49—were both arrested as part of the investigation. Robert and Deborah are parents to 18 biological children as well as one adopted child. Two of their sons, Jonathan Levi Bellar, 26, and Josiah Bellar, 24, were also charged and taken into custody in connection with the case.
As Serah spoke about her story, she revealed that her parents would force the children to go to a cult church that was run by her uncle, James Bellar.
In this church, called Dove Outreach church, she heard her uncle preach about procreating with siblings.
"All the kids would have to go, whether they wanted to or not—even if you were sick, you had to go, it didn’t matter," Sera told The Athens Messenger, as quoted by the Daily Mail. "Anytime he’d say anything, I’d just kind of repeat it in my head, like, how messed up it kind of sounded. He’d always talk about the end of the world and how you’d reproduce with your siblings."
Reports say that Serah's parents "ordered" her to "have sex with her brothers to prepare for the doomsday apocalypse," according to The Sun.
It was also reported that James was rewriting entire sections of the Bible to advocate his teachings, along with promoting the idea of incest among family members.
James claimed he was "retranslating" the Bible to produce a more "faithful" version. And when asked by officials about why he was changing the scriptures, he answered: "God. The Holy Spirit. I don’t have to answer to any man. God. You have to answer to God yourself," as reported by The Athens Messenger.
The man also said about himself: "I’m not one of the twelve (biblical apostles). It’s my calling, I’m an apostle."
One of his church members, Valerie Trainer, said: "He’s doing translations as God gives them to him, to be more perfected by the Lord—praise the Lord—but that’s a good thing. He’s an apostle, yes. Praise the Lord."
After Serah's allegations came to light, James claimed he never preached about siblings having children with each other and called it a "complete lie."
"Due to lies told by the prosecutor thus far I will not believe she even said these things, until I could talk to her directly," James also told Law&Crime about Serah's revelations.
Currently, parents Robert and Deborah are charged with one count of engaging in corrupt activity and two counts of endangering children. According to WOUB, their son, Josiah, is accused of raping two of his sisters while Jonathan is charged with gross sexual imposition involving one of his siblings.
Cover image source: (L) Athens County Sheriff's Office and (R) Athens County Prosecutor