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Should Amish Sect Leader Spend 15 Years in Jail for Cutting Off People’s Beards?

Should Amish Sect Leader Spend 15 Years in Jail for Cutting Off People’s Beards?

The members of Amish communities across the U.S. usually keep to themselves and live by their own social norms. But when a handful of beard-cutting attacks broke out in 2011 in Ohio, the families affected called 911 and involved the federal authorities. This case is one of several recent conflicts in the Amish community where the local law enforcement has been involved–a rarity for this community of intensely private, religious people.

Samuel Mullet Sr., a 67-year-old Amish leader, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the bizarre attacks. Mullet’s “strict interpretation of his faith and an abrasive personality had caused individuals to leave his fold and other Amish leaders to isolate him” (NYT).

Mullet has been called a cult leader, and is believed to have ordered several men, including his sons, to “seek revenge and punish” families that have left his breakaway sect of the Amish religion (CNN). Since the beard is “a significant symbol of faith and manhood” in the Amish community, the attacks are considered to be religiously-motivated hate crimes. Since the Amish do not drive, the attackers allegedly hired a non-Amish person to act as the get-away car driver, allowing them to leave the scenes of the crimes quickly.

At the trial, multiple defendants (members of Mullet’s religious sect) offered to take some of Mullet’s sentence themselves so that he would not have to bear the punishment alone. His community continues to stand by him and to live in isolation from other Amish communities with differing views.

Other struggles in the Amish community

As mainstream life in the 21st century becomes more dependent on electricity, cars and other modern conveniences, the Amish way of life diverges farther and farther from the norm. In recent years, Amish communities have struggled with conflicts over taxation, education and discrimination.

The Amish community also suffers higher rates of birth defects and genetic disorders. Since the majority of Amish people are descended from about 200 founders of the religious movement, genetic disorders due to inbreeding can surface in the more isolated communities. Their reluctance to undergo genetic testing or carry health insurance complicates the situation and causes friction between them and nearby mainstream communities.

Last week, Daniel Miller, an Amish man from West Farmington, OH, was accused of sexually assaulting seven young girls between 2000 and 2009. His conviction is another example of the Amish people feeling compelled to involve law enforcement, rather than deal with crimes on their own.

Preserving the Amish way of life

Despite the somewhat comical portrayals of Amish life that have become popular through reality TV (Breaking Amish) and pop music, the Amish are a unique religious group struggling, like many others, to survive in the 21st century. Clearly, the Amish and mainstream cultures cannot–and should not–act completely independently of each other. Rather, they need to support each other. The Amish culture and traditions should be preserved–and the fact that Mullet was jailed for 15 years for beard-cutting attacks displays a sensitivity and understanding that all Amish communities will need to receive in order to survive.


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Photo credit: johnny_appleseed1774

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6:24AM PDT on May 22, 2014

I don't really know how to react to this, I am not Amish and so I don't really feel qualified to judge them on this issue. But if they consider the beard cutting to be a hate crime, then it should be treated as a hate crime.

3:03PM PST on Feb 20, 2013

Annmari L - I know the Amish seem strange and different to many, however, they have been here (America) since the 1600's, so I wouldn't count on them changing or going away any time soon.

The Amish DO pay taxes. (Sales, property, income, etc.) However, if they are self-employed, they do not have to pay into Social Security because they do not collect SS. Perhaps that was what you were referring to when you indicated they pay no taxes. Their church property, just like any other is tax exempt.

I do not know if lack of resources is the reason they have turned to the authorities for help with certain issues, but as taxpayers, that is their right. I don't know of any separate "law" for the Amish. I'm sure if an Amish person killed someone or robbed a bank, they would get the punishment as anyone else. And I certainly agree, if they are guilty of abusing animals, they should be charged like anybody else.

11:00AM PST on Feb 17, 2013


2:15PM PST on Feb 16, 2013

I have no sympathy for Amish or any other secterian religion. Amish is well-known for animal abuse and they will eventually delete themselves through inbreeding. Can't come fast enough for me. Some people see them as quaint and traditional, but I can't accept that it's allowed to have two separate legal systems. One for Amish and one for the rest of us. And, why did the Amish feel the need to contact outside authoroties? Because they don't have the resources to deal with their own kind any more. Let them start paying taxes and assimilate into the society, stop them from being cruel to animals (whipping their horses, etc) and charge and sentence all those committing crimes as anyone else would be treated.
BTW, I don't think a hair cut or beard shaving, however forceful, constitutes a hate crime. He may deserve 15 years inside, but not for being a bad barber!

2:07PM PST on Feb 16, 2013

Interesting. . 15 years seems excessive. .

6:55AM PST on Feb 16, 2013

Didn't the "man" who almost became our president do something similar to a gay classmate? I notice he hasn't appeared in public lately. Perhaps he's serving his 15 year jail sentence?

4:32AM PST on Feb 16, 2013

The Amish are not above the law...but...I think this is a case of assult not a hate crime. He should not have gotten this long in jail.... how about as long as it takes a bread to grow back.

11:53PM PST on Feb 15, 2013

I would not call this "barbering" a hate crime, however I would call it assault because it is one person doing something to another without his consent, and using force to do it. If some verbal attacks can be called assault, then I think this can too. As to 15 years in prison, that is a bit much for assault.

If this man is engaged in a pattern of abuse etc, then I think the Amish community needs to come together with police and work at ways to stop the abuse. That is a different issue to the 'barbaring'. You cannot load years worth of complaints onto Mullet's head all at once.

11:23PM PST on Feb 15, 2013

Another religious nut case- fewer on the streets the better.

9:52PM PST on Feb 15, 2013

The man sounds very scary.

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