Some people question the authenticity of the Amish Mafia series that takes place on the Discovery Channel. A recent shocking case among the plain people of Ohio could make people believe that even the Amish can act like thugs.
A judge recently reduced the jail sentence for a group of renegade Amish members in Bergholz, Ohio. They were charged with sneaking into the homes of fellow members, tying them down and forcibly cutting off their beards and hair. The supposed mastermind behind the plot was the bishop of the reclusive group, Samuel Mullet Jr., 69. The bishop was previously sentenced to up to 15 years, which was ultimately reduced to 10 years and nine months. Although he did not take part in the actual crime, he held sway over those who did. In fact, members revealed in court that they presented the shorn hair in a paper bag to the leader.
Sixteen men and women of the group were charged with the hate crime. However a federal court struck down that charge, instead saying the group’s actions were a result of “interpersonal and intra-family disagreements” and had nothing to do with religious beliefs; however that seems contradictory. In the Amish religion, facial hair is a sign of manhood. To have it cut is a sign of shame.
Bishop Mullet’s sentence was reduced in addition to the eight other members. Four men previously charged with seven years in prison had that reduced to five. Three men’s five-year sentence was reduced to three years. The last eight had already served their time in jail.
These types of practices are unusual, even for those in the Amish religion. There are groups in Pennsylvania and Delaware, but Ohio has the largest concentration. Samuel Mullet’s group in Bergholz are not viewed favorably, especially because of the way that he sequesters his members. Before the incident, the group was seen an outsiders. Quite possibly, Bishop Mullet’s vision of a “pure” Amish religion was not quite what other Amish or even the English expected.
In the courtroom, the Amish group admitted that the forced shearing was a mistake and was used to get members to repent from their sins. These varied from using the wrong buggy wheel to eyeing the local English women. Remarkably, leader Mullet was accused of being guilty as those he scorned. There were reports of sexual “ministrations” to which female members were subjected. Other forms of punishment included being forced to sleep in the chicken coop and using wooden paddles to fight each other as a way of working out frustrations. Mullet would want it seen as their twist on their fundamentalist Christian religion, but others would differ. During the trial, an Amish woman who wore a cap over a bonnet was seen as more “worldly” than the others. In addition, if a woman chooses to wear a bonnet, she had better be sure the string ties around the back of the neck and not around the chin. This fine minutia and micromanagement of life was just what Mullet wanted. In addition, he wanted to enforce the practice of shunning, but was in the minority. During the trial, the Amish spoke Pennsylvania Dutch, distancing themselves even further from the English world. Mullet is scheduled to be released within the next four years.
By Danielle Branch