20 September 2012


No, I do not refer to hate crimes committed against Amish people.  I refer to hate crimes committed by Amish people against other Amish.  Today's NYTimes reported that "Samuel Mullet Sr. (shown above), the domineering leader of a renegade Amish sect, and 15 followers were convicted of federal conspiracy and hate crimes Thursday for orchestrating a series of bizarre beard- and hair-cutting attacks last fall that spread fear through the Amish of eastern Ohio.

" .... Although Mr. Mullet did not directly participate in the attacks, prosecutors labeled him the mastermind of the assaults, in which groups of his followers held down victims and sheared their beards and hair.  Among the traditional Amish, men's long beards and women's uncut hair are central to religious identity.  Prosecutors argued that the attacks were intended to humiliate those who questioned Mr. Mullet's cultlike methods, like forcing errant followers to live in chicken coops and pressing married women ~ including his own daughter-in-law ~ to accept his intimate sexual 'counseling'.

"Some of the nine victims had offended Mr. Mullet by moving out of his settlement, and others had angered him by refusing his call to shun people he regarded as enemies of his church.

" .... The defendants did not deny their roles in the attacks, which were carried out with battery-powered clippers, scissors and razor-sharp shears that are designed to trim horse manes.  Rather, the case turned on the motives of the attacks and whether it was appropriate to make them into a major federal case under a 2009 hate crimes law.

"To prove the most serious charges, the jurors had to be convinced that the defendants had caused 'bodily injury', which could mean 'disfigurement', and that the attacks on nine of the victims were based mainly on religious differences.

' .... The violent assaults, and now the public trial, have been a searing experience for the region's Amish, who normally lead placid and intensely private lives, without electricity or cars, and try to settle disputes peacefully without involving law enforcement."

My initial flippant reaction upon reading the headline and the first few paragraphs of the article, was "Oh no!  Not the Amish too!  Has the whole world gone mad?  Craig Ferguson and Jon Stewart are going to have a field day with this.  'News flash ~ In a world filled with bloody warfare and gang violence, assault rifles and mass murders, the members of a renegade Amish sect are going after other Amish with .... wait for it .... hair clippers.' "

But that moment of flippancy quickly passed as I read further, and realized what a horrible assault that would be for the Amish victims.  Imagine being peacefully at home, and suddenly and violently being invaded and overpowered by a group of assailants who defile you in a manner calculated to offend your deepest beliefs.  It isn't an exaggeration to call it a form of rape.

Further, Mullet's cult has, in its own way, the trappings of the mindless behavior of the followers of Charles Manson or Jim Jones ~ not fatal, but just as vicious.  Very, very creepy.

I'm not at all religious, but my heart goes out to the victims of Mullet and his sect.  The Amish and similar groups deliberately choose pacifism and a simple life.  Here in Montana, Hutterites are a similar branch of Anabaptists, with a similar worldview.  These minority religious groups are targets for prejudice and sometimes abuse by intolerant members of the communities surrounding them.  Yet they prosper.  It's not a life I would choose, as it is too insular.  But I respect those who are true to their beliefs, and who do no harm to others.

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