I have seen this one in a few places, and now the Law is moving in.
The Amish, as you know, are one of the fundamentalist peace churches. In America, their first home was Pennsylvania, and particularly the county that I now live in, Lancaster. What’s not well known outside of the area, is that there has been a westward migration of Amish into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Lancaster County has been getting crowded over the last 50 years, so it would make sense that a religious society that is seen as a bit non-conformist would want to strike out for less peopled hills and valleys, and roadways where you don’t have to compete with speeding SUVs.
The reason the Amish settled in Lancaster in the early 1700’s was the promise of religious freedom guaranteed by William Penn. There was no official religion in the Penn Colony, and only a demand that a settlor be a believer in “God”.
Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I count four main peace churches: the Amish, the Mennonites–who are an offshoot of the Amish and founded by Menno Simons, the Quakers, and the Church of the Brethren. The Church of the Brethren sounds like it could be a hard-core rock group, or some skinhead outfit, but is actually another Anabaptist sect out of Germany who focus on the Lord’s message of peace in the New Testament. There is a good local college affiliated with this group in Lancaster County borough of Elizabethtown.
With the focus on peace, you’d be surprised to find Amish people getting in trouble with the law. But this is happening in Ohio, where one man, Sam Mullet, has gone about setting up his own cult, as it were. As with most cultists, the religion becomes less of a thing, and aggrandizing personal power, more. And like most cultists, he’s recruited young followers, as his muscle, to go out and do his dirty work.
So what has been happening is that other Amish who run afoul of this man are attacked, with the express purpose of having their beard shorn off–or, in the case of women, their hair! This is done, not just for the assault, but the humiliation. Assault, by the way, is a crime under the Ohio crimes code. But like most cultists, Mullet doesn’t feel that Ohio’s laws should apply when he puts the bee in one of his followers’ bonnets to go out and do the deed. He is one of these “the first amendment allows me to do whatever I feel is my religion” types that I have blogged often about in the Episcopal Church.
Ohio, however, doesn’t see it that way. They look at these revenge shearings as assaults, and so now the law is moving into action. Since these assaults also look to be federal hate crimes, it’s the big law–the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. What a mess!
It is a shame that the followers of this man didn’t take an old fool for what he was, and instead decided to give life to his unholy schemes. Disagreements and breakups are not uncommon with the peace churches, but almost as a rule, the people who disagree go their separate, peaceful ways—usually with the property matters worked out as well.
The Amish, it is said, would prefer to work matters out without involving civil authorities. But here, it’s a case where one renegade is not only undermining Amish order, he is also undermining civil law for the rest of us.
I bet the attackers do time. I bet the old guy who instigated it gets off with none.