UPDATE: Seven Amish men accused of terrorizing mainstream Amish members in a string of beard-cutting incidents were finally arrested in Ohio in an early-morning FBI raid, the New York Times reports. Federal officials charged them with violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Samuel Mullet Sr., Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Schrock and Lester S. Mullet were the men arrested. There actions were reportedly retaliation for a decision from religious leaders in the mainstream Amish community to overturn excommunications meted out by Mullet, Sr., the leader of the group.
Talking Points Memo with more details: "Mullet, who formed the breakaway Bergholz Clan in 1995, has been accused of running the clan like a cult. Mullet, according to an FBI affidavit, 'has forced extreme punishments on and physical injury to those in the community who defy him, including forcing members to sleep for days at a time in a chicken coop on his property and allowing members of the Bergholz clan to beat other members who appear to disobey' him."
The affidavit also reportedly alleges that Mullet has been "counseling" the married women in the clan and "taking them into his home so that he may cleanse them of the devil with acts of sexual intimacy.”
Mullet excommunicated eight families who chose to move away from his clan, but a group of seven Bishops in the mainstream Amish community overturned the decision.
Because they’re being charged with a hate crime, the Bergholz clan members could face life in prison.
Friday, October 7: The latest sign that the end is nigh? The Amish are fighting.
The Associated Press reports that a splinter group of Amish families has, for the past three weeks, been attacking members of Ohio's main Amish community, one of the country's largest. Their calling card: cutting the beards off of men and the hair off of men and women, sometimes down to the scalp.
The attacks are meant to be degrading because Amish women do not typically cut their hair and married men usually grow beards as part of their religion, which traditionally shuns many modern amenities. The feud is believed to be the result of unspecified "spiritual differences," according to the Tribune-Chronicle.
The local sheriff, Frank Abdalla, explained to the paper just how serious the attacks are: "One Amish man told me he’d rather be dead than have his beard cut off."
Local police say that several of the victims have suffered minor injuries, although no charges have been filed, largely because of their reluctance to file police complaints. Community members have, however, reached out to the local sheriff in a bid to end the violence, and investigators intend to file charges of assault and burglary, according to the AP.
According to the Tribune, the group allegedly behind the violence is led by bishop Sam Mullet, who requires his follower to bring back clippings of hair as "proof" that the attacks are carried out. Attackers are both male and female, and in at least one instance have been sent to the homes of close relatives within the main Amish community.
Abdalla told the Tribune that Mullet "thumbed his nose" at other bishops, the title of the Amish church district heads. Abdalla also claims that Mullet has threatened to have him killed multiple times. The sheriff called the clan leader "dangerous," adding, "If I were called tomorrow and told they're all dead up there, I wouldn't be surprised. I'd put him up against Jim Jones."