Hate crimes trial for Amish cult: Religion News Briefs

Amish cult on trial for hate crimes


The trial of sixteen members of a breakaway Amish group that federal prosecutors have labeled a cult will start today.

AP report: FBI Arrests 7 in Amish Haircut Attacks (Nov. 23, 2011)

Samuel Mullet and his followers were charged with hate crimes over beard- and hair cutting attacks of fellow Amish.

According to an FBI affidavit sometimes around 2005 about eight families left Mullet’s clan. Mullet retaliated against these critics by excommunicating them.

But among the Amish for excommunication to be Biblical it must be based on the teachings of the Amish faith and cannot be based on revenge or punishment. Therefore a group of Amish leaders overturned Mullet’s excommunications.


Reportedly at least one of the victims of the hair- and bear cutting attacks was told by someone who allegedly participated in the assault that it was due to him having been one of seven Bishops on the investigating committee.

A judge last week ruled that federal prosecutors will be allowed to question witnesses about Amish leader Sam Mullet’s sexual activities.

According to the FBI, former members claim Mullet has been “counseling” married women in his clan, taking them into his home “so that he may cleanse them of the devil with acts of sexual intimacy.”

Prosecutors says this practice demonstrates the level of control Mullet had over his followers, but the judge has forbidden them from describing Mullet’s group with words such cult, sect, clan, band, schism, faction, off-shoot, breakaway, renegade, rogue or splinter group. Witnesses may describe the group using any terms they choose.

The jury selection in under way.

Amish beard-cutting trial attracts international attention, pitting law of God vs. law of man
Amish-Sect Case Puts Spotlight on Discipline Tactics
This report details the reasons behind the beard- and hair cutting attacks, and also addresses alleged abuses within Samuel Mullet’s so-called Bergholz Clan
Read the FBI’s Affidavit, the original indictment and the subsequent, updated indictment
Amish Society The definitive book on the Amish

Botched restoration turns Spanish church into tourist attraction

A 19th-century fresco of Christ, disfigured in a botched restoration attempt, is now attracting crowds of tourists to the small Spanish town of Borja, near Zaragoza in northeastern Spain.

Over the years the fresco, which is said to be of little artistic importance, had become damaged by moisture. Cecilia Gimenez, a parishioner in her eighties, took it upon herself to ‘restore’ the painting — though she claimed the priest gave her permission.

BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser says Gimenez burried the delicate brush strokes of artist Elias Garcia Martinez under a haphazard splattering of paint.

As a result, in his opinion the once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.

But as NBC reports, the freso has become first an internet sensation and now a tourist attraction.

Young people easily get sucked into Aum Shinrikyo spinoff Aleph: In August 2000 Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo — a criminal cult best known for its poison gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system — made a marketing move by changing its name to Aleph (after the Sanskrit for ‘unlimited expansion’).

The group claimed to distance itself from the teachings of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, but that turned out not to be true. And as this Japan Today articles shows, the cult still recruits people deceptively.

A report by Japan’s Public Safety Intelligence Agency shows there are today some 1,500 Aleph followers in Japan and and that the group gained 200 new ones last year. According to Yoshifu Arita, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker who closely followed the Aum trials as a freelance journalist, the rise in numbers shows more people, especially in the younger generation, are not aware of what Aum did in the past and find its brand of spiritualism attractive. He stressed the need to educate people on the dangers of joining cults, since anyone faces the risk of being subtly brainwashed.

Vampire cult killer wants shorter sentence: In 1998, a then 18-year-old Howard Scott Anderson, of Kentucky, was given two life sentences without parole after being found guilty of being a principal to murder of Richard Wendoff, 49, and Naoma Queen, 54, after he was present when Rod Ferrell, his vampire cult leader, beat the married couple to death in their Eustis, Florida, home in 1996.

But last June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the law under which he was sentenced violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Now Anderson has asked for a new sentencing hearing.

Vampire cult leaves legacy of tragedy
Moving past Vampire Cult

Freedom of Mind: Over here we’re reading Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, by cult expert Steve Hassan. Since 1976 he has been educating the public on mind control and other cult-related issues. As a former cult member himself — having been involved in Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church — Hassan knows what he is talking about, and it shows.

Hassan is the author of Combatting Cult Mind Control, The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults. Freedom of Mind is significantly updated and revised edition of his second book, Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, which was published in 2000. We’ll soon be posting a review of the book at Apologetics Index, but can already say that we highly recommend it.

Follow Steve Hassan (@cultexpert) on Twitter

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014