FBI investigating Amish beard-cutting attacks

An Amish sect in eastern Ohio is the subject of a federal investigation following a wave of Amish-on-Amish incidents, FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson confirmed to CNN Wednesday.

Members of a group of families disavowed by mainstream Amish have cut the beards off men and the hair off a half-dozen or more men, women and even some children.

KOKA TV report, October 8, 2011

Reportedly the investigation into the attacks has been hampered by the traditional reluctance of Amish to turn to law enforcement. But two weeks ago five men were arrested and charged with kidnapping and burglary.

The men have been released, each on $50,000 bond posted by the leader of their breakaway group.

The group, referred to as the Bergholz Clan, is headed by Samuel Mullet.

A former member of the group says Sam Mullet moved with some 120 fellow Amish to Bergholz some 15 years ago.

The former member — and son-in-law to Sam — compares the sect to the former Peoples Temple, whose leader was Jim Jones. In 1978, the cult ended in a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.

CNN says

Local law enforcement officials and members of the Amish community believe Mullet has created a cult and is single-handedly behind the beard cutting incidents and other crimes in recent years.

Asked by CNN whether the accusations that he’s behind the beard incidents were true, Mullet responded by asking rhetorically, “Beard cutting is a crime, is it?” He then denied the allegations that he’s running a cult before dismissing CNN from his property.

In a guest article at the Washington Post, Donald B. Graybill explains

In Amish land the beard is a symbol of adult manhood. All men are expected to grow one when they are married. […]

Church leaders cite various Old Testament Scriptures (Leviticus 19:27, 21:5; II Samuel 10:4,5; Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 15:2, Jeremiah 48:37) as well as the example of Jesus as reasons for raising a beard. One Amish church manual admonishes men to wear a beard, “because God created us that way and to differentiate in a very positive way between men and women.” Older men tend to grow long beards with little trimming. The Ohio attacks were assaults on the personhood and the religious identity of the victims. A shorn beard is shameful and not easily regrown.

Donald B. Graybill is co-author of The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World and Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday October 27, 2011.
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