January 2012 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The head of an Amish group in Ohio and six of his followers were charged in November with conspiracy to commit federal hate crimes because they allegedly cut the beards of other Amish men as part of a religious disagreement.

According to the FBI, Samuel Mullet Sr. and his followers are part of a splinter sect that has had disagreements with other Amish leaders in Ohio for years. Mullet ex-communicated eight families from his community, but Amish leaders reviewed his decisions and overturned the action in 2005 or 2006, according to the FBI.

In October, Mullet’s sons and followers allegedly retaliated against some of the men who overturned Mullet’s decisions as well as other men they deemed enemies, and allegedly cut off the men’s beards.

In Amish culture, married men grow beards and to cut them would be considered a degrading act.

Mullet has claimed that the attacks were intended to “send a message to Amish in Holmes County (Ohio) that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating” him, according to an Associated Press report.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said the Amish community has been living in fear since the attacks began.

“We’ve received hundreds of calls from people living in fear,” he said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “They are buying Mace. Some are sitting with shotguns. They’re putting locks on their doors – because of Sam Mullet.”