Have you been following the fascinating Amish beard-cutting attack story out of Ohio? Members of an offshoot Amish group broke into other Amish people’s houses at night and forcibly cut off their beards, also cutting off women’s hair.Three men have been arrested.
The leader of that group, the “Bergholz Clan,” has given a rare interview to the AP. Sam Mullet (yeah, it’s really his name) told a reporter that his group had been ostracized by the larger Amish community. He also didn’t deny that the attacks happened, but said he didn’t order them.
“I didn’t tell them not to; I’m still not going to tell them not to,” he told the AP.
The Bergholz Clan is about 120 people who live on small farms; their leader Sam Mullet was expelled from the more mainstream Amish community in the area.
Karen Johnson-Weiner, an anthropology professor and Amish expert at SUNY-Potsdam, told us that the group can’t actually be considered Amish. “This is sort of a cult that’s been expelled from the Amish,” she said. “They’re dressing like it but they’re not organized like an Amish church, nor are they behaving like an Amish church.”
Johnson-Weiner described the attacks as “deeply violent.” In Amish churches, beards and hair have biblical importance and in more conservative ones, men never cut their beards and women never cut their hair. “For the Amish who see these as biblically ordained behaviors, this is an act against the Bible,” Johnson-Weiner said.
For his part, Mullet is unrepentant. He told the AP, “You have your laws on the road and the town — if somebody doesn’t obey them, you punish them. But I’m not allowed to punish the church people?”