26 Feb 2011

Memoir describes child abuse in Amish community and difficult but rewarding road to recovery

Amherst Bulletin - Massachusetts     February 18, 2011

A conversation with Saloma Furlong, author of 'Why I Left the Amish'

By Suzanne Wilson  | Amherst Bulletin Staff Writer

The photo on the cover of Saloma Miller Furlong's memoir, "Why I Left the Amish," shows a smiling second-grader with bright dark eyes. The story she tells, however, is anything but a simple tale of a happy childhood.
"It is time for those of us who have real stories of Amish life to tell those stories," said Saloma Furlong of Sunderland, author of a book about leaving the Amish community.  

Furlong, 53, who lives in Sunderland, grew up in an Amish community in Ohio. She was one of seven children in the family. Her father's mental illness, she writes, made him at times violent and abusive. At the age of 11, she says, she was sexually molested by her older brother.

What solace she found, Furlong says, came from the love of learning she discovered almost as soon as she started elementary school. Within her community, though, children only went through the eighth grade.

As limited as her education was, Furlong had an inquisitive nature. "From the time I could form questions, they just kept rolling out of my mouth," she said during a recent interview at her home. Why, she wondered, couldn't she continue with school? Why weren't women allowed to speak up in church? Why did her mother blame her for her brother's abuse?

"Those questions always stuck in my craw and I couldn't do anything about it," she said.

Furlong made her first break with the Amish in 1977, when she was 20. Without telling anyone in her family, she enlisted the help of a non-Amish couple whose house she cleaned -- a job, she says, that many Amish women hold. With their help, she boarded a train and headed to Burlington, Vt., a place she knew only from what she'd learned in school and from pictures she'd seen in a magazine. Something about the beautiful Vermont landscape, she says, seemed to promise the peace and tranquility Furlong craved. Once there, she got a room at a YWCA that had a program for women who needed shelter.

Her stay proved short-lived. Four months after she'd arrived, a group of her Amish relatives arrived in a van from Ohio to take her back. Against her will, Furlong -- by then working as a waitress in a Pizza Hut --gave up and returned. For the next three years, she lived in a nearby home, away from her parents, and taught school.

By 1980, though, Furlong was determined to leave again. This time she had an ally, in the person of David Furlong, whom she'd met in Vermont. He had stayed in touch with her after she'd returned to Ohio, even driving his pickup truck from Vermont to Ohio to visit. The couple married in 1982 and have two sons.

Furlong's desire for an education eventually led her to Smith College in Northampton, where she studied in the Ada Comstock program for nontraditional students. She graduated in 2007. She currently works as a coordinator for the German Department and European Studies Program at Amherst College.

Furlong says non-Amish people are often surprised and puzzled when they first learn that she left the community. That reflects, she says, what she sees as the highly romanticized view of the Amish that novels and films have portrayed. That image, she says, is one of an earnest, close-to-the-earth, model community that stands in stark contrast to the rat race of mainstream consumer culture.

Furlong's book is not the first of its kind. Among others, she said, are two books by Ruth Irene Garrett, "Crossing Over: One Woman's Escape from Amish Life," with Rick Farrant, and "Born Amish," with Deborah Morse-Kahn. [see Books page on this site for all 3 books] But "Why I Left the Amish," Furlong said, may be the first to include a frank, first-person account of family dysfunction and sexual abuse within the community. While her experience was difficult and painful, she does not claim it is the norm.

Her book ends with the description of the first time she left the Amish, in 1977. She is currently working on a sequel that will be co-written with her husband.

"My book is not going to be the last," she said. "And I think that's a good thing. It is time for those of us who have real stories of Amish life to tell those stories."

What follows are edited, condensed excerpts from an interview with Furlong last week.

Q: It seemed like such a brave thing to just up and leave the life you'd known. I kept wondering if you were terrified inside. Were you?

A: All I had to do whenever I became fearful was think about the past, to think about what I knew. That made the unknown seemed less scary. As I took each step, I discovered that I could fend for myself and that there were people who cared about me. I never thought of it as bravery, I thought of it as desperation.

Q: How did your family track you down in Burlington?

A: My sister squirreled it out of me. I had called her to let them know I was safe and sound. She said she needed to know where I was in case of an emergency.

Q: Why didn't you refuse to go back to Ohio?

A: Overnight, after they came, I had turned into a zombie. Flat affect, no emotion. I couldn't have named it at the time, but I think I literally had to turn off a switch to handle the situation. I didn't really want to find out if they were going to physically put me on that van. I thought, if I'm going back, I'm going back with my diginity intact.

Q: And David saw all this happen?

A: David and I had met in the four months I was in Burlington and there was a budding romance. He had to stand by and watch me go back, knowing it was not my choice and that was the hardest thing he ever did. He kept trying to keep in touch with me and I kept telling him it was impossible.

Q: Did you go back thinking that you were going to try to make your life with the Amish work?

A: Yes I did, and when David came to visit me the first time, I basically told him to get lost. But he kept writing. I'm surprised that he hung in there with our relationship. It was a tough beginning.

Q: What changed that prompted you to finally leave for good?

A: I was seeking counseling for an eating disorder. Even as an Amish person, I was able to do that. The counselor actually helped me look at all my options. I knew I wanted to further my education and I knew I wanted to be with someone who understood me.

I went down the road of facing my past, even though it was rough -- very rough. It was a grief all its own. I remember saying to the counselor, it feels like there is no bottom. She would tell me, sometimes the only way out is through. And, you know, I found that life is not so bleak as I had thought.

Q: Your parents are no longer living, but have your siblings seen the book?

A: When it came out, I sent it to my sisters. They were upset. I know I've revealed too much as far as they're concerned, but they haven't said it isn't true. I don't know if my brother has read it.

Q: During your childhood, were you aware that the world outside was different?

A: Yes. People think that all the Amish live in exclusive villages, but it's not like that. The closest neighbors to us weren't Amish. So at Christmas, I'd be peering out the window and I'd see their Christmas tree sparkling in their window and I'd wonder, why can't we have that? You see the outside world, you know you're not a part of it and you wish you could be.

Q: You write about going both to Amish and public schools. What was the Amish school like?

A: It was one room, with a thick canvas curtain down the center of the room. One teacher taught lower grades; then grades five through eight were on the other side of the curtain. We'd usually start with math in the morning, then spelling, reading, geography, history, and so on.

In our school, the standards were fairly high. In some Amish schools, there's a huge turnover of teachers and they don't have a handle on discipline.

Q: Why do you think you liked school so much?

A: I loved learning. I also think school had something I didn't have at home and that was stability. I had my own desk, I could organize it the way I wanted, it was my own little domain. It was ordered, there was no abuse there.

But there was also a lot of competition and pettiness among the Amish girls, way worse than in the public schools. I think it was because we had this hierarchy -- men at the top, the boys, the women and girls at the bottom. So to rise up a little bit, to be well-regarded, the girls will fight to get just a little further up. Everybody knows everyone's vulnerabilities and they'll use it in a nasty way.

Q: Do you think the Amish communities are basically cults?

A: To me, because the Amish are so steeped in tradition, it's more a culture than a cult. But it's no easier to leave a culture than a cult because you're usually born into it. The Amish teach their children that if they leave, all hope of salvation is lost. That's a pretty tough thing to overcome.

Q: Are there positive ways in which being raised Amish has stayed with you?

A: Oh, absolutely. This braided rug right here -- my mother taught me how to make them. I learned to quilt, and to do all the homespun arts, baking and crafts. The Amish work ethic has stayed with me, not to shy away from hard work. The Amish teach you to be humble and not to be somebody you're not. I brought that with me, too.

And the Amish do have a way of facing difficulties. When a death occurs, the community bands together. As soon as they hear about it, people they will come into the home, take all the furniture out, and move the church benches in. They will stay with the body through the night, around the clock, and it's very comforting for the family to know that someone is there. They don't hide death even from the children.

Q: That romantic view of the Amish that you've described reminds me of that Harrison Ford movie, "Witness," the story of the star-crossed romance between the Amish woman and the "English" man. What was your reaction to that?

A: I remember walking out after seeing it with David, and almost feeling I should have my Amish clothes on -- the movie made me feel like I was back there. There were two people talking behind us. One said, "you know, it's too bad that either she couldn't leave and or he couldn't stay." And the other one said, "but it had to be that way." And I came this close to turning around and saying to them, "oh no, it doesn't!"

Q: In today's world of smart phones and social networking, do you think the Amish can really keep modern technology from their kids?

A: As a matter of fact, that is happening with the cell phones. The young people can keep those a secret, if they're careful. I have no idea where that will lead, but there's a lot of speculation going on about it.

Q: What about you? I'm wondering whether you use any electronic gadgets.

A: If one more person tells me I need an e-reader, I'm going to scream. I have a phone that I always forget to use. I have never texted. I don't have an iPod but I do love my Mac computer. I like cameras, dishwashers, and microwaves. And let's put it this way, I love my indoor plumbing!

This article was found at:


Religious freedom meaningless for Amish teens who are shunned by family and community for making wrong 'choice'


  1. Hair-cutting assaults, breakaway sect put glare on Amish community in Ohio

    By Associated Press, October 11, 2011

    BERGHOLZ, Ohio — In an unusual public display of trouble among the traditionally guarded Amish, a breakaway group is accused of attacking mainstream members by cutting off their beards and hair, which carry spiritual significance in the faith. At the center of the dispute is the group’s 66-year-old old leader, Sam Mullet, who said he brought his followers from a community dozens of miles away 15 years ago so they could live by a stricter doctrine without interference.

    Instead, he has gained a reputation for being authoritarian and vindictive, been accused of running a cult, and become embroiled in a feud with the sheriff after a custody dispute years ago. “I wanted something better for my children and my grandchildren and the younger ones,” he told The Associated Press in a rare interview this week. “I just wanted to drop out of sight and just take life easy.”


    Mullet denies ordering beard-cuttings but says he wouldn’t stop them. They’re in response to incessant criticism he has received from other Amish religious leaders about his leadership practices, including excommunicating people in his own group, he said.


    A group of Amish bishops has previously criticized Mullet for his shunning of members of his community a few years ago. “It was clear that he was on the outs with the majority often, for a number of reasons, but the sense I got was that he was too strict in their view,” said Bryan Felmet, a lawyer who represented Mullet in the past as he took his daughter’s side in a custody dispute with her husband and their children.

    Mullet has been described by other Amish as very authoritarian, said Stephen Scott, researcher with Elizabethtown College’s Young Center.
    Some members of the community have broken with Mullet, including some of his own children, Felmet said. Mullet has at least 17 children, he said.

    Mullet has a contentious history with local law enforcement: He sued Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla in 2008 in federal court over the county’s seizure of two of Mullet’s granddaughters from their mother in the custody dispute the year before. The two settled out of court. The sheriff’s use of armed SWAT officers “induced fear and panic” among Amish schoolchildren present at the school where the children were taken, the lawsuit said. Abdalla said he’s convinced Mullet is behind the beard and hair cutting. But the three men charged refused to confirm that, Abdalla said.

    Mullet said he should be allowed to punish people who break the laws of the church, just as police are allowed to punish people who break the laws of the state. “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?” Mullet said. “I just let them run over me? If every family would just do as they pleased, what kind of church would we have?”

    In 2008, one of Mullet’s sons, Crist Mullet, was convicted of three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and sentenced to six months in jail, according to court records. Sam Mullet says his had son confessed his sins, stopped the behavior and shouldn’t have been charged. Another son, Eli Mullet, pleaded guilty the same year to threatening Sheriff Abdalla and was sentenced to probation.

    Amish interaction with the criminal justice system is rare but not unprecedented.
    Earlier this year, an Amish man who last year pleaded guilty to sex crimes in Missouri pleaded no contest to similar charges in Wisconsin. And young Amish occasionally end up in courts for antics during rumspringa, a period of adolescence when they’re given free rein before they must choose baptism or leave the community.

    read the full article at:


  2. Amish man claims wife left him and their daughters after she was brainwashed by Amish beard-cutting 'cult'

    By Daily Mail Reporter November 2, 2011

    Years before a breakaway sect grabbed headlines for a string of beard-cutting attacks in Ohio, an Amish community was living in fear of what they now call a 'cult.' Aden Troyer says he and his family were brought into the sect by his wife's father Sam Mullet, who’s believed by many to be the mastermind of the beard attacks. Now, years later, Mr Troyer still does not know what to tell his young daughters when they ask about their mother.

    Mr Troyer told CNN: 'I've kind of held back a little bit because they are so young, and I do not want to depress them.' He is among those who claim Mullet’s militant behaviour over his group is in stark contrast to the Amish faith. Mr Troyer told the network: 'The way he's been treating and talking to people, he is not an Amish guy. He is not your typical peaceful, loving Amish person.' He knew he had to get out, so one day, he scooped up his daughters and moved to Pennsylvania, but his wife wouldn’t follow. They later divorced, and Mr Troyer got full custody of the girls.

    The bizarre attacks last month have thrust this ferociously private community into the spotlight, with horror stories emerging of rape, beatings, brainwashing and kidnapping. Arlene Miller said she and her husband helped one of Mullet's sons - Bill - escape from the clan and believes that may have been one of the reasons why he was attacked.

    Until recently, the sheriff could do little, because the Amish victims chose to shrug off the assaults rather than bring in law enforcement. But with a spate of attacks since September, people began to cooperate. Two of the Mullet's 18 children have been charged in the beard cuttings. Johnny S. Mullet and Lester S. Mullet will go to trial along with Levi and Eli Miller and and Daniel S. Mullet. He is Mullet's nephew.
    The men hired a lawyer and the case has been sent to felony court after they waived a preliminary hearing on the evidence last month. They were freed on $50,000 bond, which Sam Mullet is said to have paid.

    Sam Mullet denies his clan is a cult but sees value in punishing those who don't follow church teaching. 'You don't obey the law, you're punished, and it's the same way with the church,' Mullet said. The men are said to have acted at the direction of the 66-year-old over an unspecified dispute about church discipline and practices. In the Amish community, beards on men and long hair on women have spiritual value, and forcibly cutting either is a symbolic assault meant to denigrate.

    The men are accused of bursting into an Ohio home on October 4 and holding an Amish man down as they attempted to cut his beard and hair off with scissors and a battery-powered shaver. There were more attacks, with victims including children as young as 13, who were targeted by as many as 27 members of the gang.

    The attacks occurred over the past month in the heart of Ohio's Amish population, one of the largest in the United States. Authorities are investigating similar attacks in Jefferson, Carroll and Trumbull counties, all of which Sheriff Fred Abdulla of Jefferson County believes were orchestrated by Sam Mullet. Sheriff Abdulla said he once had a good relationship with Mullet, but the pair have had many run-ins over the years, including when he prosecuted one of his sons, Crist, for raping a 12-year-old girl.

    The sheriff also claims that Mullet threatened to kill him and some of his own children and was once involved in a custody battle. Sheriff Abdallah told CNN: 'If I were to get a call right now telling me, "Sheriff, they're all dead in the community out there," it wouldn't surprise me.' ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  3. 'Forceful beard cutting' now a hate crime case

    By CHRISTINE L. PRATT, Staff Writer Wooster Daily Record November 25 2011

    MILLERSBURG -- Local charges against five Amishmen accused of brutally attacking a local bishop and cutting his beard have been dismissed and they, along with two others, their leader included, now face federal hate crimes charges.

    Previously charged with kidnapping and aggravated burglary stemming from the Oct. 4 incident are Eli M. Miller, 32, of 8460 County Road 53, Bergholz; Daniel S. Mullet, 37, of 8865 County Road 53, Bergholz; Lester S. Mullet, 26, of 522 Bush Creek Township Road 54, Hammondsville; Johnny S. Mullet, 38, of 362 Springfield Road 280, Bergholz; and Levi F. Miller, 53, County Road 53, Bergholz.

    They were again arrested Wednesday, along with leader, Samuel Mullet Sr., and Emanuel Schrock, and charged in U.S. District Court with hate crimes, conspiracy to commit crimes and aiding and abetting another in willfully causing bodily injury to another person through use of a dangerous weapon because of the actual or perceived religion. If convicted, each man could face up to 20 years in prison.

    The announcement was made at a news conference in which Holmes County Prosecutor Steve Knowling said he, in discussing the case with Sheriff Timothy W. Zimmerly, determined "a federal prosecution was better equipped to bring the men responsible to justice and to see that they are punished to the full extent of the law."

    The men were arrested and a search warrant was executed at 385 Township Road 280, Bergholz, early Wednesday morning, according to Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI.

    Aiding in the search were officers from the Holmes County Sheriff's Office, which has been working with he FBI since early in the investigation, according to Zimmerly, who said federal prosecution of the men, particularly Sam Mullet, "is a good idea for justice for all."

    Anthony, who referred to the local offense and several other similar offenses in Carroll, Trumbull and Jefferson counties as "forceful beard cutting, "said the FBI is committed to pursuing the offenses and all civil rights violations.

    "The FBI takes civil rights violations very seriously," he said, noting the motivation of the violence -- religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation -- matter not.

    U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said religious differences should be a matter of theological debate, not disputes "resolved by late night visits to people's homes with weapons and violent attacks."

    He said he does not know how often hate crimes involve intradenominational disputes.

    Sam Mullet and his "clan" are no strangers to Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, who said after years of dealing with the family he's "elated" to see Sam Mullet in custody.

    He said the most recent victim was "demoralized" and "totally broken," and many Amish fear Sam Mullet and have even taken up arms to protect themselves against him.

    While he may dress the part, Abdalla said, Sam Mullet, is not Amish. "Sam Mullet is evil."

    Carroll County Sheriff Dale Williams said the attacks brought fear to many good Amish families, who worry about another attack. He said he is glad to see a cooperative effort yield federal charges. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  4. 12 breakaway Amish indicted in hair assault

    By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    December 21, 2011

    A federal grand jury in Cleveland on Tuesday indicted 12 members of a breakaway Amish sect living in Jefferson County, Ohio, in connection with religiously motivated beard-cutting attacks on other Amish community members across Ohio.

    Seven men, including reputed church leader Sam Mullet, 66, had previously been arrested by the FBI on Nov. 23 and ordered detained pending trial after hearings in Youngstown.

    Federal authorities have 30 days after an arrest to bring an indictment.

    Charged Tuesday were Sam Mullet, his sons Johnny, Daniel and Lester, along with Levi Miller, Eli Miller, Emanuel Shrock, Linda Shrock, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Anna Miller and Freeman Burkholder.

    All of those charged except Levi Miller, a minister, are related in some way to Sam Mullet, father of 18 children and leader of the Amish community in Bergholz, Jefferson County.

    Eli, Lester and Raymond Miller are Sam Mullet's nephews. Anna Miller is married to another of Sam Mullet's nephews, and Mr. Burkholder is married to one of his nieces. Linda Shrock, who is married to Emanuel, is one of Sam Mullet's daughters.

    The indictment described five attacks that occurred from September through November in several Ohio counties.

    Prosecutors said the assaults were the result of a religious dispute between Sam Mullet and other Amish leaders over the way he ran his church.

    The indictment said the defendants, under Sam Mullet's direction, executed a series of break-ins and cut the victims' beards and hair. A man's beard is a religious symbol in the Amish community.

    The indictment also said Sam Mullet, as the bishop of Bergholz, controlled the community and "encouraged" corporal punishment and self-deprivation among his followers as a means for them to show their loyalty to him and the church.

    The grand jury also said Sam Mullet "misappropriated" the wives of other members of his community and "counseled" them on how to be sexually satisfied in their marriages. Part of the counseling involved them leaving their husbands and children, moving into his house and having sex with him.

    "The women who disobeyed or resisted this practice were ostracized from the community," the indictment said. The two women indicted had not been previously charged, but the indictment said both participated in attacks.

    The grand jury said Anna Miller helped some of the men during an assault on Sept. 6. Linda Shrock is charged with forcibly restraining her mother-in-law on Nov. 9 while her husband, Emanuel, attacked his own father.

    The indictment also charged Sam Mullet, Levi Miller, Lester Mullet and Lester Miller with concealing or trying to conceal evidence, including a camera, photos of the assaults, and an over-the-counter medication allegedly placed in the drink of one of the assault victims.

    Under federal law, the defendants are facing potential life terms in prison.


  5. 5 more Amish face charges in in beard-cutting case

    By Pittsburgh Tribune-Review December 22, 2011

    Five more members of a renegade Ohio Amish community face charges in a series of beard- and hair-cutting attacks, including one who aimed his shotgun at a Pennsylvania Amish man and threatened to cut his beard, authorities said.

    A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted 12 members of Samuel Mullet Sr.'s Amish community just outside Bergholz, Ohio, about 60 miles west of Pittsburgh, in at least four attacks, which authorities said were to exact revenge on Mullet's enemies.

    Authorities arrested Mullet and six other church members last month, before the grand jury presentments. They remain in custody. Also indicted were Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller and Linda Schrock. All will be arraigned Jan. 11, officials said.

    Attorneys for Mullet Sr., 66, his son Johnny Mullet, 38, and nephew, Lester Miller, 37, said their clients will plead not guilty. It was not clear how the others would plead.

    Federal prosecutors contend that Mullet and his members conspired to cut the hair and beards of nine victims with clippers and 8-inch horse mane scissors. They assaulted family who tried to intervene, and in one case drugged a victim before shearing his beard and hair, prosecutors said.

    The attacks were revenge against mainstream Amish who tried to excommunicate Mullet several years ago for his unorthodox behavior, authorities said.

    The seven-count indictment includes charges of assault, evidence tampering, conspiracy and hate crimes.

    Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said his deputies arrested Raymond Miller two weeks ago on misdemeanor charges that he threatened another Amish man, from Knox in Clarion County.

    Their paths crossed on private property where both men said they had permission to hunt. Miller harassed the man and called him a "chicken," Abdalla said. The other man responded by asking Miller "Who's (having sex with) all your women now that Sam is in jail?" Abdalla said.

    "Miller raised his gun, pointed it at him with his finger on the trigger and said, 'Well, you may get your beard cut off, too,' " Abdalla said.

    Raymond Miller does not have an attorney listed in the affidavit and could not be reached.

    Attorney Robert Duffrin, who represents Johnny Mullet, questioned whether the case qualifies as a hate crime, noting that prosecutors referred to the Amish as a religion; Duffrin said it is a culture. Any conflict was born of personal reasons, not religion, he said.

    "The indictment specifically said religion," Duffrin said. "But these are all people in the Amish culture. They're all Amish. It doesn't fit the section."

    Others, including Federal Public Defender Ed Bryan, who represents Samuel Mullet Sr., said the allegations against the clan do not fit hate crimes requirements.

    "It's usually used against people who targeted other races, not for people in the same religion targeting others within their religion," Bryan said.


  6. Amish Cult Victim Divulges ‘Behind-The-Scenes’ Details In Recent Book

    As astonished Americans puzzle over the arrests of seven men from an Amish breakaway group in Bergholz, Ohio, Amishman Wil Hochstetler, a former victim of another cult that broke from the Amish in the 1990′s, says the loyalty displayed by Mullet’s followers is alarming.

    “I recently visited my friend, Mr. Schrock, a victim of a Bergholz haircutting attack,” Hochstetler related. “Schrock shared how his son, Emmanuel, persuaded him and his wife to come for a visit. However, upon preparing to leave, Schrock was wrestled to the floor by his son who rudely cut off his beard and head hair.”

    “My heart aches for the victims, especially the children. It’s deeply troubling when you hear the reports of drugs, violence, and abuse,” said Hochstetler, whose own incredible story of seduction and eventual escape is told in Out of Deception, an arresting book that details the bizarre events of an excommunicated Amishman morphing into an abusive and manipulative cult leader who convinced members of the local Amish community to follow his absurd teachings.

    When asked how to best help the remaining Bergholz members, Hochstetler responded, “In a crisis like this followers tend to devoutly defend their cult leader. It’ll take time for them to build trust in people outside their domain who can help them. They tend see everybody ‘out there’ as wrong. I know how it felt.”

    According to Nathan Miller, author of Out of Deception, the rampant abuse, greed, mind-control, and molestation that occurred in Hochstetler’s case is typical of many cult leaders. While the circumstances surrounding Hochstetler’s story may differ from the Bergholz situation, the dynamics are same. The leader of this cult was finally charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and has recently been released after serving an eight-year sentence.

    Astonishing and compelling, Out of Deception, which is available at www.ridgewaypublishing.com, exposes the subtle deception of cult leaders’ tactics and delivers an urgent warning to people searching for spiritual answers. “It’s disturbing to know there are more cult groups in America than people realize,” Miller informed. “Getting caught up in a cult is easier than a person thinks and breaking free is much more difficult. It takes a long time for someone to re-learn basic truths, once brainwashed.”

    NOTE TO EDITORS: To Interview the Author Contact: Nathan Miller: (231) 734-6546

    CONTACT: Norman Miller of Ridgeway Publishing, +1-585-798-0050

    SOURCE Ridgeway Publishing


  7. Beard Bandits Exclusive: Is there a cult in Amish country?

    19 Action News Jan 09, 2012

    (WOIO) - They're known as the beard bandits -- a group accused of terrorizing the Amish community by cutting the beards and hair of those who opposed their leader.

    Sam Mullet is the man the FEDS say is behind the beard bandits. For the very first time someone from inside Sam Mullet's crazy world is speaking out exclusively to 19 Action News reporter Scott Taylor.

    Sam Mullet's world, some call it a cult, exists on 800 acres in Bergholz, OH. It's where he lives with his children and other followers.

    "I think he has a way of brain washing you to do what he wants you to do," said Tonya Mullet.

    Tonya Mullet, Sam's daughter-in-law, is speaking out for the very first time about what's it like to live in Sam Mullet's world.

    "I believe if he told somebody to go out and murder for him, they would do it," said Tonya Mullet.

    Sam Mullet and six others including some of his own sons are now facing federal hate crimes. Investigators say the group shaved the beards and cut the hair of Amish who refused to support Sam Mullet.

    Tonya Mosley became Tonya Mullet in 1994 at the age of 16 when she married Sam Mullet's son, William.

    She was quickly taught the way's of Sam's world.

    "They wanted me to forget I ever had any family out here," said Tonya Mullet.

    Sam's world includes beatings and much worse according to Federal Court documents. Sam would have his follower's wives live with him in order to be counseled on how to be sexually satisfied in their marriages.

    "He has the woman believing he's some God. He is sleeping with daughter-in-laws. He is sleeping with other women," said Tonya Mullet.

    Investigators call Sam the leader of this community and members have to obey Sam. Tonya says if you didn't agree with Sam Mullet he would try and break you.

    "They would put two chairs in the middle of the floor and have Bill and I on those chairs and have any where from 15 to 20 chairs in a circle around us and make us sit that way all night long," said Tonya Mullet.

    Tonya left Sam's world over a disagreement about medical treatment for one of her and Williams' seven children. She admits to a criminal past including an OVI conviction and was once addicted to pain medication.

    Tonya and William have split. He has the kids. William does not live on his father's compound and belongs to another church.

    Tonya says Sam also held people hostage in their own homes.

    Even though she's out of Sam's world Tonya is still afraid of Sam Mullet. 19 Action News was able to get a message to Sam through his lawyer about Tonya's allegations. So far he hasn't responded but in the past he has said he's not part of a cult.

    "He is an evil man and I think he needs to be put away for a long time," said Tonya Mullet.

    Tonya believes Sam and his followers on those 800 acres of land are capable of anything.

    "He said he had a lot of land and could do away with me and I would never be found," said Tonya Mullet.

    Sam Mullet has not been found guilty of anything. He remains locked up and will be back in court on Wednesday, January 11th.


  8. Amish beard-cutting defendants in Ohio ask judge to ban references to cult or clan at trial

    By Associated Press | Washington Post August 14, 2012

    CLEVELAND — Seven of the 16 people charged in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio want any references to a cult or renegade group banned from their upcoming trial.

    The defendants asked a federal judge in Cleveland on Monday to prohibit such references as prejudicial. The prosecution will get a chance to respond before the judge rules.

    They also want banned any references to a clan, schism, breakaway or splinter Amish group.

    The defendants are charged with forcibly cutting the beards and hair of men and the hair of women, acts considered deeply offensive in Amish culture.

    The defendants say the attacks were internal church disciplinary matters not involving anti-Amish bias. They have pleaded not guilty and rejected plea bargains that offered leniency.


  9. Sex Counseling Of Ohio Amish Wives Highlights Sect Leader's Strict Control

    By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Huffington Post August 17, 2012

    CLEVELAND — Jurors should be allowed to hear about alleged sexual "counseling" of Amish wives by a man charged with masterminding beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio, prosecutors told a federal judge Friday.

    Prosecutors outlined the strategy in a legal brief in the case of 16 Amish defendants facing trial Aug. 27 in Cleveland before U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster. The government brief said alleged sexual "counseling" of wives by alleged ringleader Samuel Mullet Sr. shows the control he had over followers at their eastern Ohio farm complex.

    "His ability to convince those women, as well as their husbands and parents, to permit him to do so, establishes the extent of defendant Mullet's control over the community," the government said.

    Based on that, the government said, the jury can conclude that Mullet was aware of last year's attacks and approved.

    In addition to the sexual conduct issues, alleged paddling rituals and punishing members by sending them to a chicken coop "are not inflammatory; they are undisputed facts" that the jury should hear, the government said.

    Defense attorneys argued in earlier briefs that there is no proof of such sexual conduct and said mentioning it at trial would be prejudicial. They also asked the judge to bar any reference to the chicken coop punishment or "self-deprivation" such as cold showers or sleeping on boards.

    The sexual conduct issues would bias the jury and lead to a "trial within a trial" unrelated to the charges, the defense said.

    Cutting the beards and hair of men and hair of women would be considered deeply offensive in Amish culture. The Amish believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to stop shaving once they marry.

    Mullet previously said he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop his sons and others from carrying it out. He said the goal was to send a message to other Amish that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating him and his community.

    "They changed the rulings of our church here, and they're trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we're not going to do that," Mullet said late last year.

    The government said victims were attacked because they "lawfully expressed their disagreement with the practices in the Bergholz community" by leaving, by urging relatives to do likewise and by defying Mullet's rulings on religious issues.

    The defendants face charges including conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering in what prosecutors said were hate crimes motivated by religious differences.

    Members of the group living in Bergholz carried out the attacks in September, October and November by forcibly cutting the beards and hair of Amish men and women and then taking photos to shame them, authorities have said.


  10. Federal judge to allow questioning of Amish beard-cutting defendant on sexual counseling

    By James F. McCarty, The Plain Dealer August 21, 2012

    CLEVELAND, Ohio — Federal prosecutors will be allowed to question witnesses about Amish leader Sam Mullet’s sexual activities when the hate-crime trial of Mullet and 15 followers begins next week, a federal judge ruled Monday.

    U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster also agreed to allow testimony about Mullet’s use of corporal punishment to control followers, but forbid prosecutors from describing his group with words such cult, sect, clan, band, schism, faction, off-shoot, breakaway, renegade, rogue or splinter group. Witnesses, however, can use any terms they choose.

    Polster’s rulings, coming at the end of an afternoon hearing in U.S. District Court, set the stage for a trial that is scheduled to begin Monday and is expected to attract national attention because of the unusual nature of the charges and the glimpse the case offers into the reclusive Amish community.

    Mullet and his Jefferson County co-defendants face charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, hate crimes and obstruction. Prosecutors contend that Mullet orchestrated attacks in which some of his followers forcibly cut the beards or hair of nine of their religious enemies last year.

    Defense attorneys had sought to forbid references to "salacious" accusations that Mullet gave sexual counseling sessions to women followers. The lawyers called the accusations inflammatory, unfair, unproven, and unrelated to the charges.

    Prosecutors said they expect several women to testify to having sexual relations with Mullet. That testimony, prosecutors said, will support the premise that Mullet, a bishop, used the sexual liaisons to exert control over his flock, which contributed to disputes in the community and provided the motivation behind the hair-cutting assaults.

    Mullet, 66, of Bergholz in Jefferson County, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

    According to the indictment, women in the Bergholz Amish community were expected to leave their husbands and children and to live with Mullet. Anyone who disobeyed or resisted was ostracized from the community, the charging document said.

    Polster agreed to allow the testimony, but said he will instruct the jury that Mullet is not charged with any sex-related crimes.

    "All I want is the testimony that the practice occurred," Polster said. "That Mr. Mullet encouraged married women to experience this sort of sexual counseling. That’s it."

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    Edward Bryan, Mullet’s attorney, called the testimony highly prejudicial, and damaging enough to convince the jury to convict him on that basis alone. He warned that the trial should not turn into "a venue to falsely smear an entire Amish community.

    "Sam Mullet’s sexual relations three or four years earlier had nothing to do with their motivations," Bryan said. "These were personal disagreements. Nobody says Sam Mullet ever told anyone to do anything."

    But Polster disagreed. "It puts the whole thing into context," he said.

    In other rulings, Polster said he will allow prosecutors to call as an expert witness Donald Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa. and an authority on the Amish religion. Kraybill will only be permitted to testify about the traditions and culture of the Amish, and the significance of beards on men and long hair on women;

    The judge also will not require Amish witnesses to swear to tell the truth — a violation of their religion — but will only require them to affirm their truthfulness.

    Also on Monday, Polster decided to allow the opposing sides to argue to the jury whether hair- and beard-cutting constitutes ``bodily injury" -- a legal requirement for the definition of a hate crime. Prosecutors noted that an element of bodily injury is disfigurement, which they said includes hair-cutting. Defense lawyers opposed allowing that broad definition.

    Prosecutors have said they expect Mullet's followers will testify at trial that the forcible removal of an Amish man’s beard or an Amish woman’s head hair is akin to being "beaten up." Defense attorneys will argue it does not constitute bodily injury.

    ``If the defense wants to argue that it's not bodily injury, they're free to do so," Polster said. ``I'm not going to define it."


  12. Religious beliefs at center of Amish attacks trial

    by John Seewer Associated Press Coshocton Tribune August 29, 2012

    CLEVELAND -- A group of Amish men and women accused of hate crimes in hair-cutting attacks took action out of concern that members of their religion were straying from their beliefs, defense attorneys said Tuesday.

    Attorneys for the defendants didn't deny the hair cuttings took place. Instead, they argued that the Amish are bound by different rules guided by their religion and that the government shouldn't get involved in what amounted to a family or church dispute.

    At the center of the trial, which opened this week in federal court, are the rules of a religion that distances itself from the outside world and yields to a collective order as opposed to the laws of society. "These are religious separatists," said Ed Bryan, the attorney for the group's accused ringleader.

    Prosecutors said the attacks were motivated solely by religious disagreements between Amish bishops and a breakaway group in eastern Ohio that attacked mainstream members five times this past fall by cutting off their beards and hair, which carry spiritual significance in the faith.

    "Every one of these attacks targeted those symbols of Amish righteousness," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan said.

    The group spent months planning the attacks, she said.

    She described how sons pulled their father out of bed and chopped off his beard in the moonlight, and how women surrounded their mother-in-law and cut off two feet of her hair, taking it down to the scalp in some places.

    In the final attack, a man and his wife lured his parents to their farm, Brennan said. Once there, the older man's grandsons held him down while his son cut his hair, she said.

    Some of the victims and others from the community will testify against their relatives.

    The 16 people on trial live in a settlement near the West Virginia panhandle. All but one is related to the accused ringleader, Sam Mullet Sr., who rigidly sat in court with a beard hanging down to the middle of his chest. He wore a plain shirt with suspenders as did all the Amish men. The women wore white bonnets.

    The defendants have rejected plea bargain offers and could face lengthy prison terms if convicted.

    Prosecutors said the people who were targeted in the attacks were people who left the settlement over disagreements with Mullet's authoritarian methods. Others were bishops who had intervened in Mullet's decision to excommunicate several members. The bishops agreed the excommunications weren't consistent with Amish teachings and decided not to recognize the penalties, which angered Mullet and inspired the attacks, prosecutors said.

    Mullet's attorney said he never ordered the hair cuttings and can't believe what happened amounts to a hate crime.

    "What he's saying is these are personal, family disputes" Bryan said.

    Some of the defense attorneys said their clients were motivated by anger at their parents about how they were raised and the lingering bitterness. Another attorney said one of the defendants, Lester Miller, took part in the hair cuttings of his parents because he felt they had strayed from their religion.

    "He thought his parents had forgotten their roots," attorney Dean Carro said. "His intention was to take a symbolic step."

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    Brennan said some suspects kept the hair they cut, and one defendant took along a disposable camera to take pictures. Prosecutors presented one photo to jurors, saying it showed one of the suspects grabbing Raymond Hershberger, an Amish bishop who had voiced concern about Mullet, on the night five people broke into his house and cut his beard with shears.

    That same night, the group cut the hair of another bishop after grabbing him by his beard and dragging him out of his home, Brennan said.

    The group hired a driver to take them to the homes, she said. All of the suspects are members of the "Old Order Amish," meaning they don't own electrical appliances and automobiles or believe in divorce.

    Investigators later discovered one of the suspects had hidden the camera that contained photos from that evening, Brennan said. It was under a tree on Mullet's farm.

    "They wanted to see the trophies they collected," she said.

    Defense attorneys said none of the hair cuttings was meant to hurt anybody even though prosecutors said some of the Amish targeted suffered cuts, bruises and other injuries.

    "The aim is not to hurt the person," attorney Gary Levine said. "The aim is to bring them back to the community."

    Brennan said that several defendants admitted their roles and that Mullet didn't participate in the attacks but helped plan them.

    "Sam Mullet was at the beginning and the end of all of these attacks," she said.

    Mullet has said he didn't order the hair-cutting but didn't stop anyone from carrying it out.


  14. Woman says Amish sect leader father-in-law coerced her into sex

    By Kim Palmer (Reuters) August 30, 2012

    CLEVELAND - The leader of an Amish splinter group who faces hate crimes charges over accusations he masterminded a series of beard-cutting attacks coerced a daughter-in-law into having sex with him on the pretext she needed "sexual counseling," the woman testified on Thursday.

    Samuel Mullet Sr. and 15 other sect members are accused of planning or carrying out attacks on nine Amish men and women last autumn in southeastern Ohio, cutting off their hair and beards in assaults meant to humiliate the victims.

    Witnesses have testified the attacks were revenge for a dispute between Mullet and other Amish religious leaders for accepting the daughter-in-law's family and others into their communities after he shunned them. That followed their departure from his group over actions such as those described by the daughter-in-law.

    Amish men and women refrain from cutting their hair as a mark of respect for God.

    Mullet, 66, was not present at any of the assaults by his followers, but is accused of being the ringleader of the attacks.

    Before her testimony, Judge Dan Polster told the jury Mullet was not charged with any sex crimes and the testimony of the daughter-in-law was to be considered only in relation to the charges he does face.

    The daughter-in-law testified that the sect leader demanded that she hug him, kiss him and sit on his lap to save her marriage to his son, who was hospitalized for a mental breakdown in 2008. Reuters does not identify the victims of sexual assault.

    She also said Mullet had told other women in the sect that having sexual relations with him would "save their marriages" and he had told her she must stay in his home or the devil would get a hold of her.

    While she was staying in his home, Mullet told her that being intimate with him would help her husband get better, she testified.

    "I woke up in the middle of the night and a lady said, 'Sam wants you to go down to his bedroom,'" she said of one request she received while staying at his house in 2008.

    "I did not want to, but I always gave up," she said. "I was afraid not to."

    The daughter-in-law, her husband Eli Mullet, and their six children fled the Amish Bergholtz community later that year after Samuel Mullet Sr. complained that he did not understand why she would not obey him "like the other ladies do."

    They left with only a few suitcases and their children, she said.

    Earlier Thursday in separate testimony, Samuel Mullet Sr.'s sister, Barbara Miller, called her brother a cult leader. Miller testified on Wednesday that she had her waist-length hair shorn in an attack by his followers.

    When a defense attorney asked for her definition of a cult, Miller said that in a cult, "The leader is allowed to choose wives he wants and everyone goes along with it."

    The 16 defendants are charged with 10 counts including a federal hate crime, conspiracy and obstruction. They face up to life in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to run three to four weeks.

    (Editing by David Bailey and Eric Walsh)


  15. Amish Beard Cutting Case: Shunning In Religious Community Is Central To Hate Crime Trial

    By JOHN SEEWER, Huffington Post September 15, 2012

    CLEVELAND -- In the stern, self-regulating world of the Amish, those who act out time and again by wearing the wrong clothing, going to movies or otherwise flouting the church's doctrine can find themselves utterly alone.

    Fellow Amish in rare instances won't break bread with them at the same table, won't work with them and won't worship with them under the religion's centuries-old practice of shunning. In stricter settlements, shunning can break apart families, cutting off all contact between parents and their children.

    Saloma Furlong was shunned, or ex-communicated, after she left her church the first time over a family issue, and she was barred from attending her cousin's wedding after she returned home. "It was a very lonely two weeks," said Furlong, who eventually left behind her home in northeast Ohio for good and was permanently shunned.

    The Amish take the tradition so seriously that most churches won't accept someone who has been shunned until they make it right with those who've disciplined them.

    At the root of Amish hair-cutting attacks in Ohio and the federal hate crime trial that followed, prosecutors say, was a dispute over religious differences and a decision by Amish bishops to overrule the leader of a breakaway group who had shunned his former followers. Amish scholars say taking away a bishop's edict was unheard of and stunned communities far and wide.

    Six years ago, about 300 Amish bishops gathered in Pennsylvania to discuss the group's leader, Sam Mullet Sr., who had ordered the shunning of families that left his settlement near the West Virginia panhandle.

    Mullet had come to the attention of the bishops because, according to witnesses at his trial, there were concerns he was brain-washing community members. Prosecutors would later say he forced men to sleep in chicken coops as punishment, and one woman testified that Mullet coerced women at his settlement into having sex with him so he could turn them into better wives.

    The bishops eventually vetoed Mullet's shunning of the others, infuriating him to the point that he sought revenge last fall in a series of five hair-cutting attacks, prosecutors say.

    They charged Mullet and 15 of his followers with hate crimes because they contend they acted over religious differences and targeted the hair and beards of the Amish because of its spiritual significance in the faith. All could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on the charges that also include conspiracy and obstructing justice.

    Jurors began deliberating in the trial Thursday morning.

    None of the defendants has denied that the hair-cuttings took place, but Mullet has insisted that he didn't plan what happened. In an interview last fall, he defended what he thinks is his right to punish people who break church laws.

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    Shunning – also known as avoidance _is a rare happening in the Amish community. While outsiders might view it as punishment, the Amish consider it an act of love to help those who have strayed from their beliefs.

    Each individual church decides when to shun others and what kind of punishment they face. "It's not like there's a rulebook," said Steve Nolt, a history professor at Goshen College in Indiana.

    Only baptized church members can be shunned. And it almost always starts with a warning to stop breaking church rules – whether it's to quit drinking or stop talking on the telephone – and weeks or months of discussion.

    "Shunning is something the individual does to themselves," said Karen Johnson-Weiner, a professor at the State University of New York in Potsdam who has written extensively about the Amish. "It's community-wide tough love."

    There also has to be agreement within the congregation, but the bishop has the most influence in revoking someone's church membership.

    "That's a hard thing for a bishop to do," said Andy Hershberger, who testified in the trial that Mullet's son was among a group that cut his father's hair last fall. His father was one of the bishops who overruled Mullet's shunning order.

    Furlong, who left her home church for good after a dispute with a bishop, said shunning gives Amish leaders too much control. "They can use it like a hammer," she said.

    Because the Amish identify so closely with their faith, being shunned and faced with the loss of their salvation is extremely painful.

    "It's such an intense thing. Nobody can really explain it," said Furlong, who wrote a book called "Why I Left the Amish" in 2011. "That's a pretty tough thing to reckon with."

    Matthew Schrock, who left Holmes County's Amish community in Ohio during the mid-1990s, wasn't formally shunned, but no one would hire him because he was fighting with his father, who was the bishop. "There were a lot of people who wouldn't talk to me," he said. "No one was willing to risk the appearance of them siding with me."

    Shunning has its roots in biblical teachings and is used in some Mennonite churches as well. Jehovah's Witnesses also practice a form of shunning. But it's essential to Amish beliefs.

    "They want the person to see their error," Schrock said. "But under that, I think, is this desire to maintain the integrity of the group."


  17. Leader of Amish breakaway group found guilty of hate crimes in beard-cutting attacks in Ohio

    By Associated Press, Washington Post September 20, 2012

    CLEVELAND — The leader of an Amish breakaway group was convicted Thursday of hate crimes in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against members of his own faith following a dispute over religious differences.

    A federal jury found Samuel Mullet Sr. guilty of orchestrating the cuttings of Amish men’s beards and women’s hair last fall in attacks that terrorized the normally peaceful religious settlements in eastern Ohio.

    Mullet and four of his children were among 16 people who prosecutors say planned and carried out the five separate attacks that amounted to hate crimes because they were motivated by religious disputes. Prosecutors say the defendants targeted hair because it carries spiritual significance in their faith.

    All the defendants, who were charged with hate crimes, are members of Mullet’s settlement that he founded near the West Virginia panhandle.

    Mullet wasn’t accused of cutting anyone’s hair. But prosecutors said he planned and encouraged his sons and the others, mocked the victims in jailhouse phone calls and was given a paper bag stuffed with the hair of one victim.

    One bishop told jurors his chest-length beard was chopped to within 1½ inches of his chin when four or five men dragged him out of his farmhouse in a late-night home invasion.

    Prosecutors told jurors that Mullet thought he was above the law and free to discipline those who went against him based on his religious beliefs. Before his arrest last November, he defended what he believes is his right to punish people who break church laws.

    “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?” Mullet told The Associated Press last October.

    The hair-cuttings, he said, were a response to continuous criticism he’d received from other Amish religious leaders about him being too strict, including shunning people in his own group.

    Mullet faces a prison term of 10 years or more. The charges against Mullet and the others included conspiracy, evidence tampering and obstruction of justice.

    Defense attorneys acknowledged that the hair-cuttings took place and that crimes were committed but contend that prosecutors were overreaching by calling them hate crimes.

    All the victims, prosecutors said, were people who had a dispute with Mullet over his religious practices and his authoritarian rule.

    Witnesses testified that Mullet had complete control over the settlement that he founded two decades ago and described how his religious teachings and methods of punishments deviated from Amish traditions.

    One woman described how he took part in the sexual “counseling” of married women and others said he encouraged men to sleep in chicken coops as punishment.

    Mullet’s attorney, Ed Bryan, maintained that the government had not shown that Mullet was at the center of the attacks. The defendants who cut the hair and beards acted on their own and were inspired by one another, not their bishop, Bryan said.

    Some of the defense attorneys claimed that the hair-cuttings were motivated by family feuds or that the defendants were trying to help others who were straying from their Amish beliefs.

    In one of the attacks, an Amish woman testified that her own sons and a daughter who lived in Mullet’s community cut her hair and her husband’s beard in a surprise assault.


  18. Tiny Amish Mullet Sect Clings Together After Beard-Cutting Convictions

    By John Caniglia, The Plain-Dealer Huffington Post October 23, 2012

    BERGHOLZ, Ohio (RNS) Inside a one-room schoolhouse, Lizzie Mullet pulls her attention away from her students and focuses on the biggest issue facing them: their families.

    "We're doing the best we can to keep our spirits up," she said, "but we're worried about what will happen next."

    A month after a federal jury convicted Lizzie Mullet's father, Samuel, and 15 followers of hate crimes for beard-cutting attacks, this tiny Amish community continues on, tightly bonded and unwavering, yet troubled by fears of the future.

    The settlement, about 100 miles south of Cleveland, tries to hang onto its old-world beliefs in the face of an unforgiving federal justice system. Its members believe in Sam Mullet's teachings, appear content in their reclusive lifestyle and cannot understand why others want to intrude.

    During the trial, federal prosecutors offered an unflinching look at the settlement and its leader: They argued that Mullet considered himself a god and above the law. Witnesses portrayed him as a scowling preacher who imposed bizarre discipline that included spankings and confinements in chicken coops.

    He offered marital counseling to women in the community by having sex with them, witnesses said. And when Amish members opposed him, Mullet unleashed a band of henchmen to terrorize them, prosecutors said.

    The five raids in the fall of 2011 typically took place at night, as the attackers from Bergholz sheared the victims' beards and hair with battery-operated clippers and horse-mane scissors.

    Prosecutors said the attacks took place over religious disagreements.

    "Our nation was founded on the bedrock principle that everyone is free to worship how they see fit," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said after the trial. "Violent attempts to attack this most basic freedom have no place in our country."

    Members of the Bergholz community, meanwhile, scoff at the government's portrayal. They said they are tired of being treated like zoo animals by others in different Amish communities, who stop, whisper and watch their every move.

    They said the beard cuttings had nothing to do with avenging religious feuds. Instead, they involved family squabbles, a theory the federal jury rejected in convicting Mullet and the 15 others.

    And now, they worry about what will happen when U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster sentences Sam Mullet and his followers Jan. 24 -- and how it will affect their community. Nine of the 16 are in jail, awaiting their sentencing.

    The community lacks trust in law enforcement and fears that authorities, through the courts, may try to take the children of parents headed off to prison and pull them from the settlement.

    Lizzie Mullet sees the fear daily.

    When a sheriff's cruiser drives by the school, many of the school's 44 students cringe, fearing someone will be arrested, she said. Since the arrests last November, usually timid students have become rebellious, she said; others cry more easily. But she and other members say the community pushes on.

    Sam Mullet remains the group's religious leader, even as he sits in a holding cell in Youngstown. The 18 families in the settlement -- about 40 adult members and scores of children -- meet Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays for gatherings. They talk, listen and sing hymns.

    Members said they want to be among the most conservative of the Amish. "We're doing what the old-timers did for years," said Crist Mullet, one of Sam Mullet's sons. "We're going to keep going. We are not going to disperse. We'll deal with whatever happens when we get to it."

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    More than anything, they want their family members and friends who were convicted in September brought home. They hope the judge would simply release them, based on the amount of time they already have served in jail.

    "Justice has been served," Crist Mullet said.

    But federal sentencing guidelines indicate Sam Mullet, the 67-year-old bishop, could face life in prison. Dettelbach, the federal prosecutor, would not discuss the sentencings, saying it was up to the judge. His office has said that while Sam Mullet did not take part in the attacks, he orchestrated them, just as he did most of daily life in the Bergholz community.

    The others could get more than 10 years in prison. The potential sentences have caused some fear that grandparents and relatives from outside the community might attempt to gain custody of the children.

    "I don't think that will happen, though," said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, who for years has been one of Sam Mullet's fiercest critics. "I think the children will be fine."

    In 1995, Sam Mullet left an Amish community in Fredericktown, near Mansfield, Ohio, and headed to Bergholz, seeking to lead an ultra-conservative group. He and his wife, Martha, raised many of their 18 children on an 800-acre farm. Mullet formed a successful construction company, and the community of believers grew.

    After a series of squabbles that began in 2006, Sam Mullet excommunicated a handful of families from the church. A committee of Amish bishops reviewed the rulings and overruled Mullet, saying his decisions were not based on the scriptures.

    The committee allowed the families to join other Amish communities, and about five years later, in October 2011, 15 of Mullet's family members and followers carried out the attacks.

    Mullet's supporters said the first talk of beard cuttings came in about 2009 within the Bergholz community, when some members believed the community's troubles were caused by some members living in sin.

    The women had suggested the cuttings as a way to grow closer to God, said Sam Mullet's attorney, Edward Bryan. The men in Bergholz allowed their beards to be cut and acknowledged their wrongdoing. Bryan said they believed it marked a fresh start with God.

    But the attacks on those outside the community were anything but voluntary, according to court records and testimony at the trial.

    To most Amish, the cuttings are meant to degrade men, who grow their beards after marriage based on their religious beliefs. Sam Mullet's supporters said the beard cuttings, like stays in the chicken coop, became a symbol to members that they needed to straighten out their lives and become better people.

    Bryan said federal authorities overreached in their decision to charge Mullet and his followers with hate crimes.

    "The government jumped in before it knew all of the facts," Bryan said.

    But many who followed the trial questioned an Amish bishop sleeping with women in his community. Crist Mullet said the accusations of his father's sexual relationships had nothing to do with the allegations of the beard cuttings. But prosecutors said the issue of Mullet having sex with women in his community showed his power over it and his cultlike control over his followers.

    "They tell us that we're a cult, and it upsets all of us," Crist Mullet said. "They can't see what we're trying to do. We're trying to straighten up our lives and live closer to God."


  20. For Amish, fastest-growing faith group in US, life is changing

    As the Amish population in the US grows – forecast to hit 1 million by 2050 – the decline of farmland is forcing the community to spread to new areas and to evolve its agrarian culture.

    by Mark Guarino, Christian Science Monitor Staff writer November 30, 2012

    Millersburg, Ohio

    For Jacob Beachy, life moves along much as it always has. Every day, there are the 35 cows that need tending, as well as 90 acres of farmland. His is the life of an Amish farmer, in which family, work, and faith intertwine on one plot of Ohio land.

    Yet across the street, on 60 acres that were once a farm, stands a sprawling new mansion, complete with a multidoor garage. A few years back, that land sold for $1.4 million.

    “When we moved here in 1968, we thought we were in the sticks,” Mr. Beachy says, rocking in his living-room recliner. “All of this was working farms. It’s changed a lot.”

    Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz

    Indeed, for America’s Amish, much is changing. The Amish are, by one measure, the fastest-growing faith community in the US. Yet as their numbers grow, the land available to support the agrarian lifestyle that underpins their faith is shrinking, gobbled up by the encroachment of exurban mansions and their multidoor garages.

    The result is, in some ways, a gradual redefinition of what it means to be Amish. Some in the younger generation are looking for new ways to make a living on smaller and smaller slices of land. Others are looking beyond the Amish heartland of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, seeking more space in states such as Texas, Maine, and Montana.

    In Ohio’s Amish country, centered in Holmes County about 80 miles south of Cleveland, these forces are reshaping a region where 42 percent of residents are Amish – the highest percentage of any part of the US. Amid these changes, Amish here are struggling to maintain the traditions they hold dear: establishing core values within the family through manual labor close to home.

    The American Amish population has boomed during the past few decades. A study released this summer by Ohio State University in Columbus found that the Amish are growing faster than any other faith-based group in the US, with 60 percent of all Amish settlements in the US founded since 1990.

    According to the study, there are 456 settlements in the US and Canada – a number forecast to reach 1,000 by 2050. Likewise, the US Amish population – now at 251,000 –is estimated to grow to more than a million by 2050, the researchers add.

    The most apparent reason for such rapid growth, experts say, is that Amish birthrates are high and the community emphasizes keeping children in the faith. About 90 percent of Amish children keep their family traditions intact, though many may temporarily stray as teens and young adults, says David Weaver-Zercher, a religion professor at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

    In the Amish heartland, these demographics are clashing with geography, as Beachy can attest. “Amish will have to spread out,” Beachy says. “That’s why you see settlements all over – they are looking for farmland. You can’t buy a farm anymore to farm.”

    With his own farm, Beachy is in an enviable position. “I’ll never find out what this farm is worth, because I’ll never sell it,” he says.

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  21. But the nascent Amish diaspora is not always about economics. Some families are moving to other areas of the country because they think parenting becomes more difficult in a larger, more populated area – even if it’s Amish, says Professor Weaver-Zercher.

    For example, nearly 30,000 Amish live in the greater Holmes County settlement, which is the nation’s largest and spreads over five counties. (Amish “settlements” refer not to places with defined boundaries, but to regional communities where the majority of the population is Amish.)

    “Some Amish parents are looking for more secluded places, not just from the English” – non-Amish – “but sometimes from other Amish teens, because they want more supervision over their young people,” says Weaver-Zercher, noting that larger settlements can make it easier for young people to engage in risky behavior – such as drug use or alcohol consumption – more anonymously.

    “Instead of a community of 5,000 kids, you suddenly have one with 25 kids,” he adds. “At that level, the roughhousing activities will be more akin to what parents approve.”

    These issues are particularly poignant for the Amish, given that most formally end their education after the eighth grade. The population boom – combined with the land crunch – is forcing more young people to search for work outside the family home, which means they will experience a world much different from the one their parents knew, says Weaver-Zercher.

    On the good side, they will have more disposable income, which will translate to more savings. But working with non-Amish supervisors and co-workers means there will be challenges in maintaining the work ethic and values that have been traditionally taught on the family farm.

    Ernie Hirschberger, a father of seven, says his oldest son asked for a car when he was 16 because he “wanted more freedom.” Four years later, that car now sits with a “for sale” sign outside Homestead Furniture, the custom furniture operation Mr. Hirschberger runs with his family and 35 employees in Mount Hope, Ohio.

    Hirschberger is a symbol of the future of Amish entrepreneurs: He grew up on a farm, but he started making furniture 22 years ago and today his pieces can be found in all 50 states. His son, who has now embraced the Amish lifestyle, is a manager in the company’s finishing room.

    “He’s still a work in progress. He needs to learn,” Hirschberger says.

    Besides furniture, which is now a growth area for Amish business, Hirschberger says he is looking to bring new ideas to Holmes County, such as shrimp and fish farms or using hydroponics to grow herbs. He knows he can’t raise cows on his family plot of 10 acres, but he can help innovate new business models for Amish people.

    “You can’t just pick up your horse and buggy and go to Cleveland and be a computer tech,” he says. “We just have to think of other things for the smaller plots of land.”

    There are tangible benefits of staying in the settlements. The self-sufficiency of the Amish lifestyle, and its emphasis on community strength, meant the recession did not hit most Amish settlements as hard as it did the outside world. That economic security, Hirschberger says, is one reason more young people are deciding to follow in Amish traditions today than they did when he was coming of age.

    “They say, ‘This is a good option for our kids,’ ” he says. “To grow up as Christians should and in this lifestyle is not a hindrance.”


  22. Judge upholds verdict in Ohio hair-cutting attacks

    By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 8, 2012

    Amish sect leader Sam Mullet, convicted on federal hate crimes charges in connection with a series of beard-chopping attacks on other Amish in Ohio, will not be acquitted or get a new trial, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

    U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland refused to overturn the convictions of Mr. Mullet and his 15 followers, all but one of whom is related to Mr. Mullet.

    Mr. Mullet and his lawyer, Ed Bryan, had argued that Mr. Mullet did not participate in the attacks and that knowledge of them was not enough for the jury to convict him as the ringleader of a conspiracy.

    But prosecutors said he orchestrated the assaults, and the judge agreed.

    "The evidence at trial conclusively established that [Mullet], as bishop of Bergholz, ran his community with an iron fist -- nothing of significance happened without his knowledge and approval. Even if the government proved nothing more than that Samuel Mullet Sr. was told about the attacks in advance by his followers and then said or did nothing to stop or prevent them, or even voice his disapproval, a jury could conclude that he had joined the conspiracy."

    Mr. Bryan had also argued that testimony by Mr. Mullet's daughter-in-law, Nancy Mullet, about a sexual relationship she had with him tainted the jury because the allegations did not concern the beard- and hair-cuttings, and the government brought no charges related to sex crimes.

    The prosecution introduced that testimony to show Mr. Mullet's control over his community.

    Mr. Bryan said that shouldn't have been allowed, but the judge again sided with the Justice Department.

    He said the sex testimony was "directly relevant" to counter Mr. Mullet's defense that he didn't have anything to do with the attacks. The judge said the testimony and other evidence of other sexual relationships between Mr. Mullet and married members of his community was tied to the religious motivation of the assaults, because several witnesses testified that Mr. Mullet's family members -- especially his sister, Barbara Miller -- had criticized him for his sexual conduct.

    Mrs. Miller and her husband, Marty, had tried for years to persuade their adult children to move away to escape Mr. Mullet's influence. Both were victims of an attack by their adult sons at the direction of Mr. Mullet, according to trial testimony.

    Mr. Mullet and Mr. Bryan had also argued for acquittal on the grounds that the judge shouldn't have allowed the government to introduce an Associated Press story based on an interview with Mr. Mullet because they said his statements were taken out of context. The October 2011 story quoted Mr. Mullet saying, "We know what we did and why we did it. We excommunicated some members here because they didn't want to obey the rules of the church."

    The government used that story to show that Mr. Mullet was in control and ordered the attacks.

    The judge ruled that Mr. Mullet and his lawyer didn't dispute the accuracy of that story during trial, nor did Mr. Mullet take the stand to clarify what he meant, so it's too late now.

    Mr. Bryan has indicated that he may appeal the judge's rulings.

    Mr. Mullet and his followers are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 24 in Cleveland. He faces a decade in federal prison.


  23. Ringleader of beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in US sentenced to 15 years


    CLEVELAND - The ringleader in a series of unusual hair- and beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish religious followers in the U.S. was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison.

    Before his sentencing, Samuel Mullet Sr. told the judge that he had been blamed for running a cult and was ready to take the punishment. The judge also sentenced 15 other members of the deeply traditional group to prison terms ranging from one to seven years.

    Amish believe the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long and men to grow beards once they marry. Cutting it would be offensive to the group.

    The defendants were charged with a hate crime because prosecutors believe religious differences brought about the attacks.

    The 10 men and six women were convicted last year in five attacks in Amish communities in 2011. The government said the attacks were retaliation against Amish who had defied or denounced Mullet's authoritarian style

    The 67-year-old Mullet, his ankles in chains and a white beard down to mid-chest, said if his community is seen as a cult, "Then I'm going to take the punishment for everybody."

    The government had asked for a life sentence for Mullet. The defence asked for two years or less.

    Nine of 10 men who were convicted have been locked up awaiting sentencing. The six women, who all have children, have been free on bond.

    In a rare interview last week, Mullet's unmarried 19-year-old grandson, Edward Mast, discussed the family's attitude. He said they are steadfast in the belief that the attacks didn't rise to the level of a hate crime.

    "The beard, what it stands for me, what I know about it, once you're married, you just grow a beard. That's just the way the Amish is," Mast said.

    As for the victims, he added, "They got their beard back again, so what's the big deal about it?"

    Arlene Miller, 48, whose husband, an Amish bishop, was among the victims, thinks Mullet deserves a tough sentence and the others should get less time if they get cult deprogramming counselling.

    "It's a cult," she said. "Their minds were programmed in the wrong way by Sam Mullet, so we feel like these people are very deceived and they are actually victims of Sam Mullet."

    She said there were no winners in the ordeal.

    "There's no happy ending to this," she said.


  24. Expert: Ohio Amish who forcibly cut beards and hair of others were 'cult' in Amish garb

    By LARRY ALEXANDER Staff Writer Lancaster Newspapers April 16, 2013

    Last September, 16 Amish men and women in Ohio were convicted of federal hate crimes for forcibly cutting the beards and hair of eight Plain people.

    But were those convicted truly Amish? Or were they a cult in Amish garb?

    Donald Kraybill, Elizabethtown College professor and internationally recognized expert on Anabaptist groups, leans toward the latter.

    Last Thursday, Kraybill explained his reasoning to about 250 people at Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren during a gathering of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.

    Amish leader Sam Mullet and 15 followers were arrested in 2011 for beard- and hair-cutting attacks on eight former members, seven men and one woman.

    Besides local and state charges, the U.S. Department of Justice dubbed the incident a federal hate crime.

    Kraybill was contracted to teach the FBI about Amish culture and tradition. His involvement included five hours on the witness stand.

    Kraybill said Mullet, who was born Amish, was a loner who did not affiliate his group with other Amish congregations.

    "He was a lone ranger and was basically independent," Kraybill said.

    The settlement in Bergholz thrived for the first few years after its founding in 1995. Turbulence hit in 2006 when Mullet excommunicated eight families who questioned his authority.

    In response, Kraybill said, 300 Amish bishops from five states gathered in Ulysses, Pa., to discuss what to do with the families, since the excommunications were arbitrary and followed no established Amish policy. Eventually, the bishops voted unanimously to make an unprecedented "one-time exception," Kraybill said, and took the eight families into other congregations.

    "This action destroyed Sam Mullet's power," Kraybill said. "Until this time, he could threaten people if they challenged him or if they left, and they'd have no place to go. Now they could laugh at him, because they could leave Bergholz and have a welcomed home in another congregation."

    From this point, Kraybill said, Mullet's group "goes downhill in the direction of a cult."

    continued in next comment...

  25. Mullet's followers began to consider themselves pure and all other Amish wrong. In his writings, Mullet viewed himself a helper to God's prophet Elijah.

    "So we have Sam, theologically, defining himself as a prophet of God, and all the other Amish as prophets of Baal," Kraybill said.

    It was the excommunications that triggered the beard-shaving attacks, which law enforcement called assaults but Mullet's defense lawyers called "acts of compassion" meant to shame the victims into changing their ways.

    By this time, Kraybill said, the group had all the trademarks of a cult, including authoritative leadership and physical punishment, as disobedient members were locked in chicken coops for weeks or physically struck, although Mullet called it "paddling."

    There was also sexual promiscuity.

    "Sam would separate husbands and wives," Kraybill said. "The husband stayed home with the kids, and the wife comes and lives with Sam for four or five weeks, while his wife goes to another county to take care of grandchildren, supposedly."

    Interestingly, what qualified the attacks as federal hate crimes, Kraybill said, is that prosecutors claimed they violated federal interstate commerce laws since the shears used to cut the beards were not made in Ohio.

    Kraybill believes it is "misleading and inaccurate" to call Mullet's bunch Amish.

    "In my opinion they were moving very rapidly in a cult-like direction," he said. "So I do not like to use the word Amish because I think they represent all sorts of things that are not at all at the heart and soul of genuine Amish faith and worship."

    At the trial, Mullet was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The other men received 5 to 7 years while the women got 1 to 2 years.

    "So what does it mean to be Amish?" Kraybill asked. "Is a horse and buggy enough? Is dressing differently enough? My clear answer is, no way."


  26. Baby death leads to probation; Parents did not see doctor for boy's burns

    by Mark Caudill, News Journal Zanesville Times Recorder OHIO August 21, 2013

    MANSFIELD — The couple who did not get proper medical treatment for their son, who later died of burns, received probation Monday.

    William Keim, 34, and Jenica Keim, 32, of 1386 E. Hanley Road, pleaded no contest in June to endangering children. Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese found them guilty. In exchange for their pleas, prosecutors dismissed charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.

    DeWeese gave each of the Keims six months of probation. Per the plea agreement, the state is going to reduce the charge to a first-degree misdemeanor that will be expunged.

    The Keims declined to address the court. William Keim wore an orange polo shirt and white pants, while his wife wore a black blouse and a denim skirt.

    Dalton Keim, 2, died after the May 4, 2012, incident at their home in which he was severely burned by boiling water.

    Jenica Keim was getting ready to cook a turkey when Dalton somehow shifted the stove. The boiling water dumped on him, causing burns to 36 percent of his body.

    Instead of taking Dalton to the hospital, his parents used an Amish burn remedy consisting of salve and burdock leaves. William Keim was raised Amish, but left the community many years ago. Jenica Keim has never been Amish.

    The next day, the Keims took Dalton to a relative’s house for a second treatment. Dalton quit breathing and went into cardiac arrest. He was taken to a hospital, but it was too late.

    As part of their sentence, DeWeese told the Keims to write a statement on how they would handle the situation if it happened again. The couple brought an infant to court with them.

    “This is a very tragic situation, we believe to be an accident,” defense attorney John Allen said. Hans Scherner represented Jenica Keim.

    Allen said the Amish burn remedy would have worked had the Keims properly hydrated Dalton under supervision.

    Prosecutors recommended probation for the couple.

    “The loss of that child is the worst punishment they could ever receive,” First Assistant Prosecutor Brent Robinson previously told the News Journal.



    By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press August 23, 2013

    An Ohio hospital is fighting to force a 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

    Akron Children's Hospital is appealing a judge's decision that blocked an attorney who's also a registered nurse from taking over limited guardianship and making medical decisions for the girl.

    The hospital believes the girl will die without chemotherapy and is morally and legally obligated to make sure she receives proper care, said Robert McGregor, the hospital's chief medical officer.

    "We really have to advocate for what we believe is in the best interest of the child," he said Friday.

    The parents initially allowed chemotherapy treatment in May but stopped treatment in June. The parents said the effects on their daughter were horrible and that they were now relying on natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins, The Medina Gazette reported.

    The girl told a probate and juvenile judge that she didn't want chemotherapy because it made feel ill, can damage her organs and make her infertile, the newspaper said.

    Medina County Probate and Juvenile Judge John Lohn said he could only transfer guardianship if the parents were found unfit.

    "The court cannot deprive these parents of their right to make medical decisions for their daughter, because there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit," Lohn wrote in a ruling issued on July 31.

    An injunction, however, was issued in mid-August that ordered the family to resume treatment immediately until the issue was resolved. The hospital said the family only has visited once since then.

    McGregor said the girl's illness — lymphoblastic lymphoma — is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is very curable if she continues treatment.


  28. Judge sides with hospital that forced chemotherapy for Amish girl with leukemia

    CBS Associated Press August 28, 2013

    An appeals court has sided with a hospital that wants to force a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

    The court ruled that a county judge must reconsider his decision that blocked Akron Children's Hospital's attempt to give an attorney who's also a registered nurse limited guardianship over Sarah Hershberger and the power to make medical decisions for her.

    The hospital believes Sarah's leukemia is very treatable but says she will die without chemotherapy.

    The judge in Medina County in northeast Ohio had ruled in July that Sarah's parents had the right to make medical decisions for her.

    The appeals court ruling issued Tuesday said the judge failed to consider whether appointing a guardian would be in the girl's best interest. It also disagreed with the judge's decision that said he could only transfer guardianship if the parents were found unfit.

    The family's attorney, John Oberholtzer, said Wednesday that the ruling essentially ordered the judge to disregard the rights of the parents.

    Andy Hershberger, the girl's father, said the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her extremely sick.

    "It put her down for two days. She was not like her normal self," he said. "We just thought we cannot do this to her."

    Sarah begged her parents to stop the chemotherapy and they agreed after a great deal of prayer, Hershberger said. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious.

    "Our belief is, to a certain extent, we can use modern medicine, but at some times we have to stop it and do something else," Hershberger said in a telephone interview.

    They opted to consult with a wellness center and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins, and see another doctor who is monitoring their daughter, Hershberger said.

    "We see her every day. We watch her really close," her father said. "She runs, plays. She crawls up ladders. She's got a lot of energy, more than she had when she was doing chemo."

    Hershberger said they have not ruled out returning to Akron Children's Hospital if Sarah's health worsens. "We told them if it gets to the point that we cannot do anything for her, we would come back," he said.

    After the appeals court decision, the hospital said in a statement Wednesday that its goal is to ensure that the girl receives the most appropriate care based on scientific evidence and added that the allegation has never been about "parental unfitness."

    It said neither the hospital nor anyone else is requesting legal or physical custody of the child; instead, the hospital said, this case "involves a disagreement between providers and parents over what course of treatment is best for their child."

    Robert McGregor, the hospital's chief medical officer, said last week that it is morally and legally obligated to make sure the girl receives proper care.

    He said the girl's illness - lymphoblastic lymphoma - is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but she has a survival rate of 85 percent if she continues treatment.

    Some of the girl's tumors had gone away after the first round of chemotherapy, but she isn't yet in remission, the hospital said.

    "We really have to advocate for what we believe is in the best interest of the child," McGregor said last week.


  29. Sarah Hershberger, Ohio Amish Girl, Can't Be Forced To Resume Cancer Treatments

    By John Seewer Associated Press Huffington Post | September 5, 2013

    A judge has again blocked an Ohio hospital from forcing a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

    The order siding with the parents comes just a week after an appeals court sent the case back to the judge and told him to give more consideration to the request by Akron Children's Hospital.

    The hospital wants a registered nurse to take over limited guardianship of Sarah Hershberger and decide whether she should continue treatments for leukemia. The hospital believes Sarah's leukemia is treatable and says she will die without chemotherapy.

    Andy Hershberger, the girl's father, said the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her extremely sick.

    Judge John Lohn, in Medina County, said in his ruling Tuesday that not allowing the parents to make medical decisions for their daughter would take away their rights. He also said there is no guarantee that chemotherapy would be successful.

    "They are good parents,'' he said. "They understand completely the grave situation their daughter is in and the consequences of their choice to refuse chemotherapy for Sarah at this time.''

    Lohn said also that allowing for a guardian would go against the girl's wishes.

    "Even if the treatments are successful, there is a very good chance Sarah will become infertile and have other serious health risks for the rest of her life,'' the judge said.

    The hospital said it is disappointed with Lohn's ruling. Officials there have said they are morally and legally obligated to make sure the girl receives proper care.

    "We believe this case is about children's rights and giving a 10-year-old girl an 85 per cent chance of survival with treatment,'' the hospital said in a statement Wednesday.

    While state laws give parents a great deal of freedom when it comes to choosing medical treatment for their children, that's not always true when the decision could be a matter of life or death. Courts most often will draw the line when doctors think the child's life is in danger and there's a good chance that the treatments being suggested will work, according to several medical ethicists.

    The Ohio judge ruled in July that Sarah's parents had the right to make medical decisions for her, but the appeals court said Lohn failed to consider whether appointing a guardian would be in the girl's best interest and ordered him to re-consider the decision.

    Sarah's father said she begged her parents to stop the chemotherapy and they agreed after a great deal of prayer. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life. They live on a farm and operate a produce stand near the village of Spencer in Medina County, about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland.

    They opted to consult with a wellness centre and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins, and see another doctor who is monitoring their daughter, Hershberger said.

    Hershberger said they have not ruled out returning to Akron Children's Hospital if Sarah's health worsens. The hospital has said the girl's illness -- lymphoblastic lymphoma -- is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


  30. Ohio Court Rules Amish Girl With Leukemia Must Resume Chemotherapy Over Parents Wishes

    By Kim Palmer Reuters October 8, 2013

    (Reuters) - An Ohio hospital can force a 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia to resume chemotherapy over the protests of her parents who decided to stop treatment, an appeals court ruled.

    Akron Children's Hospital asked the judge to appoint a guardian for the girl after doctors became worried when her parents stopped treatment in June after only one of five prescribed rounds of chemotherapy.

    Her family was told that the girl has an 85 percent survival rate with treatment but would die within the year if she does not receive it.

    Maria Schimer, a lawyer and a former nurse, is expected to be appointed the medical guardian for the girl, according to the ruling released on Friday.

    The girl has only been identified by her initials, S.H.

    "Parental rights, even if based upon firm belief and honest convictions can be limited in order to protect the 'best interests' of the child," the court wrote in its ruling.

    The girl and her parents decided to end her chemotherapy in exchange for "natural medicines" after the child's first round of chemotherapy made her very ill.

    "They do not wish to subject their daughter to this and believe the will of God will triumph," said John Oberholtzer, the family's lawyer in August.

    The court ruling appointing a guardian reverses a lower court decision. Medina County Judge John Lohn had twice denied the limited medical guardianship request by Schimer.

    "A parent's right to make medical decisions for a child is an important incident of parenthood, subject to broad protection the Constitution," Lohn wrote in his September 3 ruling.

    (Editing by Brendan O'Brien and Lisa Shumaker)


  31. The family of the Amish girl with cancer who needs chemotherapy flee the country and claim natural healing has “cured” her

    by Orac on Respectful Insolence, Science Blogs October 28, 2013

    A couple of weeks ago, I commented on the story of 10 year old Amish girl in northeast Ohio with cancer whose parents, alarmed by the side effects of chemotherapy, had decided to stop the chemotherapy and treat their daughter with folk medicine instead. As a result, alarmed at the likelihood that Sarah Hershberger would suffer and die unnecessarily at a young age, the hospital treating her, Akron Children’s Hospital, went to court. It lost the first round, but earlier this month the original ruling was overturned, and it was ordered that Hershberger undergo chemotherapy to save her life. The odds of her survival with chemotherapy were estimated to be on the order of 85%. Her odds without chemotherapy? About as close to zero as you can imagine.

    One of the most disturbing things about this case is the reaction of so many people to it. It was not what you might hope. In reality, the predominant reaction was outrage that the state would so usurp parental rights. Indeed, if you go to the hospital’s Facebook page, you’ll see that there are still people ranting over it, with posts like this:

    I won’t EVER EVER EVER step foot in Akron Children’s Hospital EVER EVER EVER again. My children will NEVER go there after what you’ve done to this family.

    You should all be ashamed of yourselves. You want people to vote on something in November? I can tell you that I won’t be voting for anything for your hospital. Was it worth it? Putting this family through all of this? Was it WORTH IT? You’ve ruined your public image. You’ve ruined the confidence of parents trusting you and bringing their children to your doctors and hospital. I can tell you that I am not the only person who feels this way about your hospital now. People are scared to death to bring their children to you now. People talk and they don’t trust your hospital any more. It’s your own damn fault. http://journal.livingfood.us/2013/10/27/amish-girl-being-forced-into-experimental-chemotherapy-taken-out-of-us-and-recovers-with-natural-treatment/

    There was a lot more of this on the Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, all with generally the same hysterical tone. There were post after post after post by people claiming all sorts of evil intent on the part of the hospital, accusing it of “poisoning” the girl, and all sorts of other nastiness. What caught my interest, though, was the article cited in the mini-rant above, entitled Amish Girl Being Forced into Experimental Chemotherapy Taken Out of US and Recovers with Natural Treatment.

    That’s right. Sadly, but not entirely unexpectedly, the Hershbergers have apparently taken their daughter out of the country to avoid chemotherapy. The longer they do that, the more likely it is that their daughter will die a horrible death, and it will be her father Andy Hershberger’s fault. ....

    read the full article with embedded links at:


  32. Medical guardian drops bid to force chemo treatments on Ohio Amish girl with cancer

    Sarah Hershberger, 11, and her parents left their home in rural northeast Ohio just days before the state appeals court allowed the guardian to take over medical decisions. Sarah’s last known chemotherapy session was in June, but she has undergone alternative-therapy treatments and is doing well, her family has said.


    TOLEDO, Ohio — A court-appointed guardian is dropping her attempt to force an 11-year-old Amish girl with leukemia to resume chemotherapy after she and her parents fled their home to avoid treatment.

    The move filed in court Friday will likely bring an end to a months-long fight between Sarah Hershberger’s family and a hospital that began when her parents decided to halt the treatments because they were making the girl sick.

    The guardian, an attorney who’s also a registered nurse, was given the power to make medical decisions for Sarah after an appeals court ruling in October said the beliefs and convictions of the girl’s parents can’t outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.

    But the guardian, Maria Schimer, decided to drop the effort because she doesn’t know where Sarah is now and it has become impossible to monitor her health or make any medical decisions, said Clair Dickinson, an attorney for Schimer.

    “It didn’t make sense to drag this on any longer,” he said.

    Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital believe Sarah’s leukemia is treatable, but say she will die within a year if she halts chemotherapy. The hospital went to court after the family decided to stop chemotherapy and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.

    Sarah’s father said the family doesn’t oppose modern medicine and that they didn’t make their decision based on religious reasons.

    They ended chemotherapy because it was making her too sick and they feared it could end up killing her, the family’s attorney, Maurice Thompson, said.

    continued below

  33. Sarah and her parents left their home in rural northeast Ohio just days before the state appeals court allowed the guardian to take over medical decisions. The family left the country in late September before returning to an undisclosed location outside Ohio.

    Schimer’s attempts to meet with the family were rebuffed, Dickinson said.

    The guardian’s decision to withdraw from the case still needs final approval from a county court.

    “The judge’s approval of this resignation will pave the way for the family’s return home, which will allow Sarah to receive the family’s preferred treatment under the best possible conditions,” Thompson said.

    Sarah’s last known chemotherapy session was in June, but she has undergone alternative-therapy treatments and is doing well, her family has said.

    Thompson, who leads the libertarian 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in Ohio, said the case came down to fundamental principles and constitutional rights.
    “We made it clear to our opponents that they were in for a protracted battle,” he said.

    Andy Hershberger, the Ohio girl’s father, said this past summer that the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her extremely sick and she feared the treatments would make her infertile.

    The family’s attorney said the girl’s parents made their decision after researching the effects of chemotherapy.

    Sarah begged her parents to stop the chemo and they agreed after a great deal of prayer, Hershberger said. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious. They live on a farm and operate a produce stand near the village of Spencer in Medina County, about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland.

    Hospital officials have said they are morally and legally obligated to make sure the girl receives proper care. They said the girl’s illness, lymphoblastic lymphoma, is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but there is a high survival rate with treatment.


  34. Documentary Examines the Amish Practice of Shunning

    by Jeff Schapiro, The Christian Post February 6, 2014

    A new documentary explains why the Amish church practices shunning and reveals the struggles and sacrifices experienced by some of those who have left the Amish community.

    The film, titled "The Amish: Shunned," aired on PBS on Tuesday as part of the award-winning "American Experience" series of documentaries. It examines the lives of seven people who chose to leave their Amish lives and communities behind.

    Those who leave an Amish community can be excommunicated from the church and are sometimes completely cut off from seeing their own family. The goal of shunning, as one person interviewed in the film states, is to help people who are disobedient to become repentant, though it also serves to keep them from having a negative influence on the rest of the community.

    "It's the disobedient people who leave the Amish church," an unidentified Amish man said in the film. "They wanted something that was not allowable so they just moved on."

    "If we're not obedient, we will fall by the wayside," he added. "But how can you be obedient when you don't have any rules? Some people don't understand our church rules and they don't need to. It's not necessary that you people understand all the church rules that we have – that's our thing. When we lose obedience we lose the church."

    Those who were featured in the documentary shared how and why they left the Amish culture and explained how doing so impacted their relationships with their families. Some of them also spoke about issues of faith.

    Saloma, an ex-Amish woman who was interviewed for the film, said: "When I went to my first communion service the bishop said, 'Each individual grain must give up its individuality to become part of this loaf of bread. And in that same way each of us must give up our individuality to become part of the community.' I remember thinking to myself, 'I hope I'm one of those grains that falls off the grindstone. I don't want to be ground up.'"

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  35. The rules in an Amish community are rigid, and those who leave are believed to be at risk of ultimately going to hell. Joe, a former Amish man, said in the film that he left and returned to the Amish a total of seven times before he ultimately left the community for good. During one of his stints away from the Amish, he says, a friend used the Bible to show him that he could only get to heaven through Jesus Christ.

    "To the Amish, Jesus alone is not enough," said Joe. "Working, trying your best, following the rules and traditions of the forefathers – if you do it all just right then hopefully you'll make it into heaven."

    In some cases, being shunned means a person is totally excommunicated and is not allowed to attend even family weddings or funerals. Naomi, who was also interviewed for the documentary, says she is fortunate to be able to visit her family, even if she does have to dress in Amish clothes when she does so.

    Naomi was educated in a one-room school house and graduated at 13 years old with an eighth grade education, she says. One summer, while visiting Florida and beginning to experience life outside of the Amish community, she started working in a nursing home and began wanting to become a nurse. She faced a tough choice, however, because pursuing a college degree was forbidden in her Amish community.

    "Honoring your father and mother is really important to the Amish culture," she said. "And it's kind of hard to really know: When do you seek God's calling over what your parents are telling you what to do?"

    She decided to leave home and pursue a nursing degree, which she eventually completed.

    Several people shown in the film have worked to help others who have left the Amish community to assimilate into the broader American culture. Naomi ran a fundraiser to provide scholarships to former Amish who want to pursue an education. Saloma helped a woman with her transition out of Amish culture, though that woman eventually went back to her family. Joe and his wife, who consider themselves "missionaries to the Amish," have an apartment in their basement where former Amish can stay while learning to assimilate.

    "The Amish: Shunned" is a follow-up of sorts to another "American Experience" film, "The Amish." The documentary's website says there are 40 different types of Amish, and rules vary from one group to another. It also says the Amish population has doubled in the last 20 years, and as of 2012 there were about 265,000 Amish in North America.


  36. Ohio family fighting forced chemo appeals ruling under Ohio's health care freedom amendment

    By JOHN SEEWER Associated Press, The Republic February 08, 2014

    TOLEDO, Ohio — An Ohio couple in hiding with their daughter plan to pursue their legal arguments to make health care decisions for her even if judges allow a court-appointed guardian to withdraw from a campaign to put her through cancer treatments.

    Andy and Anna Hershberger are appealing a court decision that allowed the guardian to step in. The Amish couple said they weren't objecting to the treatment for religious reasons but because they believe the chemotherapy was killing 11-year-old Sarah.

    Meanwhile, the guardian says she can't contact the family and has asked to withdraw from the case.

    The Hershbergers say assigning a guardian to have the final say robbed them of their constitutional rights. They're appealing under the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment that voters approved in 2011. The amendment prohibits any law from forcing Ohioans to participate in "a health care system."

    Their appeal marks the first time a court has been asked to determine the scope of the amendment, which was largely thought to be a symbolic vote against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

    Maurice Thompson of the libertarian 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in Ohio helped draft the state amendment and is now representing the Hershbergers.

    "Allowing an uninterested third-party, one that has never even met the family or the child, to assert an interest in an exceedingly important parental decision will completely undermine the parent-child relationship," Thompson said in a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court.

    Thompson also has filed an appeal in a state appeals court. In a filing with that court, he said that Ohio's guardianship statutes appear to let courts substitute their judgment for that of suitable parents and that the court should take a narrower view that limits such second-guessing and is consistent with constitutional safeguards of their rights.

    Doctors say Sarah's leukemia is treatable, but she would die within a year without chemotherapy. Still, the Hershbergers decided last summer to halt the cancer treatments for Sarah because they said the chemo was making her too sick. Instead, they decided to use natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.

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  37. The hospital went to court to force the family to continue chemotherapy. A guardian, Maria Schimer, an attorney who's also a registered nurse, was given the power to make medical decisions for Sarah.

    But the girl and her parents, who normally live in an Amish community about 40 miles southwest of Cleveland, went into hiding more than four months ago to avoid the chemotherapy. They don't plan to return to their farm until the guardian is removed, their attorney has said.

    Schimer has since asked a judge to let her drop her attempt to force Sarah to resume chemotherapy because she can't contact the girl or her parents. A decision could come within several weeks.

    While Schimer wants to step away, she also wants the ruling that allowed for a guardian to stand, arguing that the Hershbergers waited too long to claim that their constitutional rights had been violated.

    Thompson, the Hershberger's attorney, called the case a significant constitutional issue under Ohio's health care amendment, which he said was designed to preserve "the right of parents and their children to choose their health care without compulsion and prevent forced health care."

    Ohio voters in 2011 overwhelmingly approved the amendment prohibiting government from requiring Ohioans to buy health insurance. The measure, though, did not stop the implementation of Obama's new federal health care law because a state amendment can't nullify federal law.

    Opponents of the amendment, including some liberal groups and legal experts, said during the campaign that the question's broad prohibitions against government intervention in the health care system could hurt Ohio's ability to enforce related state laws and regulations.

    Marc Spindelman, a law professor who specializes in constitutional law at Ohio State University, said the question for the courts is whether the amendment can be stretched to apply to the Hershberger family's situation.

    "It's not clear the health care amendment helps clarify the issue," he said. "It's not a slam dunk."


  38. NOTE: for articles in this archive related to vaccination go to:


    Measles Outbreak In Ohio Leads Amish To Reconsider Vaccines

    by SARAH JANE TRIBBLE, National Public Radio June 24, 2014

    The Amish countryside in central Ohio looks as it has for a hundred years. There are picturesque pastures with cows and sheep, and big red barns dot the landscape.

    But something changed here, when, on an April afternoon, an Amish woman walked to a communal call box. She picked up the phone to call the Knox County Health Department. She told a county worker she and a family next door had the measles.

    That call spurred nurse Jacqueline Fletcher into action.

    "The very next morning we were out to collect samples, collect nasal swabs and also draw blood. And it was just textbook measles," says Fletcher.

    A nurse in Knox County for nearly three decades, Fletcher had never seen the illness, but she knew the symptoms.

    "The rash. They had the conjunctivitis in the eyes, their eyes were red," she says. "They don't want the light, they sit in the darkened room, wear dark glasses. I mean they were just miserable. High temperatures, 103, 104 temps. So this was the measles."

    The largest outbreak of measles in recent U.S. history is underway. Ohio has the majority of these cases — 341 confirmed and eight hospitalizations. The virus has spread quickly among the largely unvaccinated Amish communities in the center of the state.

    Fletcher collected samples the afternoon she arrived. A county worker drove them immediately to the state health department and quickly confirmed the measles. The next day, Fletcher says she was on a call with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "I remember the first conversation we had with the CDC," she says. "The fellow said, 'You have to get ahead of this.' "

    Fletcher started organizing door-to-door vaccinations, and set up vaccination clinics at various locations.

    On a Wednesday in mid-June, her clinic takes place in a store that usually sells construction supplies. A steady stream of people come throughout the day. After the workday ends, Amish families form a line out the door while buggies continue to roll into a nearby parking lot.

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  39. Most of the children are barefoot, not needing to wear shoes until they work out of the home. The girls wear dark-colored, homemade dresses and bonnets. The boys, pressed trousers and button-up shirts. Inside the clinic, most people are calm, but the younger ones are scared.

    Ervin Kauffman reassures his six children as they squeeze into a small back office for their second shot for mumps, measles and rubella since the outbreak began. While many Amish are not against vaccines in principle, many, including Kauffman's children, have never had shots.

    "I guess there was no scare to us before," Kaufman says. "I guess we were too relaxed."

    Kauffman says the outbreak has changed other customs, too. "We're just now starting with weddings," he says. Spring is the Amish wedding season, a time when hundreds come together, often traveling from other states and sometimes Canada. Those weddings were postponed. Church services, typically held in family homes, were also curtailed. "We didn't have church for almost two months because of the measles, so we wouldn't spread them, so we kind of tried to put the clamp on them," he says.

    Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller came out to visit Fletcher's clinic to lend support to the vaccination effort. She has no idea how many are still at risk of contracting the illness.

    "It's hard to answer that because we still don't know what the number is of who has the potential to be sick," she explains.

    That's because there's simply no official count of how many Amish live in Ohio. Researchers at Ohio State University estimate that there are about 33,000 Amish living in the six-county area where the outbreak began.

    At last count, 8,000 people in those counties had been vaccinated.

    But Miller fears the measles will continue to spread because there is still resistance to vaccinations.

    Paul Raber, 35, is one of those who is skeptical. He decided to get the measles vaccine for himself and his family. But the father of 11 isn't sure if he or his family will get other shots. "We might, we might," he says, sounding doubtful.

    Meanwhile, the virus is spreading, with more cases being reported in nearby Holmes and Stark counties.


  40. NOTE: previous media reports related to the Amish beard-cutting incident are found in the comments section above

    Amish Couple Charged In Hair Cutting Attacks Return To Life After Prison With Modern Additions

    By Kim Palmer | Reuters Huffington Post July 28, 2014

    Amish farmer Raymond Miller developed a taste for Mountain Dew soda, got his GED, and wonders if he should get a pool table after learning to play in prison.

    His wife, Kathryn, who had never ridden a public bus before boarding one last year to go to prison for forcibly cutting the hair of her relatives, was introduced to yoga and step classes while behind bars.

    The Millers, members of an Amish breakaway sect from eastern Ohio at the center of shocking 2011 hair-cutting attacks on other Amish followers, are trying to settle back into life at home after being exposed in prison to a world their religion is focused on locking out.

    The Amish shun modern technology and regard beards for adult men and uncut hair for married women as sacred. In Bergholz, where the Millers live, they are Old Order, which means no electricity or telephone lines into the house.

    Unless, like Raymond Miller, 29, you are on probation and must make daily phone calls to a probation officer and wear an electronic ankle monitor while harvesting hay.

    "I’m ready to get rid of it," Raymond said of the telephone installed in his home. "We get salesman calls about electric bills and they don’t believe that we don’t have an electric bill."

    Recently released after spending nearly a year in prison, the Millers were part of a group of 16 Amish from Bergholz who were convicted in late 2012 of hate crimes for the hair-cutting attacks. The victims included Raymond Miller's parents.

    Prosecutors said the attacks were intended to humiliate and were carried out in retaliation for personal and spiritual disagreements that Bergholz's bishop and leader Sam Mullet had with Amish in other groups. Mullet, who was portrayed as extremely authoritarian, is serving 15 years as mastermind of the attacks.

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  41. His followers were sentenced to one to seven years each. Defense lawyers did not deny the hair-cutting took place but said that hate crime charges were over-reaching.


    One thing both of the Millers had to get accustomed to in prison was the concept of free time, something the Amish do not have a lot of at home.

    "I read, played softball and played pool. I liked pool and I was pretty good at it," Raymond said.

    "I think we could get a pool table at Sam’s," he said, referring to Mullet's home, which has a large meeting room for church services. "I think it would be alright."

    Kathryn, 25, who also learned the game, shook her head 'no' in the background.

    "I like to play pool but we are not allowed to play pool here," Kathryn said. "The girls in prison gave me a hard time that I was gambling."

    Raymond lost weight in prison because he did not like the food but says he did develop a liking for Mountain Dew.

    Kathryn tends to a strawberry patch and the three young children she had to leave in the care of her mother while she was in prison.

    Her now nearly 3-year-old daughter sometimes calls Kathryn's mother "mom" even though Kathryn has been home two months. "She still asks for my mom a lot," she said.

    Kathryn said she wore a smaller head covering than her typical Amish bonnet while in prison, along with long brown dresses. She uses prison slang and referred to fellow prisoners as "cellies" and "bunkies" and talked about the SHU, or solitary housing unit.

    "I didn't feel like I was Amish," she said.

    Knowing that she would be returning soon to her family kept Kathryn going. She also discovered yoga and step classes.

    The Millers said they do not regret going to trial but do not believe it was fair and are appealing their convictions.

    "We really didn't have a jury of our peers," Raymond said. "They don't know about the Amish, the lifestyle."


  42. Convictions of Amish Sect Leader and Followers Overturned in Hair-Cutting Attacks

    By ERIK ECKHOLM, New York Times August 27, 2014

    A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned the hate-crimes convictions of the leader of a breakaway Amish sect and his followers who sowed fear in the Amish of eastern Ohio in 2011 for a bizarre series of attacks in which they cut the hair and beards of rivals.

    But the sect’s leader, Samuel Mullet Sr., who is serving a 15-year sentence, will not immediately be freed, and nor will eight followers who are still in prison with lesser sentences.

    While their hate-crimes convictions were voided, the defendants remain under indictment for those crimes and could be retried. Federal prosecutors have weeks to decide whether to appeal Wednesday’s decision, call for a new trial or drop the case. The convictions of Mr. Mullet and his followers for the lesser crime of obstruction of justice remain in place.

    In voiding the convictions, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled that the judge in the 2012 trial that convicted Mr. Mullet and 15 followers had given the jury an overly expansive definition of a hate crime. (Seven followers have completed their prison terms.)

    At the urging of federal prosecutors, who were pressing for an unusual application of the 2009 federal hate-crimes law, the judge told the jury that the religion of the victims must be only one “significant factor” among others in motivating the assaults. But the appeals panel ruled that the judge should have told jurors that, for the attacks to be a hate crime, the religion of the victim must be the predominant motivating factor, and said the evidence did not support that conclusion.

    “When all is said and done, considerable evidence supported the defendants’ theory that interpersonal and intrafamily disagreements, not the victims’ religious beliefs, sparked the attacks,” the appeals court ruled.

    At the trial, the defendants did not deny that they had carried out the attacks, jumping people who had criticized Mr. Mullet as a cult leader, forcing them down, and shearing off the beards of men and the long hair of women. While Mr. Mullet did not take part in the assaults, the government portrayed him as the mastermind.

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  43. Beards and long hair are central to Amish identity, and the attacks were widely seen as an effort to humiliate the victims. Members of Mr. Mullet’s small community in Bergholz, Ohio, later said that they had engaged in beard- and hair-cutting among themselves, as well, to punish hypocrites and force them to re-evaluate their faith. But they also described a series of family conflicts and a bitter custody battle that had led to enmities with other Amish and a fervent desire to strike out at critics.

    “We’re very pleased with the ruling,” said Wendi L. Overmyer, a federal public defender from Akron who argued the appeal.

    While “it only addresses one of many issues we raised,” she said, the rejection of the jury instructions was an important step. “Now, all the defendants will be given a chance to have the charges considered under the correct standard of law.”

    Defense lawyers had sought a more sweeping repudiation of the government’s decision to invoke the federal hate-crimes statute, with its stringent penalties, in a dispute among feuding members of the same religion. But the circuit judges confined their decision to the jury instructions and what they called a lack of evidence that religion was the primary motivating factor.

    One member of the three-judge panel dissented, arguing that the convictions should stand and that Mr. Mullet in particular had acted “because of the victims’ religious beliefs.”

    The United States attorney in Cleveland, Steven M. Dettelbach, said in a statement that federal prosecutors were “reviewing the opinion and considering our options.”

    If they decide to pursue a new trial, the defendants could apply to be released on bond, said Edward G. Bryan, a federal public defender in Cleveland who represents Mr. Mullet.

    “I hope this decision today takes us one step closer to returning Mr. Mullet to his home and community,” Mr. Bryan said, “but we’re not out of the woods.”

    Mr. Bryan said he had spoken by phone with Wilma Mullet, one of Mr. Mullet’s daughters, who remains in Bergholz and was not involved in the assaults. “She was happy but cautious,” he said, and promised to spread the word of Wednesday’s court decision among the community.


  44. [NOTE: previous news reports on this story of Amish beard cutting are posted in the comments above]

    Are they really Amish

    Author speaks about clan that carried out beard-cutting attacks in Ohio

    by Brian K. Pipkin, For Mennonite World Review November 10, 2014

    ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. — Ironically, the first group convicted for religiously motivated violence under the U.S. Hate Crime Prevention Act was Amish. Or claimed to be.

    “This is a sad, sad bizarre story,” Amish scholar Donald Kraybill told hundreds of listeners who gathered Oct. 21 at Elizabethtown College.

    “While the ‘good Amish’ in Nickel Mines readily forgave the shooter and his family, the ‘bad Amish’ of Bergholz showered vengeance on their own people,” writes Kraybill in his new book, Renegade Amish.

    Nine Amish victims — eight men and one woman — were left disfigured, bloody and bruised from Amish-on-Amish attacks inspired by Bishop Sam Mullet, who, as Kraybill says, exacted retaliation and revenge on those “critical of his autocratic decision-making.”

    Kraybill served as an expert witness for the FBI during a 10-day trial in 2012 with 20 lawyers that ended in 87 guilty verdicts.

    Charges of conspiracy, lying, obstruction and hate crimes sent 16 Amish to prison with sentences ranging from one to 15 years. Mullet received the maximum sentence of 15 years.

    The hate-crime convictions were eventually reversed by the Cincinnati Appellate Court. The majority opinion said the judge should have asked the jury: “Was religion a primary motivation?” rather than “Was religion a significant motivation?” On Oct. 10, the U.S. Department of Justice petitioned the Appellate Court for a full review of the case.

    Kraybill described Mullet as a strong-minded, opinionated and conservative person who despised modern trends and held tightly to old customs. Kraybill believes Mullet’s theology is disturbed and distorted.

    When people began questioning Mullet’s ways, he embarked on a campaign of terror.


    Mullet’s knee-jerk reaction to disagreement was to excommunicate. Because the Bergholz clan practiced strict shunning, ex-members were unable to join other groups until they confessed their wrongdoings to Mullet. But 300 Amish leaders exempted Mullet’s victims, allowing ex-members to unite with other Amish churches without confession.

    This was a pivotal point, when Mullet’s power was eviscerated.

    He responded with a message in the form of a drawing. In it he was compared to Elijah, the true prophet of God, while the 300 ministers were likened to the false prophets of Baal.

    Mullet rejected the Christocentrism of Anabaptism. He loved the Old Testament’s violent narratives. But in Amish culture, the New Testament, especially the Gospels, has always been central.

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  45. One way Mullet taught his people lessons in obedience was by quoting the Old Testament.

    “He wanted to go back to the Old Testament, to the time of Abraham,” one member said, “because God spoke directly to people through the prophets, men could have multiple wives and use physical punishment.”

    ‘Purity’ and violence

    Apart from violence, the most non-Amish aspects of Bergholz were Mullet’s rituals of purity. The first was beard cutting.

    “Tuesday night I opened the door unsuspectingly and terror walked in,” said Barb Miller, describing the night her husband, Marty, was pulled out of bed at 10:30 and forcibly held down as Amish men grabbed and cut off his beard, leaving him bloody and razor-burned.

    Beard cutting, Kraybill said, is an act of shaming. It struck at the heart of Amish identity and caused public embarrassment.

    He said the motivation for these attacks was simple: revenge on critics.

    After the attacks, Amish families, many unaccustomed to locking their doors, began locking them. Kraybill said bishops confessed privately that they armed themselves with pepper spray.

    Mullet’s group also established Amish jails, as they liked to call it, where people were confined in animal pens — some by force, others by choice. Some were incarcerated for “bad thoughts.”

    Mullet had an Amish carpenter fashion a wooden paddle to spank disobedient adults. Spanking was a public spectacle as adults took turns hitting each other at public gatherings. When questioned, Mullet misquoted Proverbs: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

    Mullet claimed right intentions for his actions. Spanking, cages and cutting were acts of love, he said. He also looked to the First Amendment for exoneration. Claiming his actions were religious, he wanted the government to stay out.

    Judge Dan Aaron Polster was not persuaded. In addition to terrorizing and disfiguring their victims, the defendants “trampled on the Constitution” and the First Amendment, which guarantees religious freedom, Polster said. He said Mullet did not act out of compassion.

    Are they Amish?

    Kraybill questions the Amish-ness of this group. But he doesn’t label them a cult either. Instead, he said, they have cult-like features. Though they retained many practices of Amish life, they discarded core principles like worship, prayer, nonviolence and the primacy of the Gospels.

    “They are not Amish in any traditional sense of the term,” Kraybill said.

    Amish don’t paddle, use violence or place folks in chicken cages. Amish don’t torture.

    The court also questioned the group’s Amish identity, defining them as people who “purported to practice the Amish religion.”

    During the lecture, Ben Riehl, an Amish man, labeled the Bergholz people “fake Amish.”

    “Once they stopped using the New Testament and stopped calling themselves Christians, they ceased to be Amish,” he said.

    Riehl said the Amish of Lancaster County do not consider them Amish.

    Kraybill’s book lists 25 reasons the group is not Amish.

    One Amish man said, “Our strengths of obedience and respect for authority were turned into weaknesses.”


  46. Anti Vaxxers Are Idolizing the Amish, Inexplicably

    A viral pseudoscience article claims the Plain People never get sick because they don't get vaccinated. Actually, members of the religious sect are prone to some terrible diseases.


    “When we think of Amish people we think of a simple life, free of modern advancements.” So begins a viral article, called “Why the Amish Don’t Get Sick,” which seeks to prove that Americans would be healthier if they lived more like the midwestern Anabaptists. The piece appears to have its roots in a site called LA Healthy Living, but it has recently bounced its way across the naturopathic Internet, ending up on the domains of quack doctors and, more recently, on a hippie news site called Earth We Are One, through which it landed in my Facebook feed.

    Though it masquerades as “what we can learn from them”-style journalism, the piece is basically just catnip for the anti-GMO and anti-vax crowds. And sadly, it appears to have already spread its nonsense far and wide.

    “Most of us view [the Amish] as foolish for not using the advantages of convenient technology,” it reads, “and even look down on them for not conforming to the norms of mainstream society.” (Yeah, you know how people are always like: “iPads are so great; the Amish are a bunch of idiots for not using them.”)

    “But if we look at the statistics,” it continues, “the Amish are much healthier than the rest of America. They virtually have no cancer, no autism, and rarely get sick. What are they doing different from the rest of America?”

    The first tip, according to this article, is not getting vaccinated: “In spite of constant pressure from the government, the Amish still refuse to vaccinate.”

    Nope. Most Amish parents vaccinate, but even then, the relatively low overall vaccination rate in the community fueled a massive measles outbreak in Ohio’s Amish country earlier this year. The incident proved something that Amish and “English” parents alike should know by now: Vaccines don’t cause autism, but not getting a vaccine can cause outbreaks of nasty, 19th-century diseases.

    The rest of the items in the listicle aren’t as terrible. Being physically active, not getting too stressed out, and eating a lot of vegetables are all “Amish” habits the article says other Americans would do well to adopt. However, its suggestion that Amish food contains no GMOs is bunk—some Amish farms do use genetically modified crops for financial and efficiency reasons. Besides, there's no evidence that genetically modified foods are detrimental to human health in any way.

    But it’s the very premise of the article that’s bizarre. If you’re going to hype a community as “never getting sick,” use a place that’s actually remarkably healthy, like Minneapolis. Not only do Amish people get sick, they get some of the worst diseases in the world.

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  47. Almost all of the roughly 250,000 Amish people in the U.S. can trace their roots back to a few hundred Swiss farmers who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. The centuries of isolation and intermarriage has forged tight-knit communities, sure, but it has also caused widespread genetic problems.

    One example is Maple Syrup Urine Disease—so named for the smell of the sufferer’s urine and ear wax—which causes the body to be unable to metabolize protein. Most people with MSUD experience vomiting, seizures, and brain damage starting in infancy, and they die early.

    Only one out of every 180,000 babies in the general population is born with the disease, but it strikes one out of every 358 Amish babies. Treatment usually involves avoiding meat and dairy entirely—which is tough to manage in the “all-natural” Amish lifestyle. Liver transplants are another option, but few Amish can afford them.

    And that’s just one of the many virtually unheard-of genetic diseases that plague the Plain People.

    Granted, one study found that the Amish do have a lower incidence of seven types of cancer—mostly because they don’t drink, smoke, or have unprotected sex with lots of different partners. They also reduce their risk of skin cancer by wearing wide-brimmed hats and covering their bodies from ankle to wrist. But you don’t see “LA Healthy Living” trumpeting the health perks of bonnets.

    It’s tempting to brush this kind of thing off as a fringe piece of “content” that no one will read, but the version of the story on Earth We Are One garnered nearly 68,000 pageviews, according to its own counter. That site also has more than 600,000 fans on Facebook. Anyone with an audience that big who uses an insular religious sect to prop up their dangerous pseudo-science should bemeidung—shunned.


  48. Amish cult leader resentenced to 129 months

    by Kim Wendel, WKYC-TV March 2, 2015

    Just after 3:30 p.m., Polster re-sentenced Amish cult leader Samuel Mullet Sr. to 129 months in prison, down from the original sentence of 180 months.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- On a sunny but cold Monday, federal prosecutors and defense attorneys gathered in U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster's courtroom.

    Just after 3:30 p.m., Polster re-sentenced Amish cult leader Samuel Mullet Sr. to 129 months in prison, down from the original sentence of 180 months.

    He re-sentenced Amish cult members Johnny Mullet to 60 months; Lester Mullet to 60 months; Levi Miller to 60 months; Eli Miller to 60 months; Lester Miller to 43 months; Emanuel Schrock to 43 months; and Daniel Miller to 43 months.

    The remaining eight members -- all women -- were re-sentenced to time already served.

    Polster is to re-sentence 16 of the convicted defendants from 2012 after an appeals court overturned their sentencing back in August 2014.

    Outside the courthouse, at least one man was there to support the Amish.

    A picture outside a courthouse about 114 miles from where the 16 were found guilty of beard- and hair-cutting attacks may speak volumes.

    But during the 2012 trials, it was a different set of pictures that federal prosecutors used to show what happened down in several counties.

    All of the defendants, including Bergholz 'cult' leader Samuel Mullet Sr., pleaded not guilty to charges that they forcibly cut the beards and hair of Amish men and women.

    The five cutting attacks on a total of nine victims took place between September and November 2011 -- Sept. 6, Sept. 24, two on Oct. 4 and one of Nov. 9.

    During the trials, prosecutors used pictures of horse mane shears allegedly used in the multiple attacks against other Amish.

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  49. Other exhibits included a camera allegedly used to photograph the victims' appearances, hair from the victims and transcripts of jailhouse calls by some of the defendants.

    WKYC's Dick Russ was the first reporter to track down Mullet in Bergholz in October, 2011, only days after the second and third of the attacks had taken place.

    WKYC was the only TV station that managed to interview Samuel Mullet Sr. Russ interviewed Mullet Sr. as Mullet Sr. sat atop a bulldozer on his 880-acre farm in Bergholz.

    At the time of Russ' interview, Mullet Sr. had not been charged with a crime.

    In the Oct. 9, 2011 interview, the leader of a break-away Amish sect denied he had anything to do with a series of beard-cutting attacks which took place in several counties in eastern Ohio in September and October 2011.

    One more attack occurred later in November.

    Mullet Sr. did admit that he knew about the raids, in which Amish men have their beards cut off, and Amish women and men have had their hair cut, but had nothing to do with the incidents.

    Additional exhibits included letters from one of 16 defendants and video and audio recordings of interviews with other defendants

    Prosecutors even used some video footage taken by WKYC when Samuel Mullet Sr. was interviewed.

    The trial centered on leader Samuel Mullet Sr., then-66, who was found guilty of planning the attacks in October-November 2011 in several Ohio counties in a dispute over religious differences.

    Besides conspiracy, the jury convicted Mullet Sr. on six additional charges, including lying to the FBI on Nov. 22, 2011, when asked about the attacks. Jurors acquitted him on two other counts, destroying a bag of hair brought back from one of the attacks and the Sept. 24, 2011, attack on David Wengard.

    In fact, Count 3, the attack on Wengard, saw none of the other three defendants charged in that count guilty.

    Defense attorneys had conceded the hair cuttings took place but argued that the government was overreaching by calling what happened hate crimes. They argued the cuttings were merely personal family disputes, so-called "family feuds."

    The original sentencings took place in January 2013.