Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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Forces Changing the Amish from within

The word “bizarre” has been used many times in describing the hair-cutting attacks that were allegedly orchestrated by Sam Mullet from Bergholz, Ohio. And for good reason — it is pretty bizarre. From what I’ve heard of Sam Mullet, and the little I’ve seen from videos such as this one, I’d say he is one scary dude. I first heard about him back in 2007 when his community was raided because of allegations of child sexual abuse.

Sam Mullet is behind bars now, which I found out on Wednesday night through an article in the New York Times. I hope that this opens an opportunity for people in that community who feel trapped or are concerned for their children to make their escape while they can. There is a lot of debate about whether Sam Mullet is or is not a cult leader. I don’t know the answer to this question — it probably has a lot to do with one’s definition of what a cult leader is. For me, this is not really the issue — the issues of his abuse of power in all their different forms are far more important.

The other debate is about whether Sam Mullet is or is not Amish. I’ve heard declarations from Amish people that he is absolutely not Amish. This brings up a whole debate about what makes a person Amish. Until this issue about Sam Mullet appeared, I think if people identify themselves as Amish, they are Amish. He was certainly born Amish. He was Amish when he was ordained minister and then bishop. So when did he cease to be Amish? Obviously, he still wants to claim he is Amish (possibly to hide behind the label to carry out his abuses). Either way, the mainstream Amish were rejecting him as an acceptable Amish person, or taking away his Amishness. So the symbol of the beard and haircutting is important in understanding the way he thinks. He must have thought he is evening the score by depriving his Amish enemies of their Amishness by cutting the very thing that distinguishes them as such.

What I find the most interesting is that the men in the Amish communities had to be attacked for some of them to be willing to use the laws in the “outside” world to put a stop to the abuses. And the claims from several of the victims — that he would rather have been beaten black and blue, or that he’d rather be dead — are melodramatic and taking that Amish martyrdom just a little too far. Their hair will grow back. I don’t doubt that they were concerned for their well-being and locking their doors or buying pepper spray and shotguns. They should not have to live in fear of violence.

The allegations of the abuse within the Bergholz community is also important. If people were being made to sleep in a chicken coop and beating on one another and if Sam Mullet was indeed taking sexual advantage of the women in the community, it is not a safe environment in which to raise children, whether or not they are being abused directly.

I have never heard anything about Sam Mullet’s wife. I find it interesting that she has never been mentioned in all of this. I have no idea whether she is still alive or with him, but I just find it odd that she has never been mentioned in all of the articles I’ve read.

Perhaps this is an example of how it is getting harder for the Amish to live their lives separate from the world. Other examples are: the Amish in Kentucky who have gone to court about not having the orange triangles on their buggies; the alleged sexual abuse by Chester Mast; and the money fraud case of Monroe Beachy. It may be that the Amish communities cannot continue to be so sheltered as they have been. In all these issues, except for the one about the triangles, it is because of deviant behavior by members of their own communities that they are having to fall back on the laws in mainstream culture. The Amish are not equipped to deal with sociopathic behavior because they don’t recognize that there is often a psychological basis for them. These examples demonstrate how the Amish will be forced to change the way they deal with deviant behavior or else succumb to the laws in mainstream society.

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