I first heard the news about the Amish beard-cutting when I was in Grabill, Indiana. One of the people in the audience gave me a newspaper clipping. I was not surprised that it originated from the Bergholz, Ohio group led by Sam Mullet, because I’d heard about his fanaticism before. I figured that people’s attention spans are short, so I thought it would blow over. Yesterday I checked the internet, and realized this story is as much in the news as the shooting at Nickel Mines was five years ago.
You can read Ira Wagler’s take on this issue here: “Amish” Thugs; The Bergholz Gang
. While I agree that this behavior is reprehensible, I don’t think it helps to denounce Bishop Sam’s Amish validity as Ira has done. In my opinion, this is part of the problem. The Amish way of dealing with deviant behavior is all within the realm of the church because they don’t recognize that there is sometimes a psychological basis for this behavior. If the person “repents” he makes a public confession in church, which means no one may never speak of it again. This tends to create a shroud of secrecy around the wrongs and turns the issues underground, only to resurface later. This process also ignores the needs of the victims. If the person doesn’t “repent” or follow the instructions of the church elders, the only response the Amish have is to excommunicate that person — in other words, drive them away and make them feel they don’t belong.
Most of the Amish (and former Amish) I know in Holmes County think of Geauga County as backward. Ira mentioned that he talked to his Amish friends in Holmes County to get the scoop on Bishop Sam. It seems he may have adopted their point of view when he pointed out the fact that Bishop Sam emerged out of Geauga County. I quote:
Bishop Sam emerged from the strict plain Amish settlement in Geauga County, up near Cleveland. The Geauga Amish have always had an unsavory reputation. Just a notch above the Swartzentrubers. “Low” Amish. Uncouth. Rough. Hard core, far more so than the mad bishop who tormented me all those years ago. Their laughter is hard and mirthless. Many drink. Or smoke. Or both. And their youth practice bed courtship. All the bad stuff my father raged against in his writings, all his life. That’s Geauga.
From what I can tell from Ira’s post, Sam Mullet was ordained as minister and then as bishop in Holmes County (actually Wayne County, but the two counties are often called the Holmes County community). Whether he was ordained in Geauga or Holmes doesn’t really matter. I don’t know of any Amish who “discipline” their members in other ways than what I mentioned above (except if we count Bishop Sam, who allegedly uses all kinds of bizarre physical punishment). My point is, though, that none of the Amish I know have a way of dealing with sociopaths or sadists among them who commit great evils. They don’t usually turn to the law. So, a fanatic can be spawned out of any Amish community, whether it’s Aylmer, Ontario Canada; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; or Shipshewana, Indiana — just as one did out of the Geauga and Holmes communities. Until courts, social workers, and other professionals (and the Amish themselves) have a different way of responding to these fanatics, they will be able to do as much damage as Bishop Sam has done before they’re stopped. The Amish need to stop hiding from the outside world that atrocities happen in their communities and cooperate with law enforcement. Society needs to be able to deal with the Amish who break the law in the same way they do with anyone else who breaks the law.
Ira Wagler, a self-proclaimed libertarian, wrote that he thinks they should “nail him. Put him away for a while.”
My opinion: The hair will grow back on the people who had their hair cut. I am much more concerned about the possibility that the people in the Bergholz community are being physically or sexually abused as was alleged in a report from 2007
Abdalla also said there are “some very serious allegations” of molestation and attempted rape in that Amish community. The sheriff’s department is also investigating the death of a 2-year-old Amish boy who lived in the community. An autopsy on that toddler was never performed though required by law, Abdalla said.
I do not know what became of this investigation, just as I don’t know what will become of the current one on the hair cutting incidents. To me, cutting hair from an adult’s head is a petty crime compared to abusing children. After all, the adults had the ability to defend themselves, and the children don’t. The children in Bergholz are the ones left without advocates, while the world focuses on forced haircuts. In one report an Amish man was quoted as having said that he’d rather be dead than have his beard cut. That is taking Amish martyrdom a bit too far, if you ask me.
I find it interesting that the men in the Amish community had to be violated before the Amish became willing to cooperate with the law to try to stop Sam Mullet and his cronies, yet they were quiet when the allegations were made about the child sexual abuse in 2007. This is interesting, but not particularly surprising — having lived among the Amish, there is no doubt in my mind where the power lies — certainly not with the women or the children.
I did a little poking around on the internet and found that Crist S. Mullet is a registered sex offender in Bergholz, Ohio. This doesn’t surprise me either. In his description, there is mention that he has scars on both his elbows and his knees. If I were in law enforcement, I would want to know how those came about, especially if he is the son of Bishop Sam Mullet.