12 charged in Amish beard cuttingBy Mark Gillispie Religion News Service
CLEVELAND — Federal prosecutors have expanded their case against members of a breakaway Amish sect for their roles in shaving the hair and beards of people considered to be their religious enemies.
An indictment issued Dec. 20 in U.S. District Court lists 12 suspects, including the sect’s leader, Samuel Mullet, 66. The FBI originally arrested Mullet and six other men on Nov. 23 when authorities feared that more attacks were imminent.
Among the five additional people implicated are two women: Linda Shrock, who is Mullet’s daughter, and Anna Miller, who is married to one of Mullet’s nephews.
All but one of the 12 are related directly or through marriage to Mullet.
Federal authorities say the attacks were motivated by revenge after a group of Amish bishops refused to accept Mullet’s excommunication of eight families that had left his community because they disagreed with his authoritarian leadership.
The indictment accuses Mullet of forcing women to have sex with him so they could learn to please their husbands better. It also accused Mullet of allowing “the community to engage in practices of self-deprivation and corporal punishment” to show their devotion to him.
Community members would sleep for days at a time in filthy chicken coops and were supposed to obey not only his interpretation of the Bible but also all of his orders and directives, the indictment said.
An expert on Amish culture said Mullet’s community operated beyond what is considered the norm for Amish communities.
“Given what we know, the technical definition of a cult would probably fit here,” said Steven Nolt, a history professor at Goshen (Ind.) College.
Nolt said that while Mullet and his followers dressed and called themselves Amish, the actions they are accused of would prove otherwise.
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