Expert: Beard cutters not Amish
Clan members, sentenced for attacks, strayed too far to be authentic, scholar saysBy Tim Huber Mennonite World Review
They have beards and buggies, but a leading expert on the Amish says the Bergholz, Ohio, group that conducted a series of retaliatory beard-cutting attacks in 2011 near the Pennsylvania border should not be considered Amish.
Donald B. Kraybill, the senior fellow of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, said the Bergholz clan ceased to be Amish because they used punitive force and stopped holding regular church services, among other reasons.
“I call them a clan, and I do not consider them Amish at all,” Kraybill said.
Kraybill served as a cultural witness in the September trial in which a jury found 16 Bergholz men and women, including leader Sam Mullet, guilty of 87 charges, including hate crimes.
The group was sentenced Feb. 8. Mullet, 67, received a 15-year sentence. Other sentences ranged from one to seven years.
For defendants who are married couples with as many as eight children, U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster staggered the sentences, so both will not be incarcerated simultaneously.
In September, Kraybill gave five hours of testimony in a crowded courtroom. He visited the Bergholz area last year and interviewed about 15 people, including victims, Amish leaders involved with Mullet and members of Mullet’s group — a group Kraybill hadn’t heard of before the story broke in 2011.
His research revealed a group Amish in name only.
“They discontinued church services about two years before the beard cuttings,” Kraybill said. “They discarded the New Testament and [put] their focus on the Old Testament. I have evidence of illustrations comparing Sam to the prophets like Elijah.”
Kraybill notes the group routinely violated key articles of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith, a 1632 document used by all Amish congregations, which rejects revenge and the use of force.
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