Most representations of the Amish cite them as peaceful, community-oriented people who wouldn’t harm flies if they didn’t absolutely need to. So imagine the surprise within and without the religious community when reports surfaced of a rogue band of Amish people literally pulling other Amish people out of their homes and cutting off sections of their hair.
The New York Times reports that that’s exactly what’s going on in eastern Ohio, where a number of men from an Amish settlement outside Bergholz have been attacking other Amish people in the area, forcibly separating men from sections of their beards and leaving some women with multiple bare patches on their scalps. Myron Miller’s wife and daughter watched as he was pulled outside of their home in Mechanicstown and sheared by a group of five or six men.
“It just terrified me that these guys were actually pulling me out of my house,” Mr. Miller recalled. “My whole family was terrified.”
The Bergholz group, as it is known, has been visiting terror upon families in what is apparently a revenge-seeking crusade. The Times reports the group is led by the tonsorially named Sam Mullet, a 66-year-old man who became “bitterly estranged from mainstream Amish communities” when he tried to excommunicate families who moved away from his settlement of about 120 people years ago. When he didn’t, he is said to have gotten angry. Police officials and other Amish families suspect this anger is what caused this fall’s attacks. The theory seems to be that if you can’t excommunicate the families that wronged you, might as well emasculate their leaders.
“The beard is a key symbol of masculine Amish identity,” said Donald B. Kraybill, a sociologist and expert on the Amish at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. The women view their long hair, kept in a bun, as their “glory,” Dr. Kraybill said, and shearing it was “an attack on her personal identity and religious teaching.”
Mullet maintains that he did not order the attacks, but he is aware of them. And so are the police — the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department has arrested five men involved with these attacks. And we hope for the sake of this community, they can quash the attacks altogether.