Religious Fundamentalists Attack Alleged Heretics and Heretics’ Backers

The allegations are in this FBI affidavit; here is the summary, from Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause):

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that authorities [Wednesday] arrested Samuel Mullet, Sr., the Bishop of a break-away Amish group, known as the Bergholz clan, as well as three of his sons and three other followers, on charges of forcibly cutting the beards of 4 Amish men who were members of a different Amish community. The FBI Affidavit in support of a criminal complaint … says that Mullet controlled all aspects of his followers lives, forced extreme punishments on them and cleansed married women [clan members] of the devil by sexual intimacy with them. After 8 families moved away from the Bergholz community in 2005 because of religious disagreements, Mullet excommunicated them. However a special committee of bishops from other communities determined that Mullet’s excommunications were invalid. The 4 victims of the beard cuttings were involved with the bishop’s committee, or aided break-away families, or, in one case, was one of the excommunicated members (and the father of one of those charged in the case)….

The Affidavit seeks a criminal complaint charging the 7 defendants with conspiracy to violate the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act (18 USC Sec. 249). The federal Hate Crimes statute permits federal prosecution only if the crime involves one or more specified links to interstate commerce. One of those links is that the defendant employed a dangerous weapon that has traveled in interstate commerce. The FBI affidavit states that the attacks were carried out with “hair clippers and 8″ scissors manufactured in the state of New York.”

And from the Plain Dealer article [UPDATE: link fixed]:

“You’ve got Amish all over the state of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana that are concerned,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla. “We’ve received hundreds and hundreds of calls from people living in fear. They are buying Mace. Some are sitting with shotguns. They’re putting locks on their doors — because of Sam Mullet.”

Plus this:

The hair and beard cuttings, bizarre in today’s culture, are meant to degrade Amish men, who grow their beards after marriage based on their religious beliefs. In some of the attacks, Mullet’s followers used a camera to capture the images of the cut beards, a further attempt to insult the victims, authorities said.

These are not your Harrison Ford’s Amish.