"Conscience: that still, small voice that makes you even smaller." Amish Proverb
The school year is ending early in Bergholz, Ohio. The Bergholz Amish community decided to wrap up school a few weeks ahead of schedule so some of the children could spend more time with their parents. Five of the parents--four women and one man--are preparing to enter federal prison on Friday. They have been convicted of hate crimes in hair- and beard-cutting attacks on other Old Order Amish in Ohio.
Nine others are already serving time. Two more are expected to report to prison later. Altogether, sixteen people of that particular group have been convicted, sentenced and imprisoned in separate facilities in various states.The ringleader of the clan, Sam Mullett Sr., has been sentenced for fifteen years. His followers have been sentenced for one to seven years, depending on their involvement.
According to relatives of Sam Mullett Sr., these beard-and-hair cutting crimes were the final straw of escalating harrassment. They had been living in fear of what Sam and his followers might due to them. "Sam got what he deserved," one cousin said. "He attacked people in the safety of their home and he assaulted older people." This renegade group of Amish have been disowned by other Old Order Amish communities.
Hate crimes are treated as a separate category in criminal codes and are punished to the maximum extent of the law. They're considered to be criminal offenses motivated by bias, particularly dangerous because they manifest bigotry. They are considered to be more than mere acts of violence.
So what do you think? Did these Bergholz, Ohio Amish hair-and-beard-cutting commit hate crimes? Or just heinous crimes.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. She hosts a weekly radio show and has a free downloadable app, Amish Wisdom, that delivers a daily Amish proverb. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find Suzanne on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com.