Members of Amish Splinter Sect Arrested on Hate Crime Charges
In the first case of its kind, the FBI on Wednesday arrested the leader of an Amish splinter sect and six of his followers in Ohio on federal hate crime charges for cutting the hair and beards of other Amish men and women.
The hair-cutting was a form of religious degradation and viewed as punishment in a leadership squabble among various Amish clans, court documents say.
“The defendants conspired to carry out a series of assaults against fellow Amish individuals with whom they were having a religiously-based dispute,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a joint statement.
The suspects “forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut off their beards and head hair with scissors and battery-powered clippers, causing bodily injury to these men while also injuring others who attempted to stop the attacks,” the statement said.
The case is unusual in that the Amish are pacifists who denounce violence and routinely handle their disputes and punishments internally without involving law enforcement.
“The fact that federal charges have been filed is stunning in this Ohio town, as the Amish seek to forgive those who have wronged them,” Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter John Caniglia reported Wednesday from Millersburg.