In an article in the latest Mennonite World Review, Donald Kraybill, who served as expert witness in the trial, had this comment on Sam Mullet’s group: “I call them a clan, and I do not consider them Amish at all.”  More:

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.

I wrote that Ohio Amish I asked this past week about the sentencing responded positively.  I’ve repeatedly heard Amish describe the Bergholz people as a cult.  There are a number of unsavory rumors about other things Mullet was up to floating around.

All the above must have played into the Amish response to this case.  An English friend made the point that each of the 14 letter writers who asked for strong sentencing probably represented 1000 Amish people.

I don’t know how much of the 15-year sentence represented punishment for the crime and how much was an attempt to prevent further harm.  Regardless of the answer to that question the MWR article summarizes well the fear of further danger from Sam Mullet, and the ways in which his group strayed from what it has traditionally meant to be Amish.