Amish watching and testifying in beard cutting trial

The big Amish news this week is the trial of 16 members of the Bergholz group, which opened in a Cleveland federal court Tuesday.  The accused are charged with hate crimes for their roles in the beard and hair-cutting attacks. Some face sentences of 20 years or more if convicted.

Defendants have rejected plea bargain deals offering much shorter sentences, and have argued that their actions were related to internal church matters.  Lawyers for the defendants this week tried to make the case that the Bergholz attackers acted out of compassion and concern for victims’ spiritual well-being.

The sensational nature of this case is sure to continue to draw worldwide attention, particularly since testimony over alleged “sexual counseling” behavior of leader Sam Mullet has been ruled acceptable at the trial.

What do Amish think about the proceedings?  A local news station sat down with Professor David McConnell (co-author of An Amish Paradox) to gauge reaction of Amish in Holmes County, where some of the attacks took place.

“They talk about trial all the time, just like any of us would,” says College of Wooster Professor David McConnell, an expert on the Amish and a confidante of Ohio’s Amish communities.

“They will be reading the newspapers and talking among themselves about the proceedings.”

“Most of the Amish that I’ve talked to really have distanced themselves from Sam Mullet and his group,” McConnell told WKYC. “They actually use the word ‘cult’ to describe the Bergholz group.”

Amish have been present at the trial and have been testifying.  One member of the Holmes community at the trial’s opening had this to say: “He needs to face the judicial system because something needs to happen because he’s putting fear in the community and this is a big deal,”…“I just hope that justice will be served, that my people won’t have to live in fear in my community.”

One Amishman described the attacks on his father on Wednesday.  The man’s father, a bishop, did not preach in church until his beard had grown back.  Sam Mullet’s sister has testified about an attack on her husband carried out by her sons and their spouses.

Amish don’t seek the media spotlight, and especially this kind of spotlight.  But in this case they will be in the public eye for some time to come.  The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

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    1. Linda

      Erik, is it okay to mention that you will be a guest today at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, along with Osiah Horst and Linda Maendel, on Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Amish Wisdom show? If not, you can delete this. The topic, “Who Are the Anabaptists?”, will be recorded at

      1. Sure that is perfectly fine to mention Linda 🙂

    2. Robin Wyatt

      Erik, I dont’ know if I will say this quit right so forgive me in advance if it comes out a little wired. I hope that those that did the hair cutting and beard shearing to get convicted. In my way of thinking they are no better maybe even worse then those fighting over in the middle east. They fight over there because this group don’t believe what they do or they way they think they should or how they should. Well those 16 Bergholz did the same thing to those they violated. And why I think it is worse is because it was done to people that are basicly the same religion. And the Ansectors CAME to this country in fear of persicution, and wanted freedom to live as they saw fit. And that is what our country does. I hope I said this right.

      1. OldKat

        Good job

        Sounds to me like you nailed it!

    3. Brenda Henry

      @ Robin Wyatt

      Well said, Robin.
      My Amish neighbor and I have been following this story very closely. He was born/raised near that area in Ohio, and much of his family is still there. He stops in each afternoon after work, and reads the latest that I have bookmarked for him.
      I agree with you 100%!

    4. Robin Wyatt

      Thank You Miss Brenda. I hope his family is well and not affected physically by any of this. I would love to have your kind of neighbor.

    5. Don Curtis

      Amish in the news

      Mark wanted me to let you know that there is a good article on the Belle Center on the front page of last evening’s Bellefontaine Examiner. It basically lets people know that the Amish people do pay their share of taxes and maybe a little bit more. Refreshing. The Belle Center Amish also contribute twenty-five dollars per buggy to the church which makes out a check for the Logan County Engineer to pay for the road repair.

      1. Carolyn B

        Amish in the News

        Don Curtis, thanks for telling us about the article on Belle Center.

        I read it and was better informed. I’d advise skipping the comments section attached to that article as the majority seem to be a little “troll”-ish and negative on the Amish lifestyle.

    6. Don Curtis

      By the way, Eric, Mark asked me to ask you when you are going to visit the Belle Center Amish Community? You have an open invite to stay with him.

      1. I’d enjoy that Don, thanks for mentioning it, very nice of him. Hmmm…maybe next week?? I’m leaving tomorrow for a week trip to Indiana and Ohio 🙂

    7. Joseph Costa


      These people deserve to be jailed. They can practice their faith and have no right to interfere in an-others. They attacked and cut the beards knowing what it meant and did so free of will. They will have to accept the consequences and that is it. Their intent has zero to do with the breaking of law. Their religious law does not supersede the states laws. They have the right to practice for themselves and their minor children but after that its not their business to mind.