Lancaster Bishop Charged With Failing To Report Suspected Abuse

Members of the Lancaster County Amish community contacted police – after first meeting with church leaders – about alleged cases of sexual abuse in their midst. From Lancaster Online:

In what appears to be the first such case of its kind in Lancaster County, an Amish bishop has been charged with failing to report suspected sexual abuse.

Levi S. Esh Sr. 63, of Pequea, was charged Tuesday with one felony and one misdemeanor count of failure to report to appropriate authorities.

According to charging documents, in late October 2019, two concerned members of the Amish community met with Esh on one occasion, and another occasion, Esh and other Amish leaders about sexual abuse.

“They were told once, ‘It’s been taken care of and it’s none of your business’ and then at the second meeting, ‘We aren’t talking about it’ and ‘it’s none of your business let it go,’” the documents said.

The members then went to police.

The underlying matter concerned John G. Beiler, 41, of Providence Township, who was recently charged with sexually assaulting three girls several times between 2011 and 2015. The girls were between 12 and 14 years old at the time.

According to court documents, Beiler confessed to church leaders to abusing the girls and was told to confess to the girls’ father. Beiler was then excommunicated and Esh told the girls’ father that church leaders were keeping a close eye on Beiler.

Since last year the Plain community has been under the spotlight over the abuse issue, first with a series of articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last spring, and then another report this January.

lancaster county buggy

The Amish people who spoke up in this case first confronted church leadership in October. One wonders if media coverage played a part in encouraging the Amish community members to speak out.

There have been other recent outreach efforts to encourage Amish to communicate abuse cases to authorities. Also, there may very well have been concern that the man in question remained a threat to other children in the community.

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    1. Geo


      As unpleasant as this is, I’m glad to see it reported. Covering up avoids embarrassing the community but it does nothing to discourage this behavior. Sunlight is a good disinfectant.

    2. Rebecca

      Lancaster Bishop Charged With Failing to Report Suspected Abuse

      It is always disheartening to read this kind of article and be reminded that this goes on. My relationship with the Amish in Indiana has been extremely rewarding and pleasant, but I know this sort of thing occurs, primarily from my reading. However, I taught in a local minimum security prison and one of my students was an Amish man who was in jail for this same reason. He was an excellent student and very likable person. I see it as a part of a larger cultural tragedy that the Amish need to correct. I hope this is a sign that they are coming to recognize that they can be a plain people and religious people without their women being subjected to such abuse.

    3. J.O.B.

      Great work by going to police

      More proof, that by going public with these stories, the Amish are learning how to better deal with cases of abuse.

      They went to the church leader, and were not satisfied with his response. So they then went to the police.

      GREAT WORK!!!

      They did not give up. They did not submit to terrible advice from the Bishop(“…it’s none of your business. Let it go.”) That is a horrible thing for anyone to say. Esp from a religious leader like the Bishop.

      This is why stories of abuse need to be told. Even if they are graphic and uncomfortable to hear.

      It forces people to wake up and snap out of a unhealthy environment and take correct action to stop it. Instead of submitting to looking the other way.

    4. Stephanie Berkey

      Very brave and difficult thing to do. Bravo cousins. Praying for the victims and the Bishop, as well as the perpetrator(s) and their families.