Thursday, March 8, 2012

Should Law Enforcement Become More Involved With The Amish?

The Amish are an interdependent society that tend to live in isolation from the ever changing, technological world.  In terms of the Organism Theory, Amish are a subsystem of the larger population of the United States.  They have their own culture and beliefs.  The Amish are governed through a religious basis of the Two Kingdoms belief.  They follow the rules of God in both the secular and religious aspects of their lives.  The Amish inhabit nearly 450 settlements, with a population exceeding 260,000 within the United States (1).  

My question is whether or not law enforcement agencies should take a proactive role in protecting Amish citizens who are reluctant to ask for outside assistance?  The Amish are hesitant to report criminal activity that occurs in their settlements.  They pride themselves in taking care of their own disputes and turning their cheeks to criminal actions involving their neighbors.  Amish are governed by the church to not seek revenge or harm their fellow brothers.  There have been recent events that have lead the Amish to call for outside assistance, including the Nickel Mines shooting in Pennsylvania and the beard cutting, hate crimes in Ohio (4). 

In November of 2011 the F.B.I. and the local sheriff’s department near Bergholz, Ohio raided the Amish compound that was headed by Sam Mullet Sr.  Members of this outlandish community of 120 had allegedly gone on an assaulting spree in four Ohio Amish communities.  Members of this community were charged with the crimes of assault and kidnapping.  Sam Mullet Sr. had apparently sent members of his sect, mostly family, to four other communities to attack specific individuals whom he had a grudge against.  He had his followers cut off the hair of women and the facial hair of men.  One of the victims was Mullet’s sister, who had fled the community years earlier.  You might be wondering what the big deal is, it is only hair.  But the Amish take their hair very seriously.  Their hair is part of their culture and they believe, as part of their religious beliefs, that women should never cut their hair and that men should not shave their beards once they are married (5).

“One victim told investigators that ‘he would prefer to have been beaten black and blue than to suffer the disfigurement and humiliation of having his hair removed,’ according to the F.B.I. affidavit supporting the hate-crime charges. The attacks caused fear and bewilderment among the 60,000 Amish of Ohio, who are pacifists and reject the idea of revenge” (5).
                                                         [ Sam Mullet Sr.]

Sam Mullet Sr. has denied any direct connection with the crimes, but scissors and electric trimmers were found in the leader’s home.  Mullet who created his own Amish sect after clashing with members of his previous community over religious views has been deemed a troublemaker.  He is also portrayed as less of an Amish priest and instead as a cult leader.  Former members of his sect claim he holds religious grudges against members of other Amish communities; he has used corporal punishment to keep his members in compliance, and has sex with female members of the community in order to rid them of the devil.  There is even evidence that Mullet has locked men up in a chicken coop as a form of punishment.  Mullet claims that members of other Amish communities have mistreated him and that he should have the right to punish those who have disobeyed the law of the church (5).

Mullet and eleven other members of his sect have been charged with conspiracy and federal hate crimes.  The lawyers of Mullet and his followers have argued that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 passed by Congress is unconstitutional.  The lawyers contend that the offenders should only be charged with assault at the most.  A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney in Cleveland has stated the law is constitutional.  The twelve offender have all plead not guilty in January to the charges (2).  Mullet remains in Federal Jail until his trial because he is viewed as a risk to public safety.  Although Mullet has claimed that the actions of his sect were done religiously to preserve the Amish culture, he himself has been hypocritical.  Mullet has asked the court to release him to home confinement with the use of an electronic monitoring system.  However, the Amish do not use electricity for the fear that modern conveniences would produce a more independent society.  Mullet, however, states that he is open to the idea of electricity for certain purposes, most specifically getting himself out of detention (3).

The actions of Sam Mullet Sr. and his sect have proven that the innocence of Amish communities are in danger.  The Amish take their privacy seriously and rely on their beliefs to govern their society.  However, serious crimes can occur in their isolated communities and although they do not look for outside help from law enforcement, should law enforcement organizations take a prerogative to check up on Amish communities and form a line of communication with these communities in order to protect their people and to prevent future tragedies? 



  1. The Amish community is very interesting, however, i didnt find this article suprising. Even though they do not report crime in thier communities they must have some sorts of crimes happening. Even though they choose to live seperate from society, we should still be involved in investigating the group if we suspect cult activity or other sorts of crimes involving children. One idea would be to treat them similar to native americans who also would rather live seperate from our society. I believe native americans have their own form of government, however, im pretty sure our government has a seperate agency who deals with only native americans. We should start another agency that would deal with only the Amish community so the women and children would have someone to go to for help.

  2. In regards to your question I think law enforcement should make every effort to protect the Amish community because even though they may have different beliefs they still live in this country and are under the protection of the laws just as everyone else is. I think that it does make it difficult for law enforcement to assist when crimes are not being reported and they can be proactive as they want but you can't help someone that doesn't want to be helped.

  3. I really liked the focal point of this article. I think it is a very good issue to bring up. Our world is constantly changing and although in the beginning it seemed liked it was okay to allow the Amish to govern themselves, I still believe we owe it to them to help protect them. There are certain other things that I disagree with, with the Amish. We, as citizens of the United States are subject to federal and local laws. This includes animal welfare laws. However, because of the Amish beliefs that animals are here only to serve humans, many of their animals are abused, and many run puppy mills. They are essentially allowed to break the law because they do not believe the same beliefs as us. I am not saying we need to go guns out towards them, they can live their lives as they desire, but they do need to at least understand that we are trying to build a humane nation. You would not stand by as an animal starved to death anymore than you would stand by as children were abused. They should be subject to certain laws of ours, simply because this world is too complicated anymore. We cannot stand by and allow others to almost commit murder, and turn our heads, just because that is their religious beliefs. Religion is a power thing, and unfortunately it can be equally as evil as it can be good.

  4. I found this blog to be very interesting because we don't hear much about how to go about policing the Amish, but it is a legitimate problem. I have to agree with Justin, in that I think that the most diplomatic thing to do would be to treat them like the Native Americans, whom I believe generally police themselves. I think most reservations have reservation officers to enforce the law. I think that there should be some Amish equivalent of that. They would still be subject to local and federal laws, but they could be enforced by an Amish police force. I'm not necessarily sure that that would work with their religious beliefs, but I think that would be the best way to handle that situation. Amish people would also be more likely to comply and be honest with an Amish officer.