Sam Mullet outside his home in Bergholz, Ohio. Image Source: Associated Press via Daily Mail.
File this one under Millennial Omens: a strange new bishop has appeared among the peace-loving Amish people and is sowing the seeds of discord within closed Mennonite groups. The Amish live in religiously-inspired time capsules without electricity and number about a quarter of a million. They are concentrated in Pennsylvania, Indiana and parts of Canada but of late have been moving westwards. Since settlement times, they have incredibly managed to preserve a religion that is straight out of the 16th century and a way of life that is more or less straight out of the 18th century. Yet a new bishop in Ohio by the name of Sam Mullet has arisen and he is allegedly leading a splinter group whose members have been attacking detractors since this autumn began:
Several men were arrested in relation to the attacks in early October (for mugshot photos see here; for a video news report, go here - which includes footage of Mullet sitting in the driver's seat of a backhoe: doesn't look very much like strict 18th century living to me). The number of people arrested varies in conflicting articles. According to the Digital Journal and the Las Vegas Sun, the accused were freed on $50,000 bail which Mullet allegedly paid. There are reports that Mullet is vindictive and authoritarian. He claims that his group is acting in self-defense against neighbouring groups that he says are acting like cults; he also insists he is merely enforcing the letter of Amish law within his own community: "'You have your laws on the road and the town — if somebody doesn't obey them, you punish them. But I'm not allowed to punish the church people?' Mullet said. 'I just let them run over me? If every family would just do as they pleased, what kind of church would we have?'"The Associated Press reports that a splinter group of Amish families has, for the past three weeks, been attacking members of Ohio's main Amish community, one of the country's largest. Their calling card: cutting the beards off of men and the hair off of men and women, sometimes down to the scalp.
The attacks are meant to be degrading because Amish women do not typically cut their hair and married men usually grow beards as part of their religion, which traditionally shuns many modern amenities. The feud is believed to be the result of unspecified "spiritual differences," according to the Tribune-Chronicle.
The local sheriff, Frank Abdalla, explained to the paper just how serious the attacks are: "One Amish man told me he’d rather be dead than have his beard cut off.
Local police say that several of the victims have suffered minor injuries, although no charges have been filed, largely because of their reluctance to file police complaints. Community members have, however, reached out to the local sheriff in a bid to end the violence, and investigators intend to file charges of assault and burglary, according to the AP.
According to the Tribune, the group allegedly behind the violence is led by bishop Sam Mullet, who requires his follower to bring back clippings of hair as "proof" that the attacks are carried out. Attackers are both male and female, and in at least one instance have been sent to the homes of close relatives within the main Amish community.
But breakaway members of Mullet's group sensationally claim that he is leading a cult-type group, and they fear matters escalating up to an apocalyptic mass suicide.
There are rumours of Mullet stealing other men's wives; and of women being kidnapped, brainwashed, locked up and beaten. From the Digital Journal report:
A former member of the Amish Bergholz Clan is warning that if something is not done in time the Amish community in Bergholz may end up like Jim Jones' Peoples Temple which committed mass suicide in Jonestown Guyana, 1978.
One of the former members of the clan, said on TV Channel:
"I'm not surprised if I have to call the sheriff some day and say there are a lot of dead people lying around here. That would not be a surprise to me nor would it be a surprise to the sheriff of that county. I have enough inside information that I have no question if something is not done, there will be people that get hurt." ... Former members of the clan, Daily Mail reports, say Bishop Mullet rules the community tyrannically and has been directing the operations of a "beard-cutting gang."
There are disturbing reports of rape, beatings and kidnappings under the iron-fist rule of Bishop Sam Mullet who, according to reports, moved to Bergholz 15 years ago with 120 other members of the group.
According to a former member of the community whose name is not mentioned, any member who disagreed with Bishop Mullet would be subjected to violent punishment and he could have his beard forcefully cut off.
Video Source: AP via Youtube.