The dark side of organized religion

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The Amish are supposed to be pacifists but religious dogma can always be turned upside down by a ruthless and ambitious leader, and that’s exactly what the head of one breakaway sect appears to have done.

Sam Mullet and six of his followers were arrested Nov. 23 and charged with a laundry list of decidedly violent and intolerant behavior, according to this story from The Associated Press. Mullet allegedly allowed those Amish who disagreed with him to be beaten, and forced others to sleep in a chicken coop.

There was also a series of forced hair cuttings among Mullet’s opponents in September, October and November, which the attackers allegedly recorded with cameras. Cutting of beards and hair is considered taboo and shameful by some devout Amish.

The only thing missing in this story so far is sexual exploitation, right?

Sadly, only a fool would bet against allegations of sexual exploitation in a story about the arrest of a powerful religious leader. And if you bet against it in this story – you lost – because old Mullet is also accused of engaging in sexual relations with married women to “cleanse them of the devil.”

Mullet is a lot of things, but the word “creative” doesn’t come to mind.

“Sam Mullet is evil,” Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said at a press conference. “You’ve got Amish all over the state of Ohio and Pennsylvania and Indiana that are concerned. We’ve received hundreds and hundreds of calls from people living in fear.”

Jefferson County is in eastern Ohio.

A defense attorney for Sam Mullet told AP his client would fight the federal charges.

Mullet
said that he didn’t order the forced hair-cuttings but didn’t stop his sons and others from carrying them out. He said the goal was to send a message to outside Amish that they should be ashamed of themselves for their conduct toward Mullet and his insular community.

“They changed the rulings of our church here,” Mullet told the AP. “They’re trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we’re not going to do that.”

Clearly, Mullet is the victim here.

The seven defendants each face up to 10 years in jail. The list includes Mullet and his three sons.

The Amish are nonviolent, deeply religious, largely agrarian and reject most modern conveniences. The United States has an Amish population of more than 220,000 and at least 60,000 off them reside in Ohio.