It is a deep belief of the Amish that women should grow long hair and men grow beards and stop shaving after marriage. Ostensibly, forcibly cutting the beard of a married Amish man or the hair of an Amish woman is one of the worst social insults and injuries that can be made to them. It is something that affects deeper than physical injury and creates social loss of face in a closed community.
However, penal law is confused over the crime of cutting beards and hair. And a group of Amish who conducted serial attacks on their opponents in September, October, and November by forcibly cutting the hair of Amish women and beards of Amish men and then taking photos to shame them their victims publicly, might just get off through legal loopholes.
Last year, Samuel Mullet Sr. and eleven of his followers had been charge in five beard-cutting attacks that also included the cutting of hair of opponent Amish women. They pleaded not guilty. Allegedly, the attacks were the result of a long feud between rivaling groups over church discipline. Mullet told the Associated Press in October that he did not order any beard-cutting or hair cutting but also did not stop his son and others as the goal was to teach a lesson to other Amish for their way of treating Mullet and his community.
Recently, the members of the ‘beard-cutting’ group have decided to challenge the constitutionality of the federal hate crimes law, under which they were booked, and have resolved to get their indictment dismissed.
The challenges have already been filed, and they state that alleged ‘beard-cutting’ attacks do not come under the ambit of federal law as they are not hate crimes but internal church disciplinary matters that do not involve anti-Amish bias. The defendants hold that the hate crimes law was to protect people from attacks based on racial, ethnic or other legally declared minority status of particular communities, and do not cover attacks that neither cause physical irreparable injury, nor are racially or ethnically biased, but happen within the members of the same community. ‘Beard-cutting’ attacks do not conform to the definition of ‘hate crimes,’ contend the defenders. The motion challenging the constitutionality of the application of the federal hate crimes law upon the instant case mention, “The actions alleged in this case are not alleged to be the result of anti-Amish bias.”
The seven count indictment on the ‘beard-cutters’ includes assault, evidence tampering and conspiracy. Charges have been brought on Mullet, four of his children, three nephews, the spouses of a niece and nephew, a son-in-law, and another member of the Mullet community.