The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that five members of a sect that was excommunicated from the Ohio Amish community were arraigned Wednesday morning and released on $50,000 bail for charges of kidnapping and aggravated burglary.
The five men allegedly broke into 74-year-old Amish bishop Raymond Hershberger's house in Holmes County on Oct. 4 and held him down while they cut off his beard, an act that is considered sacrilegious in the Amish community. They allegedly entered the bishop's home under the guise that they were there to discuss religious matters and then attacked him, saying they were there to "get revenge for Sam Mullet."
Charged were Daniel Mullet, 37, Johnny Mullet, 38, and Levi Miller, 53, of Bergholz, Lester S. Mullet, 26, of Hammondsville and Eli Miller, 32, whose address is not known.
According the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, prosecuting attorney Steve Knowling said the suspected leader of the sect, Samuel Mullet, father of Johnny and Lester Mullet, posted bail for all five men.
The 66-year-old leader brought his group of followers to the community 15 years ago in order to follow a "stricter doctrine without interference," the Associated Press reported, but since then Mullet has "gained a reputation for being authoritarian and vindictive" and has been accused of running a cult.
Several other similar attacks in which members of the Amish community have had their beards or hair forcefully lopped off have occurred in recent weeks, among both women and men. Hair maintenance is considered an important part of the traditional and plain appearance that the Amish strive to adhere to. Long hair is desirable for women, who never cut it and wear it tied back in a bun, and men are expected to shave their beards until they get married, after which they are not supposed to cut them.
Police believe the recent string of attacks is in response to criticism from other Amish leaders about Mullet's leadership practices, though he denies specifically telling members of his sect to carry them out.