Bergholz Community

A controversial Amish offshoot known for its strict rules and involvement in a high-profile beard-cutting crime

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Amish
Founder: Sam Mullet Sr.
Founded: 1995
Location: Bergholz, Ohio, United States
Size: a few dozen members
Other Names: Bergholz Amish, Bergholz Clan

The Bergholz Community is an Amish sect located in Bergholz, Ohio, known for its extreme interpretation of Amish beliefs and practices, as well as its involvement in a series of criminal activities that have brought it national attention. This community, led by Samuel Mullet Sr., has been a subject of controversy both within and outside the Amish world due to its deviation from traditional Amish values and its confrontational relationship with other Amish communities.

Origins and Beliefs

The Bergholz Community was established in the early 1990s when Samuel Mullet Sr. moved to Bergholz, Ohio, with his family. Mullet, who was raised in a traditional Amish family, broke away from the main Amish church, disillusioned with what he perceived as leniency in discipline and adherence to the Amish way of life. He instead sought to create a community that followed stricter religious practices and discipline, which he believed were more in line with the original Amish teachings.

The beliefs of the Bergholz Community are rooted in Amish tradition, emphasizing values such as simplicity, and separation from the modern world. However, the movement is considered a fringe sect that diverges from the mainstream Amish faith and instead follows additional rules imposed by Mullet, including mandatory beard and hair length for men, strict dress codes for women, and severe punishments for those who disobey community guidelines. The Community is tightly knit and insular, with Samuel Mullet Sr. at its center. Mullet’s leadership is characterized by absolute authority, and he is seen by his followers as a spiritual leader with a direct connection to God. Mullet dictates almost every aspect of their daily routines, from dress and grooming to social interactions and religious practices, and members who violate the community’s rules or challenge Mullet’s authority are subjected to harsh punishments including confinement in chicken coops, public humiliation, and corporal punishment.

As a result of these unique beliefs and practices, the Bergholz Community have faced significant criticisms from churches in the Amish community. Many Amish leaders and members view the Bergholz Community as a radical and dangerous departure from traditional Amish values and the community’s actions have been condemned by mainstream Amish groups, who see such acts as antithetical to the Amish principles of non-violence and forgiveness.

Legal Controversies and Criminal Activities

The Bergholz Community gained national attention in 2011 when several of its members were involved in a series of beard-cutting attacks against other Amish individuals. These attacks were reportedly ordered by Mullet as a form of punishment and retaliation against Amish individuals who disagreed with his beliefs or challenged his authority. The victims of these attacks were often leaders or members of other Amish communities.

In September 2011, the FBI arrested Mullet and several of his followers on federal hate crime charges related to the beard-cutting incidents. This was a landmark case, as it was one of the first instances where federal hate crime laws were applied to intra-religious conflicts. In 2013, Mullet was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, with other members receiving lesser sentences.

Impact and Perception

The Bergholz Community’s activities have brought significant media attention and public scrutiny to the Amish community at large. The group’s actions have sparked discussions about religious freedom, the limits of communal discipline within religious groups, and the challenges of applying modern legal standards to insular religious communities.

The case of the Bergholz Community raises important questions about the balance between religious autonomy and the rule of law, particularly in cases where religious practices conflict with broader societal norms and legal standards. It also highlights the diversity and complexity within the Amish community, challenging stereotypes and simplistic views of Amish life and beliefs.

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