Peaceful and religious types generally shy away from appearing in court for “hate crimes.”
Frowning on modern conveniences and technology, living a simple, religious life and their plain way of dressing are what the Amish are known for. They would also most definitely classify themselves as peaceful. That’s why when I saw the words “Amish” and “hair-cutting attack” in a news article title, I had to read it. It’s not every day, but more like a rare occurrence, that has the Amish appearing in court and facing “federal hate crime charges.”
On Tuesday, yesterday, the trial for the “hate crimes” began in Ohio. From what I understand a sect leader, acting with about fifteen others, are being charged with “forcibly cutting the beards and hair” of nine fellow Amish; some of these nine were reportedly, their parents.
What you must understand here, is that after marriage, Amish don’t cut their hair. Men don’t cut their beards and Women don’t cut their hair. As the assistant U.S. Attorney for prosecution said in her opening statement, the beard and hair are “sacred religious symbols.” They are “symbols of Amish righteousness, religious symbols that God is present in their lives.” I think that the general, public has come to understand the significance that designated religious symbols have for many religious groups.
Defense attorneys are calling it a “domestic violence matter.” Among the arguments are that those involved thought their parents had strayed and they were only trying to bring them “back to the fold.” Strange way of going about it, I say. The first witness in the trial, a son of one of the men who was attacked said that the Amish men, who carried out the attack, visited their home in the evening and held down his father and brother and tried to shave his father’s head and beard. He describes that “clumps of hair were missing from his father’s head and his scalp was bleeding.” This sounds like a traumatic occurrence for such a generally, quiet and peaceful group as the Amish.
Personally, I’m surprised that the Amish have taken this all the way to court. It’s sad when a religious group goes after its own members when someone has a different opinion on how they should live their life. Granted, an outsider like myself doesn’t know all the details involved in Amish life, but I’ve seen the consequences of such differences first hand. The prosecution’s attorney does make an important clarification though. She says “They are not on trial for their beliefs…they are on trial for their acts.” I believe that the defense is only arguing that the government shouldn’t get involved in this trial saying the Amish should resolve it among themselves.
Do you have an opinion on this trial? Do you think that a religious matter like this from such a tight-knit, religious group as the Amish should be sorted out amongst themselves or, is the government right in getting involved?