On Tuesday, a defense attorney said his Amish clients took action due to a concern that members of their religion had strayed from their religious beliefs. His clients have been accused of carrying out hate crimes by cutting the hair of other members of their religion.
The attorneys for the Amish defendants did not deny the hair cutting incidents took place. However, they said the Amish are tied to different rules guided through their religion. The lawyers said the government should not become involved in something that amounted to a church or family dispute.
The trial opened earlier this week and at its center are the rules of the Amish religion that remain distance from most in the outside world and follow a collective order and not the laws of society.
Prosecutors however, said the haircutting attacks had been motivated by the religious disagreements between a breakaway sect from eastern Ohio and Amish bishops. The breakaway group attacked other Amish members on five occasions last year, cutting off their hair and beards, which have spiritual significance to the Amish.
The U.S. Attorney said the group had spent a number of months planning their attacks. She said sons even pulled their fathers from bed and cut of their beards and women surrounded their own mother in laws and sheared off two feet of their hair.
The final attack saw a husband and wife lure the husband’s parents to his farm. Once they arrived, the older man’s own grandsons held him while his son chopped of his hair.
A total of 16 people are on trial. All of them live in the panhandle of West Virginia, with 15 of the 16 related to Sam Mullet Sr., the ringleader.