Starting in the 17th century, European immigrants started arriving to the United States, some by choice and others as servants. Starting in the middle of the 19th century and still continuing today, immigrants from many parts of Europe came to start a new life in America. With this large mix of traditions and beliefs, the US was nick-named a "Cultural Melting Pot". With these travelers came their cultural and religious beliefs and helped to mold the American society we have today.
The Amish religion is a branch of the Christianity that I find to be extremely interesting. The Amish church started in Switzerland in 1693, but during the early 18th century, many of these families immigrated to the United States (particularly residing in Pennsylvania). The Ordnung, or rules of the church, are followed by all members of the religion and include the limitations on use of electricity, telephones, cars, and regulations on what clothing is acceptable. There is a heavy emphasis on participating regularly within the church as well as keeping strong family relationships. They also value manual labor and rural life, compared to the expanding ideas of technology and city-based lifestyles shared by many other individuals in our growing country.
It is a common tradition within the Amish community for men to not shave their beards and women to not cut their hair once they are married. According to this article, on November 23, 2011 seven men of an Amish sect were charged for harassing, restraining, and cutting off multiple Amish men's beards as well as injuring those who tried to stop them. The victims belonged to a different religious sect.
Bishop Mullet, the previous head of the Bergholz clan sect of the church had previous complications with eight families due to his controlling behaviors and was shunned from the Amish community. He was charged with orchestrating the beard-cuttings as an act of revenge for his excommunication, and involved six other men (friends and family members) to help him with these hate crimes. The seven men are being charged with violation of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and may serve up to life in prison if they are convicted.
This act of hate is not only being taken seriously because of the injury and restraining of innocent men, but also because it violates their freedom of religion and cultural beliefs. Part of being a United States Citizen is the ability to choose and participate in whatever beliefs and legal customs you prefer.
There is no doubt that Bishop Mullet should be prosecuted for designing and implementing such a horrific crime. According to the Theory of Mind (Premack and Woodruff, 1978), as early as a child's first or second birthday they are able to reason about what other people know or believe. This shows that the suspects' actions are not due to a cognitive or developmental issue. Even if Mullet was unable to make proper and ethical decisions on how to deal with his excommunication, the other six men should have stood up and realized it was wrong. They had the ability to stop him and choose not to participate, but instead joined him in harassing and embarrassing four innocent Amish men. I believe that their punishment should reflect accordingly to their actions, or in this case lack of action.