Ripped from the Headlines… Sorta Of
By Amanda Flower
In October 2011, strange and disturbing events took place in Ohio’s Amish Country. A small splintered group of Amish led by Samuel Mullet attacked Amish from their former district. They cut off the beards of Amish men and the long hair of Amish women.
Mullet and his followers did this over a religious dispute and the US Attorney’s office charged them with Hate Crimes because a hate crime is defined as an attack that is motivated by a bias based on religion, race, ethnicity, etc. (Full definition on the FBI website). September 2012, Mullet and his followers were convicted. You can read the New York Times article here.
The events brought national attention to the Amish and their beliefs. What made this case especially unique was the Amish reporting the attacks to the police. Typically, Amish handle their conflicts within the church. The district elders and bishop decide how someone within the community will be disciplined. In the Mullet case, the Amish district’s willingness to talk to police highlighted the severity of the crime and possibly their fear that the attacks would continue if the English (non-Amish) police were not called.
At the time I was writing the first novel in the Appleseed Creek Mystery Series, A Plain Death. As sad as the news was, I couldn’t ignore what a great plotline this would make for my series. I’m not an author, who searches newspapers from ideas, but this one fell into my lap. I couldn’t ignore it.
To include Amish haircutting as the main plot of the novel, it gave me the opportunity to explain why the Amish haircutting attacks devastated the Amish. I found when I spoke about the case, people seemed to be confused why it the haircutting was such a big deal. It’s just hair, it will grow back. That’s not how the Amish see it. For an Amish man having a beard meant that that the man is married. The length of the beard is determined by the district bishop, so it is tied into their religious beliefs. Long uncut hair is a symbol of Amish women. An Amish woman never cuts her hair and wears it in a bun under a white prayer cap. This comes from the Amish interpretation of the Bible and the verse that calls woman’s hair “her crowning glory,” so again, they do this as part of their religion. This is why the Mullet gang was charged with hate crimes.
My own story built around this event deals with this heavy issue, but since I write cozies, there’s a quirky cast of supporting characters and lots of humorous and zany subplots too.
Readers can learn more about me on my website, www.amandaflower.com, or through social media. I love connecting with readers through Facebook and Twitter.