Kentucky and Ohio officials are putting Amish people in jail, in the one state because they refuse to compromise their religious principles, and in the other because a few of them have been terrorizing people. Both issues have been in the news this past week.
In late September, a judge in Graves County, Kentucky, sentenced some men to serve a few nights in the county jail for refusing to mount slow moving vehicle triangles on their buggies. The triangles are too ostentatious for the conservative Schwartzentruber branch of the Old Order Amish. They refused to pay the fines, so the judge ordered them to go to jail for a few nights.
Another judge, this time in Grayson County, Kentucky, has started sentencing Amish men for the same crime. Daniel Yoder was convicted, while two other men, Ben Yoder and Joe Hostetler, have been charged. Daniel Yoder received a fine of $20, plus he has been ordered to pay $143 in court costs. The press did not report if he intends to pay, or if he will prefer to spend some time in the county jail.
The district attorney for Grayson County, Clay Ratley, issued a statement that sounds much like that from other attorneys defending their legal actions against the Amish: “I respect their religion, I respect their beliefs, but at the same time, we have to follow the law.” In Graves County, meanwhile, about 20 similar cases are now pending.
The beard cutting spree in the huge Amish settlement of Central Ohio, which made international news in mid October, has continued to stir a lot of passions—enough to prompt the FBI to join the investigation.
According to a special agent for the FBI, Vicki Anderson, the bureau is concerned that beard-cutting may violate the civil rights of the victims, which “we take as a very serious matter.” She said that a special meeting had included a number of local law enforcement officers. It had led to the decision to enter the case.
Neil Hassinger, Sheriff for Medina County, Ohio, is happy that the FBI has joined the investigation of the violent, beard cutting incidents. “It is a hate crime because they are picking on people who don’t want to do things religiously exactly as they’re doing it,” Hassinger said.
Hassinger went on to tell the press that he has good relations with the Amish bishop in his county, and he deplores the way criminals, and sometimes just pranksters, hassle and at times attack them. They know the Amish are easy targets who will not fight back or resist attacks, he said.
But the sheriff has his own ways of combating violence against the Amish. He disguises his deputies as Amish and sends them out in buggies to see what might happen. He even had two female deputies dress as Amish women and set off in a buggy to see if he could crack a series of criminal robberies against them.
“They’d rob them. They were stopping their buggies and taking their money from them because they know the Amish use cash,” the sheriff said. “But our deputies dressed as Amish in the buggy surprised them.”
Agent Anderson from the FBI did know how much her agency would become involved in the beard cutting crime spree. She said the FBI was taking a careful look to see if any federal laws had been violated.