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CULTURE DIGEST: Amish growth outpacing most religions in U.S.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- As a radical group of 16 Amish men and women face federal charges of committing hate crimes against others within their own religion, the faith also is getting publicity as one of the fastest-growing religions in the U.S.

Now with nearly 250,000 adherents here, a new Ohio State University study reports that, on average, an Amish community is established every three and a half weeks, and more than 60 percent of current Amish settlements in the U.S. were founded since 1990.

The largest group of Amish community members, 60,233, live in Ohio, where a detached sect of Amish led by 66-year-old Samuel Mullet Sr. are accused of committing a series of hair-cutting attacks on other Amish last year, various news outlets have reported.

Amish men consider their beards a sign of manhood, and Amish women don't cut their hair. Mullet broke away from the Holmes County, Ohio, Amish community 17 years ago and established a new clan of about 125 members.

Mullet allegedly professes God-given authority to punish other Amish as he sees fit and, according to news reports, has humiliated Amish by cutting their hair, forcing them to sleep in chicken coops and sleeping with married Amish women to cleanse them of the devil.

He and the other defendants are pleading not guilty to charges.

As for the religion's growth, the Amish are spreading not by evangelism, but by procreation. Families averaging eight children are not uncommon in some branches of the faith, and those born into the religion are generally adherents for life, World News Service reported.

Large Amish populations also are in Pennsylvania, with 59,000, and Indiana, with 45,000, the study found. The largest growth in recent years has been in New York, where 15 Amish settlements have formed since 2010, the study found. At the current rate, researchers said the U.S. could be home to 1 million Amish and 1,000 Amish settlements by 2050.


The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies commissioned the study for the 2010 U.S. Religion Census, released July 27.

ABORTION CLINIC LICENSING LAW UPHELD -- A federal appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a legal challenge to a 2010 Louisiana law that strengthened the state's authority to close abortion clinics that fail to meet health and safety standards.

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in New Orleans, agreed Aug. 17 with a federal judge who had dismissed the lawsuit filed by five Louisiana abortion clinics and an unidentified doctor. The 2-1 opinion said the abortion providers had failed to demonstrate the law caused a current hardship for them.

The 2010 measure amended Louisiana's Outpatient Abortion Facility Licensing Law to empower the secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals to deny, refuse to renew or revoke a license to an abortion clinic that he determines has violated the law. Prior to the amendment's adoption, the secretary had to find a "substantial failure ... to comply" before revoking a clinic's license.

"A woman's health and safety should always be the most important concern in cases like this, and that is indeed the highest concern of Louisiana health officials," said Steven Aden, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, in a written statement. "The district court was right to reject this challenge to basic health and safety regulations, and the 5th Circuit has done the right thing in upholding that decision."


Aden was co-counsel for the Department of Health and Hospitals before the Fifth Circuit.

Louisiana has seven outpatient abortion facilities. The two that are not part of the legal challenge are in the midst of having their licenses revoked.

STUDY SHOWS LITTLE RISK TO UNBORN FROM CHEMOTHERAPY -- A new study shows there is little evidence chemotherapy treatments on a pregnant woman will negatively impact her unborn child's health.

The research on more than 400 European women with breast cancer showed their babies weighed less but were not at a greater risk for birth defects, blood disorders or hair loss, ABC News reported Aug. 16. Premature birth, not chemotherapy, actually caused the babies' low birth weight in the study, according to the German Breast Group, which led the research.

The group, however, acknowledged more research is needed to determine if chemotherapy can cause physical or mental problems for a child later in life, according to ABC News.

In the past, physicians have told women with breast cancer that chemotherapy could harm their unborn children and have sometimes recommended abortions, ABC News reported. This study, and other recent ones, have shown such treatments after the first trimester can be safe for both babies and their mothers.

"Ideally, you would avoid chemotherapy in the first trimester of pregnancy," ABC News quoted Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, as saying. "The thought is that the fetus is really developing at that state and the organs are being developed."


APPLETON, CONVERTED ABORTION CLINIC NURSE, DIES -- Joan Appleton, who converted from abortion clinic nurse to pro-life leader, died Aug. 20.

Appleton, 64, began working with Pro-life Action Ministries (PLAM) in 1993, four years after leaving her position at an abortion clinic. While with PLAM, which is based in St. Paul, Minn., Appleton helped develop the Society of Centurions of America. Under her leadership, the program helped abortion clinic employees leave the industry. She retired in 2002 but continued to serve with PLAM on a volunteer basis.

She was the head nurse at an abortion clinic in Falls Church, Va., from 1985-89 and helped lead a chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

Commenting on her conversion to the pro-life cause, Appleton wrote, "My way of getting out of NOW was that I was a guest speaker at a Virginia NOW dinner. I got up to the podium and I said, 'Folks, I can't do this anymore. There is something wrong here and I can no longer be a part of the abortion industry or a part of the pro-choice movement and so I can no longer be a part of NOW.'"

RETREAT HELD FOR POST-ABORTIVE MILITARY MEMBERS -- Post-abortive members of the U.S. military participated in an Aug. 24-26 retreat conducted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services and Rachel's Vineyard.

Members of the Army and Air Force attended the retreat, which was held in Schoenstatt, Germany. Retreat leaders sought to guide participants to healing and forgiveness.


"Sometimes people don't make the connection between their current life problems and their past abortion simply because they're in a state of denial," said Richard Spencer, Catholic vicar for the military chapels in Europe and Asia who helped lead the retreat. "Their denial can last from a few hours to 40 years while they suffer any of a wide range of symptoms such as anxiety, depression or addiction, with the root cause -- or at least a large factor - being the abortion."

Rachel's Vineyard is a ministry of Priests for Life that seeks to help men and women recover from abortions in their past.

Compiled by Tom Strode and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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