An Amish woman whose husband's beard was cut by members of a breakaway Amish group said Thursday that the family isn't pressing charges as a means of revenge but rather to get help for the people in the other settlement.
Arlene Miller said word spread quickly of such an attack in Trumbull County last month and the family was wary when several men came to their door late one night last week. Unbeknownst to Arlene Miller and her husband, Myron, a similar attack occurred just a couple of hours earlier in nearby Holmes County.
"Normally the Amish try to stay out of court. We believe in, `brother against brother shouldn't go to court for revenge,'" Arlene Miller told The Associated Press from the family's home in rural eastern Ohio. "But in this case this is not for revenge that we're doing this. This is so these people can get help."
Miller, 46, also said the beard cutting, apparently meant to shame its victims because of the high esteem in which Amish beards are held, is unheard of.
"It's messed up. It's some bizarre stuff," she said. "I've never heard of it, and I think I can safely say it never happened in the Amish community."
Five men are accused of cutting the beard of an Amish man in Holmes County the same night. They've been charged with kidnapping and burglary and appeared in court Wednesday. Authorities in several counties are investigating and more charges could be filed.
Sam Mullet, the leader of the breakaway settlement near the village of Bergholz, has denied ordering the attacks but acknowledged he was present when the community members _ including some of his sons _ were plotting them. He hasn't been charged.
Mullet, 66, also justified the attacks, saying he was tired of being targeted for abuse by Amish bishops in other parts of Ohio.
Arlene Miller says she and her husband believe he was attacked for helping one of Mullet's sons and his family leave the Bergholz community several years ago. She says things have been tense between them since.
Miller says several Amish bishops refused to condone Mullet's decision to excommunicate several members who previously left his community, saying there was no spiritual justification for such action.
In the Holmes County attack, men are accused of entering a home Oct. 3 and cutting the beard of 74-year-old Raymond Hershberger, a bishop in a Holmes County Amish community.
In the Trumbull County attack, a man had his beard cut and his wife had her hair cut by attackers including two of their sons, but they have declined to press charges, according to Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere.
Ohio has an estimated Amish population of just less than 61,000, second only to Pennsylvania.
The Amish, known for their simple, modest lifestyle, are a deeply religious group. Their simple clothing and tradition of traveling by horse and buggy distance themselves from the outside world and symbolize a yielding to a collective order.
Arlene Miller hopes authorities will investigate Sam Mullet further. She also emphasized that her husband didn't fight back that night.
"He just tried to get away. We don't believe in fighting," she said. "We do believe in turning the other cheek, but in this case there's nothing wrong with struggling to get away."
Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.