A mullet is a fish, but when it comes to hair a “mullet” is a haircut that is short on the top and sides but long in the back. It is not considered by most to be an especially attractive haircut, although it did not seem to hurt Bill Ray Cyrus’ singing career.
This past Friday, February 8, 2013, Samuel Mullet (unfortunate name) had a bad hair day in the United States Federal District Courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Federal Judge Dan Aaron Polster sentenced Mullet, age 67, for hate crimes in which Mullet stood accused of influencing nine men and six women of forcibly cutting the hair and shaving off the beards of a rival group. Judge Polster said Mullet was the leader of a cult. Mullet got 15 years in the federal pen.
Mullet was not the leader of a rogue cult of cosmetologists or a band of barbarous barbers roaming hill and dale up Ohio way. He is an Amish bishop to a group of breakaway followers in the Bergholz, Ohio community. Chaffing under the criticism of nearby Amish leaders who thought him too authoritarian, Mullet was accused of inciting haircutting and shaving attacks on a total of eight victims or four days in October 2011. Amish women do not cut their hair because of what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11:6 & 15, and Amish men do not shave their beards after they marry in keeping with Leviticus 19:27, et alibi. This was Amish on Amish.
This is the surprising element in all of this; the Amish by belief and behavior are pacifists. While these assaults are not on a level with a drive-by shooting, in an Amish community that prides itself on peaceful relations, these attacks are considered extreme. What did his hirsute neighbors do that was so bad that Sam Mullet took the law into his own hands? What made him compromise his biblical pledge “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18)?
Sam Mullet told the courtroom, “That’s been my goal all my life” to help others. But Judge Polster disagreed and claimed “the victims were terrorized and traumatized” by the assaults. During the investigation of the attacks Mullet commented, “It’s all religion…that’s why we can’t figure out why the sheriff has his nose in it.” But Judge Polster told Mullet he and his defendants were being punished because they were the ones who denied the victims of their constitutional right to religious freedom. Evidently, Sam could not see religious freedom is lost when we try to force our opinions on others.
Since Sam had not actually taken part in the attacks, or ordered them, I thought Judge Polster was excessive in sentencing him to 15 years. But Sam had said, “You have your laws on the road and the town — if somebody doesn’t obey them, you punish them. But I’m not allowed to punish the church people?” No Sam, you’re not allowed. They were not a part of your splinter group, or you church. You are not allowed to punish others who disagree with you. You are not allowed to take the law into your own hands, and to force others to do as you think they should. His arrogance in the face of his guilt did not favor him when Judge Polster exercised his judicial discretion.
History has taught us repeatedly that religious views cannot be spread or sustained by force. Wars have been waged throughout human history over religious beliefs and the only thing that has been accomplished is the needless loss of life. It is impossible to force one’s faith on another. What was Sam thinking?
In the fifteenth chapter of Matthew Jesus accuses some Pharisees and scribes as being hypocrites because they had made a rule that allowed them to continue using a piece of property rather than honor and care for their aged parents as required (Exodus 20:12). He supports His statement with a quote from the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:8-9, Isaiah 29:13).
Serving God goes much deeper than manmade rules. Sam Mullet was making his own rules and when others criticized him for it, he took matters into his own hands. In sermon after sermon he called his rivals “Amish hypocrites.” Well Sam, when you violated your neighbors’ religious freedom and ignored the scriptural mandate to “be at peace with all men,” what were you?