Federal authorities announced on Wednesday that seven Amish men had been arrested for their alleged roles in a series of attacks, in which Amish homes were broken into, and the victims' hair and beards were cut off.
The FBI classifies the attacks as hate crimes, because the Amish consider their hair to be a symbol of their commitment to the simple life, and the forcible cutting of it is an insult.
At a press conference in Millersburg, U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach said, people need to understand that nobody in this nation and in this community has the right to assault another individual based upon their religious beliefs."
The FBI said the hate crimes were allegedly orchestrated by 66-year-old Sam Mullet, the leader of a breakaway cult that declared war on Amish bishops in Ohio.
Amish community leaders said the dispute started when the bishops voted to shun Mullet and his followers, amid allegations of misconduct that include sexual abuse at Mullet's compound in Bergholz, Ohio.
When asked about the attacks, an Amish leader, who asked not to be identified, told Fox 8, "They did it to please Sam Mullet. They are brainwashed, those people, and he asked them to do this. He wanted somebody to be ashamed, that made him comfortable, that makes him feel good if people are ashamed."
Arrested during a series of raids on Wednesday morning, were Sam Mullet, his sons Johnny, Daniel and Lester, along with Mullet devotees Levi Miller, Eli Miller and Emanuel Schrock.
If convicted of committing the federal hate crimes, Mullet and his six followers could each face up to 10 years in prison. However, the punishment could be elevated to life in prison, if a federal judge determines the victims were kidnapped.