If a violent group of Amish “protectors” exists in Lancaster County as represented on a hit reality television series, Steven Echternach and Jonathan Heisse would know about it.
The two local cops are District Attorney Craig Stedman’s liaisons to the Amish community, working with local Anabaptist groups on crimes of all sorts.
And they’ve found zero evidence of the gun-wielding group of Lancaster-based Amish renegades portrayed on Discovery Channel’s hit show “Amish Mafia.”
“I can say with absolute certainty that what I’m seeing on Discovery Channel is an exploitation of the Amish culture,” Echternach, Strasburg’s police chief, said this week. “It’s not a complete blatant lie, but the characterization is very misrepresentative.”
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You don’t have to live in “Pennsylvania Dutch Country” and know people who were raised in Amish and Mennonite families like I do to know the Discovery Channel “reality” series “Amish Mafia” is bogus.
The show’s producers cleverly weave together actual stories of Amish and Mennonite individuals who’ve run afoul of the law with these characters who’s backgrounds are greatly embellished to create the illusion that they’re all part of an organized crime syndicate.
Do Amish, mostly unbaptized youths get into trouble, yes. There have been young adults arrested for drug dealing, drinking, fighting and leading police on wild car chases.
Are there “Hut Parties” where Amish youth gather to drink and do drugs, yes. The Amish allow their teenage kids to “cut loose” and get the wild urges out of their system, a tradition known as “rumspringa” (running around ) after which they must decide to become a baptized member of the church or be shunned by their families. In that regard I consider the Amish cult-like because it’s coercive, they hold families hostage. It’s during this time many Amish youth get into trouble with the law. But technically, they aren’t really members of the church yet.
But the stuff done by these so-called mafia members are absurd. You aren’t gonna walk up some guy’s driveway and blast his car with a shotgun to get revenge for side swiping a buggy and then just walk away without ever being arrested. Everyone in these communities know each other (and so do the police).
The show producer, Alan Beiler claims to be Amish but he’s not, he was born in Brooklyn, NY. In the first episode of the show he’s portrayed as a member of this gang who leads the police on three wild car chases because his registration sticker is expired. I recall there was such an incident involving a member of the Beiler family years ago. In the show they use local news clips of the actual arrest to lend authenticity to the show. I have doubts that this Alan Beiler is the same guy however.
Discovery Channel has gotten a lot of flak over this show because of the liberties they take. For their part they say the show is intended to portray the Amish lifestyle in a more interesting fashion and that, as the show progresses these controversies will be brought to light. I take that to mean that after watching the show for several seasons gullible fans will eventually discover that they been duped all along.
You can read what Hollywood has to say about the show here:
One last point about these Anabaptist cults like the Amish, Mennonite and Hutterites, there are many sects within each with different rules. Many Amish keep a cell phone hidden in the barn so they can stay in touch with shunned relatives who’ve chosen to live the “English” lifestyle. Mennonites drive cars and watch TV. Hutterites use laptops and surf the net (although porn sites are blocked).
All of these cults have one thing in common, inbreeding. The rules require them to marry within the cult and in small communities that means virtually everyone is related. As a result they often adopt kids to bring in fresh genetic material. I had a Mennonite buddy who had 8 adopted kids. He even traveled to China and bought an orphan for $10,000. But the one thing I’ve never seen in any of these communities is an African-American child. Draw your own conclusions.