The leader of 16 Amish men and women found guilty of hate crimes for cutting the hair and beards of fellow members of their faith has lost another request to be released from prison.
CLEVELAND - Some of the Amish sentenced in beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio are upset with federal prison education requirements.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has required some to study for high school equivalency certificates, one of their defense attorneys said. The Amish claim that violates their First Amendment rights.
Edward Bryan, who represented the leader of the group, told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer that he intends to write a letter of protest to prison officials.
He cited a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Amish children may not be forced to attend school past eighth grade.
Bryan told The Associated Press in an email Saturday that he plans to contact the agency Monday, but declined further comment.
In response, prison system spokesman Chris Burke cited prison rules that high-school equivalency classes are a first step toward returning to society.
In an email Saturday, he also referenced a prison program statement that said, "Our literacy standard reflects those in communities where we will release federal inmates."
Bryan said the Amish deserve a religious exemption.
"It's a legitimate purpose and an honorable thing to rehabilitate prisoners by requiring them to obtain their GEDs," Bryan said. "But you have to make exceptions, especially for religious reasons."
Exceptions to participation in the program are limited to inmates who have emotional, mental or physical impediments or who face deportation.
Sam Mullet Sr., 67, is serving his 15 year term in a prison in Texarkana, Texas, and his co-defendants are held in prisons across the country. The other 15 received sentences ranging from one to seven years.
If the Amish reject the educational requirement, they are being threatened with discipline, Bryan said.
Jonathan Entin, a Constitutional law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said the Amish inmates have a "far from frivolous claim."
But they may not prevail, he said, because the prisons require classes for the vast majority of inmates who lack high school diplomas.
The defendants, all members of the same Amish sect, were convicted of hate crimes in 2011 attacks meant to shame fellow Amish they believed were straying from the strict religious interpretations espoused by the sect's leader.
Prosecutors say the defendants targeted hair because it carries spiritual significance, hence the hate crime prosecution.
One of 16 Amish convicted in beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio has a few days to say her goodbyes before heading to prison.
The Amish imprisoned in beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio will no longer be required to attend high-school equivalency classes behind bars.
The Amish schoolhouse quiets as students in first through eighth grades settle into tight rows of scuffed metal desks to begin singing, their voices rising and dipping like the surrounding hills.
The leader of a group of 16 Amish men and women found guilty of hate crimes for cutting the hair and beards of fellow members of their faith has lost a request to be released from prison pending an appeal of his conviction and sentencing.
Sixteen Amish men and women who have lived rural, self-sufficient lives with little outside contact are facing regimented routines in a federal prison system where modern conveniences such as television will be a constant temptation.
The last two of 16 Amish found guilty in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio have appealed their convictions.
The ringleader of 16 Amish found guilty in beard- and hair-cutting hate-crime attacks on fellow members of their faith in Ohio asked an appeals court Wednesday to overturn his conviction.
Amish convicted in hair- and beard-cutting attacks on fellow members of their faith in Ohio are lining up to appeal their convictions.
The leader of 16 Amish convicted in beard-cutting attacks in Ohio will serve more than a dozen years in prison.