Pool, phones, yoga: world intrudes on Amish now home in Ohio after prison

Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:50pm EDT
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By Kim Palmer

BERGHOLZ Ohio (Reuters) - Amish farmer Raymond Miller developed a taste for Mountain Dew soda, got his GED, and wonders if he should get a pool table after learning to play in prison.

His wife, Kathryn, who had never ridden a public bus before boarding one last year to go to prison for forcibly cutting the hair of her relatives, was introduced to yoga and step classes while behind bars.

The Millers, members of an Amish breakaway sect from eastern Ohio at the center of shocking 2011 hair-cutting attacks on other Amish followers, are trying to settle back into life at home after being exposed in prison to a world their religion is focused on locking out.

The Amish shun modern technology and regard beards for adult men and uncut hair for married women as sacred. In Bergholz, where the Millers live, they are Old Order, which means no electricity or telephone lines into the house.

Unless, like Raymond Miller, 29, you are on probation and must make daily phone calls to a probation officer and wear an electronic ankle monitor while harvesting hay.

"I’m ready to get rid of it," Raymond said of the telephone installed in his home. "We get salesman calls about electric bills and they don’t believe that we don’t have an electric bill."

Recently released after spending nearly a year in prison, the Millers were part of a group of 16 Amish from Bergholz who were convicted in late 2012 of hate crimes for the hair-cutting attacks. The victims included Raymond Miller's parents.

Prosecutors said the attacks were intended to humiliate and were carried out in retaliation for personal and spiritual disagreements that Bergholz's bishop and leader Sam Mullet had with Amish in other groups. Mullet, who was portrayed as extremely authoritarian, is serving 15 years as mastermind of the attacks.   Continued...

Laundry hangs between the homes of Kathryn and Raymond Miller and Nancy and Freeman Burkholder in Bergholz, Ohio June 6, 2014.   REUTERS/Kim Palmer