An Amish breakaway group in eastern Ohio, said to have cut off the hair and beard of several Amish men and the hair of several Amish women, has been charged with federal hate crimes.

(From left) Levi Miller, Johnny Mullet and Lester Mullet, of Bergholz, Ohio, were among those arraigned Wednesday for forcefully cutting the beards of fellow Amish men. (Associated Press)

Cutting the hair is considered highly offensive and humiliating to the Amish, who believe that the Bible instructs women to let their hair grow long, and men not to shave after they marry. “The beard is a key symbol of masculine Amish identity,” Donald B. Kraybill, a sociologist and expert on the Amish at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania told the Times. Women, he said, view their long hair as their “glory.”

The AP reported that the attacks also “struck at the core of the Amish identity and tested their principles,” as forgiveness is a principle tenet of the Amish, and they do not often report crimes to law enforcement.

Mullet said his sons perpetrated the hair-cutting attacks to send a message to the Amish in Holmes County about the way his community was being treated.

“They changed the rulings of our church here, and they’re trying to force their way down our throat, make us do like they want us to do, and we’re not going to do that,” Mullet said.