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Amish Want Disparaging Reality Shows to Stop

amishThe Amish people, supported by Catholics and Christians of all denominations, are banding together in protest of a rash of reality show programming that features a bigoted misrepresentation of their religion. is reporting that the Amish people along with churches throughout the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area have issued a joint statement condemning the portrayal of their religion on TV shows such as The Discovery Channels' Breaking Amish and Amish Mafia and an upcoming horror series entitled, Amish Horror.

The Respect Amish movement delivered a statement on Aug. 5 calling for "an end to production and broadcast of the Amish Mafia and the end of support for the series and other Amish-themed productions.

"Many Lancaster County residents are concerned about the negative, inaccurate, and potentially damaging portrayal of Amish religion and culture in The Discovery Channel's Amish Mafia TV series," the statement reads. "These shows vilify the Amish religious way of life, suggesting that a peaceful people devoted to non-violence are vengeful, violent and criminal. The Amish are horrified, shamed and embarrassed by this depiction of their religion and culture."

amish mafiaRespect Amish is a new movement that has sprung up to defend these peaceful people from what is being called "Amish-Sploitation" and it's gaining momentum in the community, the state, and now the nation.

"No religious group in America should have to endure a barrage of 'reality' television filled with criminal acts and non-stop images of their youth in violation of their beliefs," says the Respect Amish website. "Neighbors are now speaking out and saying this is not the Amish community we know and bears little resemblance to reality."

"I think the goal is that these productions that are doing this will feel a lot less comfortable," said Mary Haverstick, the founder of the Respect Amish movement and the group Lancastrians Against Amish-Sploitation. "If they want to pack up and go elsewhere - I think that would be the end result we'd like to see."

Haverstick also commended the faithful from local churches who are coming out in support of the Amish whose beliefs prevent them from publicly objecting to these shows.

"It's a real statement of unity," Haverstick said. "It's good for the Amish to hear publicly that so many other churches, denominations and religious organizations are in support of them."

breaking amishFather Paul Fisher, ecumenical and inter-religious affairs officer for the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, believes the Amish must be defended.

"To come out in defense of a community that is so essential to the religious life and culture of central Pennsylvania is important to do when they're portrayed in such a way that isn't the most flattering and may not be the most accurate," he told PennLive reporter Julia Hatmaker.

Tom Baldridge, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry also believes it's important to speak up because, in the long run, these disparaging depictions of the Amish will end up hurting the entire community.

"I think whatever short term economic impact these shows may bring, it's taking what has been a well respected culture in our community and turning it into a fad," he said. "Whatever arguable increase in tourism may result from these shows, it is unquestionably short-term and will fade out over time and not serve our community well."

Not that he's trying to impede anyone's right to free speech. "We're not trying to impede on anybody's free speech," Baldridge said. "At the end of the day people are free to do what they want to do, watch what they want to watch. I think what we are suggesting is that people think twice."

The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg is among the signers of the joint statement, along with the Lancaster County Council of Churches, the Regional Church of Lancaster County, Lancaster Mennonite Conference, Shaarai Shomayim Synagogue as well as Brightside Baptist Church and the Bethel African-Methodist Church. Lancaster County ACTION, a group that promotes candidates with Judeo-Christian values, was also involved.

To date, The Discovery Channel has chosen not to comment on this matter.

Click here to get involved in the Respect Amish movement.

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