Nightline Fix

Infamous ‘Amish Mafia’ Enforcing Rules in Centuries-Old Community

Nightline Fix

In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, some 50,000 Amish live as they have for nearly 300 years, simply and humbly.

But behind the buggies and rolling hills is an American sub-culture, often brimming with intrigue and controversy.

It is also the home of the so-called “Amish Mafia.” It's a reality show now airing on the Discovery Channel that tries to pull back the curtain on this traditional Christian culture, a community many are so fascinated by, but know so little about.

The series, now in its second season, follows Lebanon Levi and his assistants, who purportedly look after the Amish community in Lancaster County and do the dirty work the church can't.

They are said to work as an internal police system that takes matters of their community into their own hands and provide Amish aid, essentially insurance, for buggy accidents, personal injury or property damage. They also keep an eye on the teenagers who take time off to experience the outside world before committing their lives to the sect.

As a whole, the Amish deny the existence of the Amish mafia. Much of the show’s content has been strongly criticized by Amish scholars. Questions have even been raised as to whether some of the cast members are actors.

But the series producers say the main cast members aren't actors. They just haven’t been baptized in the Amish church so technically the same rules don't apply.

“Nightline” traveled to the farms of Lancaster County to get a better understanding of the show and its characters in the context of the environment.

“I'd rather have a computer and watch TV maybe,” said Levi, explaining why he decided not to get baptized. “There was nothing wrong with the Amish lifestyle. I just chose not to drive a horse at this time because it’s just too slow."

Merlin, an antagonist in the series, comes from a more traditional community of Amish in Ohio, where he has the same role as Levi. Merlin now spends his days trying to oust Levi from power, by any means necessary.

“The Bible says, ‘Your sins shall find you out,’” said Merlin.

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