BERGHOLZ, Ohio – The leader of an Amish group with members accused of going into the home of another Amish man and cutting his hair and beard said Monday it’s a religious matter and police shouldn’t be involved.

Sam Mullet said he didn’t order the hair-cutting but didn’t stop two of his sons and another man from carrying it out last week on a 74-year-old man at his home in rural eastern Ohio.

Mullet, 66, said the goal was to send a message to Amish in Holmes County that they should be ashamed of themselves for the way they were treating Mullet and his community.

“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 on the outskirts of Bergholz, a village of about 700 residents.

“We know what we did and why we did it,” he said. “We excommunicated some members here because they didn’t want to obey the rules of the church.”

Mullet said he’s upset that his group, about 120 people living on several small farms, has been called a cult by detractors. He said he moved the members of his group about 100 miles from Richland County to the hilly area in 1995 just to be by themselves.

“We’re not a cult. We’re just trying to live a peaceful life,” Mullet said. “I was hoping I could move here, try to start a group of church people, do things in school and church the way we wanted.”

Mullet said he should be allowed to punish people who break the laws of the church, just as police are allowed to punish people who break the laws of the state.

“You have your laws on the road and the town — if somebody doesn’t obey them, you punish them. But I’m not allowed to punish the church people?” Mullet said. “I just let them run over me? If every family would just do as they pleased, what kind of church would we have?”

On Saturday, Jefferson County authorities arrested two of Mullet’s sons, 38-year-old Johnny Mullet and 26-year-old Lester Mullet, and another man from the community, 53-year-old Levi Miller, on burglary and kidnapping charges. The three men were being held in Jefferson County jail on $250,000 bond each.