Sect members charged with Amish beard-cutting challenge hate crimes law

Beards are considered a symbol of faith in Amish religion.

Attorneys for the 12 defendants charged with federal crimes related to a string of Amish beard and hair-cutting attacks announced Monday they will challenge the constitutionality of the hate crimes law.

The motion to dismiss the indictment claims the hate crimes law is "vauge and overly broad," which lead to prosecuting beard-cutting as an action that "wasn't meant to be covered as a hate crime."

"The actions alleged in this case are not alleged to be the result of anti-Amish bias," the motion said.

Authorities said the way Amish men wear their beards and women wear their hair are considered symbols of their faith. Prosecutors said because of this, these hair-cutting attacks fall under the federal Hate Crimes Act.

Samuel Mullet, the alleged leader of the sect responsible for the attack, and 11 others were charged with conspiracy, assault and evidence tampering. They have all pleaded not guilty.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)