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Drug case breaks Amish peace


Accused pair to appear in court Thursday

July 2, 1998
Web posted at: 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT)

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- Two Amish men are scheduled to appear in federal court Thursday to be arraigned on charges that they obtained drugs from a motorcycle gang called the Pagans and distributed them to Amish teens.

The indictment last week of Abner Stoltzfus, 24, and Abner King Stoltzfus, 23, created headlines and shocked the legions of tourists who flock to the gentle fields of Lancaster County, west of Philadelphia, that the Amish call home.

CNN's Jonathan Aiken reports
Netshow 28K 56K

But some Amish parents and teen-agers weren't caught completely by surprise. Last fall, written warnings circulated in the close-knit community, admonishing parents to watch their children because of the threat of drug use. And young Amish say they've seen drugs and alcohol at unchaperoned barn dances.

"Teen-agers are just like normal teen-agers. When they get 16, they get tempted just the same way on cigarettes and drugs and alcohol. And it's just to be cool," says one Amish teen.

The drugs and alcohol are a temptation to teens who are rebelling against a strict upbringing.


Both of the accused men are members of the Old Order Amish, considered the most conservative of the various Amish sects. Members eschew automobiles, electricity and computers, and they use horse-driven buggies for transportation. Many don't like to be photographed and decline to be named in news stories.

For generations, the Amish have tilled the fertile farms of Lancaster County. However, in recent years, they have begun to lose some of the isolation from the outside world that used to bring them security. While many continue their agricultural lifestyle, growing numbers of Amish are finding work -- and temptation -- off the farm.

"They don't go to high school. They don't go to college. But through occupational endeavors, they frequently have a great deal of contact with outsiders," says Dr. David Kraybill, an expert on the Amish.


While the drug bust creates a sense of embarrassment for the Amish community, there is also a feeling among some Amish that they now share something with the outsiders they have avoided for so long.

"Where as maybe before we were a little foolish, maybe a little selfish, this will show us that there's parents outside of our society also bleeding for their children," says one Amish man.

Reporter Jonathan Aiken contributed to this report.

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