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Finding out the truth about the "Amish Mafia"

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Finding out the truth about the "Amish Mafia"
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Guns, buggy races and house parties - not your typical depiction of Amish life. But that’s the portrayal delivered by a new Discovery Channel hit called "Amish Mafia." Many have now come out saying the “reality show” is nothing close to reality. Our Barry Wygel sat down with a woman dedicated to researching the Amish way of life to see where the truth lies.

POTSDAM, N.Y. -- Is there an Amish Mafia? Professor Karen Johnson-Weiner says emphatically, "No."

"There's no secret Amish organizations. There's no brotherhood that aims to make life good for the plain people. Nothing like the Amish Mafia," said Professor Karen Johnson-Weiner, an Amish researcher and a anthropology professor at SUNY Potsdam.

The show is filed in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It revolves around a man named "Lebanon Levi" and his group who act as protectors for the Amish community. According to the show, the group gets away with their acts because some of them are not members of the Amish church.

"The very notion that you would call someone who is outside the church 'Amish' is strange to the Amish," said Johnson-Weiner.

The Amish people, although they don't have televisions, are aware of the show.

"They are, to a person, appalled by it," said Johnson-Weiner.

Recently, a member of the Amish community wrote a letter to a Lancaster newspaper.

"With a heavy heart I write this, hoping to convey that this TV production 'Amish Mafia' causes us much grief. Those characters are not Amish," said Sam Stoltzfus, in a letter to the Intelligencer Journal.

"Anyone baptized in the church who behaved that way would be out of the church," said Johnson-Weiner.

Johnson-Weiner points out that this isn't the first time the Amish have been portrayed incorrectly on television.

"Shows like 'Amish Mafia' and 'Breaking Amish' tells us much more about ourselves. They certainly don't tell us much about the Amish. That we are so fascinated with these people," said Johnson-Weiner.

But the show may not be entirely fictional. The show depicts 'hut parties,' where underage teenage drinking is rampant and dangerous buggy races are held.

"Young folk will do what young folk in all cultures do. They'll have wild parties and do things their parents frown upon," said Johnson-Weiner.

This happens because children in Amish communities are not baptized into the Amish church until they are adults.

Professor Johnson-Weiner has a new book coming out this spring entitled "The Amish," a companion to the PBS series by the same name. If you want more "Amish Mafia," you can catch the season finale tonight at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.

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