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Monday, January 24, 2022

Mennonite boys involved in human trafficking, lawsuit says

Another man arrived at the farm in 2019 and spent 10 months there, according to a lawsuit that identified him by his initials JDM and as a Missouri resident.

The lawsuit did not specify why the two plaintiffs ended up at the farm.

The lawsuit says many of the boys, who lived on an 80-acre farm that included poultry houses, cattle and pig quarters, and a wooden pallet shop, received no education.

Residents or their families were required to pay $ 2,300 a month to attend Liberty Ridge, which caters to “troubled” boys who have “special spiritual, emotional and social needs,” the lawsuit said, citing a church publication. The mentors accompanied each of the boys all the time, including while they slept, the lawsuit says.

The East Pennsylvania Mennonite Church was not contacted Monday for comment.

Attempts have been made to reach out to church leaders through the Mennonite Heritage Center, an organization dedicated to the story of the faith and life of Mennonites in eastern Pennsylvania, and the Anabaptist and Pietist Studies Youth Center at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. A message was also left for the deacon of the local church.

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The farm and its owner, identified in the suit as Martin Nelson, were also named as defendants. None of them responded to a request for comment on Monday. There were no lawyers for the defendants in the court records. The claim was previously reported by The Morning Call in Allentown.

It was not immediately clear if the farm continued to operate as a home for Mennonite boys.

Mennonites are part of the 17th century Protestant movement known as Anabaptism. It’s the same with the Amish, a group known for their more conservative customs like avoiding cars and worshiping in homes, sheds, or shops.

According to the Mennonite Heritage Center, the Mennonites of eastern Pennsylvania split from the Lancaster Mennonite Conference in 1968, seeking a stricter understanding of church discipline. Joel Horst Nofziger, the center’s executive director, said Monday that while they wear plain clothes and don’t use televisions and radios, the Mennonites of eastern Pennsylvania worship in English rather than German and drive cars.

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