INTERCOURSE, Pa. - A locally filmed television show is facing scrutiny from community members and statewide officials.
According to opponents, the Discovery Channel's "Amish Mafia" is a "disrespectful" and inaccurate portrayal of the Amish community in Lancaster County.
"It's just wrong," said Mary Haverstick, a Lancaster-based filmmaker who organized the "Respect Amish" movement in effort to stop the show, and other purported "reality" programs like it.
"The shows, we feel, are very disrespectful, creating a bad, false image and we want to work to correct that image," she said.
Most notably, she said "Amish Mafia," in which a group of so-called mobsters supposedly protect the Amish community, reflects violence that is the "antithesis" of simple, peaceful Amish culture.
"To dress people in Amish garb and have them out doing violent acts, on-camera, which is also against the Amish views, I mean, how much more offensive can it get?" said Haverstick.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett agrees, along with Lancaster and state officials, who recently signed a statement that criticized the show for engaging in "religious bigotry."
"The show is an affront to all people of faith and all secular people with moral principles," the statement reads. "By misrepresenting the Amish as a crime-ridden culture, the show gives, by association, the same impression of Lancaster County."
"It looks horrible for Lancaster County. It puts us all in a negative light," added Haverstick, who fears that the show could hurt the county's tourist industry.
But according to the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, there isn't a clear indication that the show has impacted tourism positively or negatively. Spokesman Kathleen Frankford, however, agreed that the show doesn't accurately depict Amish life.
Tourists who 69 News spoke with said they either hadn't heard of the television show or felt unaffected by it.
"It really didn't affect the way I think of the Amish community," said Terry Frushour. "It's just a television show, nothing really to it."
Antoinette Santos agreed: "I think it's just entertainment. Most people know that that's not their real lifestyle."
But Haverstick begs to differ, noting that she's been contacted by members of the Amish community, both in Pennsylvania and out of state, thanking her for her efforts.
"They call to say how painful the shows have been, and how much they appreciate this. They almost can't believe that the non-Amish community is standing up like this, and they're thrilled about it," she said.
Haverstick said she and fellow supporters have reached out to the Discovery Channel in hopes of meeting to discuss the show's future.
"So far, we haven't gotten anything, but we're optimistic," she said. "I mean, I think they're going to have to hear us because our megaphone is getting bigger and our group is expanding. Sooner or later, I think we're going to be on their radar screen."
Calls made by 69 News to the Discovery Channel's press office were not returned on Thursday.
"Amish Mafia" was reportedly renewed for a fourth season earlier this year, but a premiere date has not been announced.
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