When Breaking Amish premiered on TLC last month, it was described by the network as an unscripted series about a group of Amish people "leaving their communities for the first time;" the cameras purportedly followed their first experiences with electricity, cell phones, indoor plumbing, and cars. But recent court documents, arrest records and Facebook profiles prove that not only had the cast members left the religion for the secular world years ago. Two of them—who claim on the show to have just met—actually have a child together. Furthermore, family members of the cast who are speaking out about how the show is fake claim that TLC is trying to buy their silence.
The ex-Amish community has never been too keen on the show, taking issue with how the Amish are portrayed as close-minded, cruel, and sexist people from whom the cast members need to flee. Initially, they were speaking out in the comments section of the TLC-run Breaking Amish Facebook fan page, but after the controversy erupted, the page was deleted. Now two different Facebook pages are devoted to exposing the show's misleading content, while an ex-Amish blogger—who knows at least one of the show's stars in real life—has been dissecting evidence, both physical and circumstantial, that the show is a big lie.
The first bombshell came when it was revealed that one cast member, Jeremiah Raber—who claims on the show that he needs to "find out" who he is by leaving his family's farm for the "first time"—left the Amish when he was 18. (He is now in his thirties.) For six years, Raber was married to fellow defector Naomi Stutzman, with whom he had three children. Stutzman filed for divorce last year on the grounds of "gross neglect of duty" and "extreme cruelty." According to their court documents, she was granted a restraining order against Raber and lived in a shelter for victims of domestic violence after she left him.
Stutzman has been speaking to the media, telling Star:
"I had to laugh when he claimed's never owned a cell phone. He's had one for as long as I've known him." She also says he loves Guns N'roses and Eminem, frequents strip clubs and "was always known as the guy with the coolest cars."
In a recent off-camera interview with a local news station, Stutzman claimed that TLC tried to pay her to keep quiet about Raber's past. TLC has adamantly refuted the allegations that the network tried to buy Stutzman's silence.
What is portrayed on the show is very different from Raber's reality. In the first episode, Raber acts like he lives in fear of the Bishop's watchful eye, and when the Bishop's wife rides by, he tells the cameramen to duck down, insisting that he will get in trouble if they're seen filming on the farm. He claims that he has been dating an Amish girl named Iva for two years and that they have been considering marriage. They sit down for a filmed conversation in which he tells her that he wants to go to New York to "find out what it's like." She tells him that he will be shunned by the Bishop if he leaves, and she walks away from him. (In reality, an Amish girl would not consider marrying a divorced man — there's no divorce in the community — and it's unlikely she would have been comfortable filming an intimate conversation.)
Raber also says that he has never driven a car, and one episode focuses on his driving lessons. However, the blogger at X Amish Atheist says this is far from the truth:
I know from personal experience with Jeremiah that he has driven plenty. He makes a grand show of being an inexperienced driver and even knocks over a traffic cone to complete the illusion. Jeremiah says that he has driven before but only on country roads. Lie! I know for a fact that Jeremiah has driven quite a bit in a city with a population of more than 50,000 people. While it might not have been NYC, it was definitely more than a country road. I know this fact because I saw it with my own eyes and I could find a dozen witnesses who would agree with me. He drove just fine then and that was about four or five years ago. I suspect that he got to that city by driving more than a thousand miles on the interstate highway system.
As to Raber's history, a "source" close to the show told the Daily News that "as filming went on, it became clear that this cast member, and possibly another one, had misrepresented themselves."
But it turns out that Raber isn't alone. All of the cast members are faking it for the cameras.
Rebecca and Abe are two young cast members who, like Raber, claim to be interested in seeing what the rest of the world has to offer. They share a car ride to the airport and say they only know each other tangentially from belonging to the same church. In an interview, Abe says he's looking forward to "getting to know Rebecca" a little more. On a recent episode, they are shown going on their first date.
It turns out that Abe and Rebecca had already been dating for a while, living among the "English," and have a child together.
Abe's brother Andy—who is featured on the show as an Amish person living an Amish lifestyle—has a Facebook profile (which has since been made private) with plenty of pictures of all of them hanging out in streetwear.
Additionally, Abe says on the show that he has never used a microwave, taken a shower, or "partied." Who knows about the microwave and showers, but he certainly was arrested four years ago in Kentucky for public intoxication.
And then there's Sabrina—the only Mennonite featured on the show—who says that her family won't speak to her about her decision to go to New York. Sabrina was married in a secular ceremony in 2009; it's unknown if she's still married. And this is not her first time on reality TV: She participated in a documentary on NatGeo called Amish at the Altar.
Finally, there's Kate, a girl who is supposedly a Bishop's daughter but is on the outs with her family after receiving a DUI. Kate, too, left the Amish years ago, according to X Amish Atheist:
In reality, sources tell me that Kate hasn't been Amish for years. She has been driving a car, dressing non-Amish, and working in a Ruby Tuesdays in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
This is not a reality show as it's been advertised; the stars of Breaking Amish might as well be paid as actors. While elements "staging" or "contrivances" to amp up the drama on reality shows is par for the course, at least the people featured on most shows tend to be who they say they are. Sure, there have been instances of scandalous pasts or criminal histories of certain cast members who weren't properly vetted by producers. But every single person on Breaking Amish is pretending to be something they aren't. The entire concept of the show—people breaking away from their Amish communities for the first time to experience the outside world—is fraudulent.
In a statement released by TLC, the network said, "There is a lot of information floating around about the group featured on Breaking Amish. Much of it is not true, but some of it is — and is addressed in upcoming episodes." Of course.