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Amish Mafia season two debut sparks debate

Updated: Wednesday, August 14 2013, 10:38 PM CDT
Reported by: Chris Papst

LANCASTER -- Over the past few years, America has become fascinated with the Amish and Lancaster County. TLC has "Breaking Amish," National Geographic channel has "Amish Out of Order," and Dicovery has probably the biggeset hit of all, "Amish Mafia," which had its season two premiere last night.
The reaction to these shows is all over the place.

After massive ratings in its first season, Lebanon Levi and the rest of the so-called Amish Mafia are back for season two. The Discovery Channel show has brought a lot of publicity to this area -- publicity some people would rather not have.

Brad Igou, president of the Amish Experience, would like to see the show stopped. His tourism company educates people about the Amish community.

"There isn't an Amish Mafia," he said. He's afraid shows like "Amish Mafia," set false stereotypes that will never be corrected because the Amish community won't speak up for itself.

It’s disturbing. It’s just such a total misrepresentation and that’s what’s kind of disconcerting to us is that people watch this and walk away not knowing what is or isn’t true," Igou said.

But others see it differently. 

"He's just an ordinary guy like anybody else who would walk into my library. He just happens to be on a TV show and is making a name for himself," Donna Brice said.

Brice is the director of the Eastern Lancaster County Library. Earlier this month, Lebanon Levi (real name: Levi Stoltzfus) used his new-found fame to help the non-profit raise $3,000. He donated hours of his time to sign autographs.

"I think that’s a wonderful thing. He’s able to take that celebrity and use it to the advantage of the community he grew up in," Brice said. 

Igou almost agreed: "We can say that's good, but it's certainly far outweighed by the bad."

The Amish Experience planned to run an "Amish Mafia Tour" to dispel the myths of the show but Discovery sent its lawyers in to say the TV station has trademarked the term "Amish Mafia."

New episodes of the show air Tuesdays on the Discovery Channel at 9 p.m.
Some people have asked whether the Amish tourism industry, like Igou's tours, exploits the Amish in the same way the reality TV shows do.

Igou refutes that, saying that unlike the reality TV shows, his company respects the Amish and their way of life by telling the truth. 
 Amish Mafia season two debut sparks debate


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