Young and “troubled” Mennonite men sent by their families to an eastern Pennsylvania farm became victims of a human trafficking scheme, deprived of food and education, and forced to do unpaid labor. A new federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two former residents of Liberty Ridge Farm alleges that the facility physically and emotionally tormented them. Punishments for not working hard enough or acting “against the Bible,” according to court filings, frequently involved “dragging chains over their shoulders” and “breaking boulders into tiny pieces by hand with a small hammer.”
The plaintiffs, who were 14 and 18 when they arrived at the farm, were threatened with excommunication from the church and their families if they ever discussed leaving. “From what we understand, there were many other young men who had similar traumatic experiences,” a lawyer for the two men said. The farm, which has been operating for roughly a decade, according to the lawsuit, housed four to six boys at a time. It told parents their children would be reformed under “an intense spiritual atmosphere.” The lawsuit also accuses the farm, listed as a defendant alongside owner Martin Nelson, of violating state and federal human trafficking laws. It is unclear whether Liberty Ridge is still operating as a home for Mennonite boys.