Although viewer response to the National Geographic Channel reality show, Meet the Hutterites, has been mixed, there is no confusion on the part of the three Hutterite sects regarding the portrayal of King Ranch Colony and its inhabitants' belief system.
Today, John Stahl, Bishop of the Darisleut Sect (which includes King Ranch Colony, featured on National Geographic’s Meet the Hutterites); Peter Entz, Bishop of the Lehererleut Sect; and John Waldner, Bishop of the Schmiedeleut Sect, released a joint statement regarding the participation of King Ranch Hutterite Colony in Montana in Meet the Hutterites, as well as the depiction of the colony by the National Geographic Channel. Not surprisingly, the views of the three were not positive:
"We are deeply disappointed with the National Geographic Channel's depiction of the Hutterite people in their so-called reality series, 'American Colony: Meet The Hutterites,' filmed at the King Ranch Hutterite Colony in Montana. It's unfortunate that Jeff Collins and his production team chose to come through the back door rather than the proper channels to receive permission to film our people.
"What was promised by the producers to be a 'factual documentary' is, in fact, a distorted and exploitative version of Hutterite life that paints all 50,000 Hutterites in North America in a negative and inaccurate way. Scenes and dialogue were contrived resulting in a 'make believe' depiction of how we live and the spiritual beliefs we cherish.
"We were reassured by the fact that it would be shown on the National Geographic channel. With its stellar reputation, the National Geographic has, in the past, been a hallmark for accuracy and sensitivity in its portrayal of the world's cultures and religions.
"This is not the case in this instance and we are compelled to say so in defense of the Hutterite people and the values and traditions we hold dear in a changing world and a challenging time.
"We are deeply saddened by the skewed image with which the public may now perceive the Hutterite faith and way of life. It is distorted and damaging, and we feel betrayed. We understand very well that we are not perfect and we face many challenges. Nevertheless, our vision is to live meaningful Christian lives in community as Christ has instructed us to do.
"On behalf of the Hutterian Brethern, we would like to express sincere thanks to the media and the public for the opportunity to present our point of view."
At this time, the National Geographic Channel has not responded to the Bishops’ concerns.