The Chida (R. Chaim Dovid Yosef Azulai) wrote in his diary (Ma’agal Tov Ha-shalem) about the tzoraot hazaken, the plague of the beard, referring to hypocrites whose appearance was religious while their conduct betrayed their claimed piety.
As posted in the wonderful blog On The Main Line the Chida recounts an episode in Modena, Italy in 1777.
Signore Samson [Levi] told me about … Signor Zecharia Padova, whom the leaders of Modena ordered to remove his beard because he was “suspected” and was causing a chillul hashem and they shaved it off. . .
At night I spoke with him [and] reproached him a great deal, but he remained rebellious. May G-d allow him to repent for the honor of his rabbinic ancestors.
The Jewish leaders of Modena got it right when they insisted on depriving this man of his religious disguise. Nowadays many Jewish leaders rise to the defense of such scoundrels and argue for their innocence. It does not fool non-Jews. It creates yet more chillul hashem by encouraging others to exploit religious appearances. People have to stop saying, “I cannot believe that a religious looking man like Baruch Lebovits could have molested children.” Instead they have to ask “How can an unrepentant molester of children have the chutzpah to dress like a chasid?”