Aside from that likely skewed depictions on “Breaking Amish,” most of us don’t know much about the Amish lifestyle. Except for areas near their towns, most of us have never met an Amish person.
Therefore, all we have are entertainment shows claiming to show what it’s like to be Amish and a general sense that these people don’t use electricity based on their religious beliefs.
Thankfully for this story, that’s all that’s really needed.
The Yoder family, members of the Old Older Amish sect, lost their 5-year battle with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on Jan. 10.
They have been ordered to connect their outhouse to the city’s sewer system.
To do this, an electric grinder pump must be installed to their electricity-free outhouse.
The Yoders have long argued that doing so would require them to go against their well-known religion-based shunning of electricity.
It’s been said that Amish who participate in practices that are forbidden within the religion are shunned. The electric pump, the Yoders argued, risked their place in their religious community.
For them, the government has infringed on their freedom of religious expression. For the city, raw sewage is a public health risk.
The state court’s three judges were split on the issue, two citing that the family had used electricity in the past without being shunned by their peers.
They listed instances where the family had ridden in cars, used power tools, and even used a telephone.
Yes, it appears the crux of their ruling hinges on the family being arguably bad at practicing their religion.
Apparently, since they have used electricity in the past (no context given), it shouldn’t matter that an electrical unit is installed onto their property.
The dissenting judge, Patricia McCullough, expressed concern writing, “I believe (the Yoders) are being denied their rights to religious freedom.” Sara Rowe, representative from the American Civil Liberties Union agreed fearing that this ruling could be used in the future to impede on others’ religious freedom.
The court of public opinion is, as always, split. One side agrees with the ruling for sanitation issues, while the other sees as an ominous government overstep.
From a social standpoint, perhaps both sides are right. The law, however, shouldn’t be able to come in and assess that the Yoders don’t practice their religious well enough for their status and beliefs to be taken seriously.
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