Amish faith lost when beliefs and government clashed

Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Chris Woodward (

Amish buggyA legal ruling demanding an Amish family use an electric pump is about more than just electricity, says a religious liberty law firm.

The case Yoder v. Sugar Grove Area Sewer Authority was heard in a Pennsylvania state appellate court, concluding a five-year legal battle when a 2-1 court decision ruled the Old Order Amish couple has to connect to a sewer system using electric equipment.

The family can appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court but that does not guarantee its appeal will move forward.

"Americans should be free to follow their religious beliefs and this should be no less true for those like the Amish with unusual beliefs," responds Chief Counsel Randall Wenger of the Pennsylvania-based Independence Law Center.

With some exceptions, he says, the Amish have traditionally worked and lived without electricity as part of their faith but now the government is requiring the Yoder family to ignore its beliefs.

When the Old Order Amish lose a case like this, Wenger says, some may ignore the legal case because it involves unusual people with odd beliefs.

"Or we can say," Wenger says, "Wait a second, we all lose because it's not so much the merits of electricity that should concern us, it's that a fellow American is being told they don't have the right to follow their religion."

In fact, the dissenting judge in the case suggested in writing that the state's Religious Freedom Protection Act requires the Sewer Authority to show it has a "compelling" reason - in this case a mandatory electric connection - to impose a burden on the Yoder family's religious beliefs. 

If a federal court can force an Amish family to violate its religious beliefs, Wenger warns, that same court can force others to violate their rights, too.

"We don't live in a free society anymore," he warns, "if government can force people to violate their most deeply-held convictions."

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