Thursday, March 19, 2009

Amish Landowner Sentenced To Jail For Refusing To Comply With Sanitary Code

AP reported on Tuesday that a trial court in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania sentenced Andy Swartzentruber, a member of a conservative Amish sect, to 90 days in jail for refusing to comply with sewage code requirements in connection with two outhouses on property he owns. He was also fined $1000 for contempt. An Amish school, attended by 18 students, is located on Swartaentruber's property. The court also ordered it and the outhouses padlocked. In the long-running case, Swartzentruber had previously been fined $500 and ordered to stop dumping untreated sewage onto the ground by installing a holding tank and using a certified sewage hauler. (See prior posting.) Attempts at compromise have not been successful. While the Amish community is willing to pay for a permit, Swartzentruber has religious objections to permitting inspectors to take soil samples.

Reporting on the trial, the Johnstown (PA) Tribune-Democrat said that the judge's ruling seemed to stun members of the Amish community in attendance.The order to close the Amish school now poses the issue of how the Amish community will comply with the state's compulsory education requirements. After sentencing, Swartzentruber told the judge that he wants no TV or electricity in his cell. However the jail's warden said that Swartzentruber will be placed in a standard cell with electric lights.


Deacon John M. Bresnahan said...

I don't think I usually find myself on the same side as Chimera, but I agree with 99.9% of a comment he made in defense of the Amish in response to an earlier news story about the "sewage" case. In reading Chimera's research and the news articles it struck me how much and how often our society takes it for granted that just about anything the government does under the right label can be used to treat the First Amendment as so much sewage. God! a County Sewage bureaucrat can arrange for an apparently honorable Amish man to be incarcerated because when the government ordered him to jump he didn't ask "How high?"

Anonymous said...

I think it's probably more because when a qualified and medically trained epidemiologist determined the appropriate levels of sanitation in order to ensure the health of the community, an apparently honorable man opted to flout those rules and endanger himself, his family, and the well-being of everyone whose groundwater he may have contaminated.

The freedom to exercise one's religion is not absolute. It is bounded by generally applicable laws applied generally. So long as the law requiring a particular setup for residential sanitation is in place for a reason that was not intended to be discriminatory against the Amish (nor actually discriminatory against the Amish as applied), I'm not sure why we ought to carte blanche give an Amish fellow, however apparently honorable he might be, a free pass to put himself or other people at risk for serious health problems.