The trial court’s analysis regarding the threat to public safety pertained to the lack of any sewer connection at all, not a connection by nonelectric means, or, failing that, electricity generated by natural, non-electricity provider means. Importantly, the trial court also did not address Owners’ alleged clear right to the least intrusive means of a mandatory connection.
Sunday, June 05, 2016
Sewer Connection To Amish Must Be Made In Least Religiously Intrusive Means
In Yoder v. Sugar Grove Area Sewer Authority, (PA Commw., June 3, 2016), a Pennsylvania appellate court remanded to the trial court a suit by an Old Order Amish family seeking to avoid connecting their property to the public sewer system. In an earlier decision, the trial court had concluded that the interest in protecting public health through a sewer connection outweighed the Amish family's free exercise rights, but required that the connection to the sewer system be made in accordance with the family's religious convictions. The current suit stems from disagreements on how to carry out this prior order and the trial court's improper belated modification of it. According to the court, the Amish family has religious objections to having electricity power anything associated with the use of their outhouse, and risk excommunication if they use a privy tainted with the use of electric power. In remanding and requiring the trial court to reconsider the method by which a sewer connection would be made to the family's property, the court said in part: