Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Amish Get Remand For More Consideration of Religious Freedom Defenses In Permit Case

In Sugar Grove Township v. Byler, (PA Commnwlth. Ct., July 20, 2018), a 7-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court remanded to the trial court a complaint against a member of the Old Order Amish who, it was contended, failed to obtain required permits under the Township's Privy Ordinance, and violated the Sewage Facilities Act and the Uniform Construction Code.  The trial court concluded that community safety concerns override religious objections. The appeals court said:
The trial court substantiates this conclusion by vaguely referencing testimony of an environmental hazard in the nature of high levels of E. coli bacteria being found in the area, without any explanation of how Appellant’s purported violations contributed to or exacerbated this hazard. Moreover, the trial court ignores additional protections provided by the Religious Freedom Protection Act....
The matter is remanded to the trial court to issue a new opinion considering the issue of the religious freedom protections of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution as well as the Religious Freedom Protection Act.
AP reports on the decision.