After five years of fighting in court, an Amish community finally got a ruling, but one that clearly violates their rights protected under the First Amendment.
A split Pennsylvania court ruled earlier this month that an Amish family, who had been using an outhouse for decades had to now hook up to the city’s sewage system at their own expense and that would also require an electric pump.
The family claims that it violates their religious rights to force them to use electricity.
The York Daily Record has the story:
In an opinion issued Jan. 5, a divided Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court said the Yoder family, who are Old Order Amish and avoid use of electricity for religious reasons, should complete the mandatory connection “without further delay.”
The Yoder family argued that use of electricity violates its religious convictions. The family has used an outhouse — an “old-fashioned privy” — that did not require running water or electricity, according to the decision written by Judge Robert Simpson.
But Sugar Grove Township requires residents with properties that abut the sewer system to connect to it at the owners’ cost.
The early 2018 ruling addressed whether the Yoders could connect to the system without use of an electric pump. It followed a number of previous opinions on the case from county and state courts.
The court’s majority opinion cited previous cases finding the family “used electricity when necessary, through telephones and riding in motor vehicles.”
The court ruled that using an electric pump was the “least intrusive means” of connecting to the sewer system.
Now, it is true that the family could utilize wind or solar to produce the energy needed for the pump, but the fact of the matter is that what they are doing is not bad for the land and doesn’t impose a danger to anyone. On top of that, the city requires it to be at their expense.
While I’m not one that is against electricity, this family clearly wants to remain simple and primitive and self-sufficient and they aren’t harming a soul in the process. They are dealing with human waste in a way that has dominated much of human existence, and it’s a biblical way, as well.
“…and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.” -Deuteronomy 23:13
Of course, this was to eliminate disease that could spread and was a forerunner of septic tanks, which allows for human waste to settle underground and be eaten by bacteria.
No one is being harmed by the family using an outhouse. However, the city is being enriched by forcing them onto the sewage line and will charge them monthly for its use, something they get for free without being connected to the city’s sewage system.
There was a dissenting voice in the ruling though.
Judge Patricia A. McCullough said that she believed the Yoder’s are sincere in their religion-based shunning of electricity.
“I believe [the Yoders] are being denied their rights to religious freedom,” she wrote.
She acknowledged that there were other ways of doing away with waste that did not violate the rights of the Yoders.
Sara Rose, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, shares that sentiment and added, “They didn’t consider the other ways that the government could have achieved its ends.”
No, because the government, in this case, will make money off of the Yoders.
Rose also said that she was concerned about the effects of the Yoder’s case on the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act and how it might be cited in future cases.
While the First Amendment is a limitation on Congress at the federal level, and I understand that, it is also recognizing, not giving, the right of the people to freedom of religion, and that religion was understood at the time to be the Christian religion. However, because it is acknowledged by all Americans who served the public, even at the local level, it is my opinion that the city and the court had no business pushing this on the Yoder family.
Again, while I disagree with the Yoders on electricity, if it is an issue of conscience and it does no harm to anyone else, they should be left alone.
Several cases involving the Amish has occurred in recent days where the government has acted very heavy handed against them.
I reported on Sam Girod, who made natural products and because they had been used to take care of certain ills, put that as a claim on his product. No individual brought a case against him for false advertising or taking them for money, but the federal government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has a history of approving drugs that have actually killed hundreds of thousands of people according to their own website, brought a case against him and sought to put him in jail for 68 years. He was eventually sentenced to 6 months in June 2017.
The Free Thought Project also reported about an Amish girl with cancer who fled the state’s tyrannical grip to save her life.
After fleeing from government agents who wanted to kidnap her and put her through chemotherapy, an Amish girl who once had cancer is now entirely healthy. Sarah Hershberger, 12, was being treated at Akron Childrens Hospital, a government hospital, when the staff attempted to force her through chemotherapy despite the objections of her and her parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger.
In June of 2013, Sarah was receiving chemotherapy at the hospital and her parents were convinced that it was making her condition worse, and putting her at risk for many other long-term health problems.
“We were pretty sure we were going to lose her if we kept doing the chemo,” Anna Hershberger, Sarah’s mother said.
The parents began to object the treatment and faced strong resistance from the hospital staff, who even took them to court and attempted to gain guardianship over Sarah. The doctors had testified that without receiving chemotherapy immediately, Sarah would die within six months.
The family stood firm in their denial of the treatment, which prompted an intense legal battle. At one point during the ordeal, the family was forced to flee the country so she was not kidnaped by the hospital. Eventually, the family won in court, and it was decided that they had a legal and constitutional right to treat the cancer as they saw fit.
Now, two years later, Sarah is not only still alive, but she is actually entirely healthy, and cancer-free.
According to court records released this week, Sarah is no longer showing symptoms of lymphoma and she is back to her regular life. This recovery is in spite of the fact that doctors insisted that she would die without chemotherapy, to the extent that they would attempt to take her away from her parents.
Here’s just another example of government thinking it knows better on how to deal with things than the people themselves. This is a really bad call, sort of like depriving people of drilling their own wells for water.