Amish Family Must Connect to Public Utilities: Pennsylvania Court

January 11, 2018 Updated: January 11, 2018

An Amish family must connect to a municipal sewer even though doing so would go against their beliefs, a Pennsylvania court ruled.

The five-year legal battle started because the Yoder family wanted to continue using an outhouse that, in line with their traditional Amish beliefs, did not include any electricity.

The Commonwealth Court, though, has ordered the family to connect to the public sewer system, which would require using an electric grinder pump to move waste away from their home, reported Penn Live.

Two out of three judges approved the opinion, with Judge Robert Simpson saying there were other instances that the Yoder family used electricity in the past—he said they had used telephones and power tools, and ridden in cars, without being shunned by their community.

But Judge Patricia McCullough in her dissenting opinion expressed concern with the ruling.

“I believe (the Yoders) are being denied their rights to religious freedom,” she wrote.

Sara Rose, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed.

“They didn’t consider the other ways that the government could have achieved its ends,” she told the York Daily Record. She said the ruling could be used in the future to act against people despite the state’s Religious Freedom Protection Act.

Numerous people commented on the Penn Live news article, saying they were either for or against the ruling.

“Your religious freedom ends when it becomes detrimental to the public’s health,” said one person in support of the ruling. “Having a sanitary sewer system is essential to stop the spread of some very nasty diseases.”

But others argued against the decision.

“Piece by piece the government is chipping away at our long time constitutional freedoms,” said one respondent. “If their out door facility is not harming anyone’s water supply or causing offensive odors then they should be left alone to live life as they see fit.”

 

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