The big story last week was the imprisonment of 8 Kentucky Amishmen for not displaying the Slow Moving Vehicle triangle on their buggies.
Back in June we covered this issue with a lot of discussion on the implications of the case. It’s an issue of freedom and safety, similar in a sense to controversies over raw milk or vaccines, and one that brings out strong opinions on both sides.
The Amishmen in question have been jailed for periods of 3 to 10 days after refusing to pay fines ranging from $148 to over $600. Judge Deborah Crooks, who delivered the sentences after a failed appeal, commented:
“It’s time that we move forward,” she said, adding that there were 44 cases involving the same charge on her docket as of Monday.
“Those cases are going nowhere,” she said, adding that they are bound to continue arising “as long as we have a large Amish community.”
The Amish are going to face the challenge of keeping up with their farm chores and work while in prison; the Graves County community is not large but I expect they’ll manage.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Judge Crooks probably wouldn’t be sad if the Amish disappeared from her jurisdiction. Which I won’t be surprised to see happen in the end.
Why? I’m not too sure how putting the Amishmen in jail is going to resolve anything. They’re clearly not going to give in and start using the SMV triangle. Paying the fines would be an admission of guilt, another non-starter. There is apparently an attempt at an appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, but it’s questionable whether it will even be heard.
Outside of that appeal, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot more to be done for the handful of Swartzentruber Amish affected here. Amish have migrated before following conflict with the state (ie Amish in Nebraska leaving in the 1980s over schooling).
There are Swartzentruber communities in neighboring states (though since there’s more than one “variety” of Swartzentruber I’m not sure how they mesh with the Graves County affiliation) and for that matter a number of other places they could relocate to. Which of course would entail its own costs and problems, potentially breaking up a community and church in existence for years (the Graves County community was founded nearly a decade ago).
Mugs on display
One unfortunate spillover effect of this case is the now-wide publication of the Amishmen’s mug shots on the internet. Someone stitched together a composite photo of the 8 Amish mug shots which has gone into wide circulation, becoming fodder for mainstream news outlets as well as the usual decrepit pop-culture blogs.
Regardless of how you feel on the SMV controversy, I cringed seeing the men’s photos, not to mention some of the commentary on these sites, which would aptly be described as stomach-churning.
I understand that mug shots are taken when people are imprisoned, and that those photographs become accessible to the public. But it’s still a shame to see this happen knowing how Amish, and especially the more conservative Amish, feel about photos. Seems like salt in the wound.
But at least(?) the men were allowed to wear a muted jump suit rather than the standard-issue bright orange.