Amish in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin seem to have changed their tune regarding smoke detectors.

Eau Claire County WisconsinWhen the issue arose in 2013, it appeared they rejected a scheme which would have had them install smoke detectors to satisfy local building code, only to remove them after inspection.

Amish in New York did something like this in 2012 to resolve a similar dispute.

Reports on the Eau Claire group said that “Amish leaders determined such dishonesty would violate their religion.”

However, some Amish in Eau Claire County now seem to be doing just that.

Henry Mast goes home

From the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

Henry Mast had been out of his rural Fairchild residence more than two years before a friend installed the necessary detectors, allowing Mast and his wife to return on Dec. 23. Truss improvements and installation of detectors were some of the items required before Maley found the 10-year-old residence in compliance.

Amish Home Eau Claire Co Wisconsin

Photo by Chuck Rupnow, Leader-Telegram

An English friend was the one who installed the smoke detector for Mast, allowing his home to pass inspection.

Mast had been driving back and forth from a relative’s house, about two miles away, for two years and three months to care for his animals and business.

“One of your people stepped in, and now I’m OK,” he said. “I thanked him for doing that. I was not going to put it in but was going to keep going back to my son’s until something happened.”

Mast’s residence had been placarded by county officials, and he at times slept in his shop. Furniture was moved back into the house about three weeks ago.

“I knew it would be nice living here, but I did not realize how nice it is to be living here,” Mast said with a smile.

Mast admits that he removed the detector after passing inspection.

What’s wrong with smoke detectors?

That is the question you might be asking. Many Amish in fact have no problem with smoke alarms.

Smoke Alarm SymbolSalesmen travel Amish communities selling them, one sure sign of a market. Like other safety technologies such as the orange SMV triangle, the majority of Amish are comfortable with the devices.

However others have objections based in religious belief. Karen Johnson-Weiner addressed the issue succinctly in the PBS film “The Amish”, so I’ll just share that here:

That’s putting your faith in a manmade device instead of God. What God wants to happen will happen. The Amish are building their homes according to way their Ordnung says they have to build. If, heaven forbid, a fire comes, sweeps through the house and something terrible happens, the child will be in a better place, the people will be in a better place, they’ll be with God. Theirs is not an intellectual faith; it’s a lived faith. In a very real way because everything they do is guided by their Ordnung, by their beliefs. In a way they’re always in church.

Is it lying?

Eau Claire County has a single Amish community of eight church districts. What’s interesting is that the county building inspector says that different Amish people seem to treat the regulations differently:

“I have had some Amish tell me that after I leave, they are going to take them out,” said county building inspector Steve Maley. “I tell them that’s not a good idea. I know some of them take them out. Some say they understand that I’m just doing my job and understand what the law is and say they plan on leaving them in there, but I know some take them out.”

Are Amish in this community going against their leaders’ counsel? Or does this indicate a shift in views in the community?

The original article stated:

Adding to the gravity of the situation, Amish residents deemed to have violated the group’s religious principles face the possibility of being shunned, or kicked out of the community.

“They’re too honorable to lie,” state representative Kathy Bernier said at the time.

So have the Amish decided it’s okay to lie now? Or that maybe this isn’t a lie after all?

Some possibilities

Perhaps leaders have backed down and allowed a more pragmatic approach, in light of the strife and fines their people were facing.

Maybe some Amish individuals never felt as strongly about simply removing them (or even leaving them in?). Two years and three months is a long time to be locked out of your house.

Another Amish person, Daniel Gingerich, did something similar to Henry Mast. Neither man seems worried that there will be repercussions, from either church or state. “They won’t come back. It’s a done deal,” said Gingerich.

It also makes you wonder how necessary the requirement is to begin with, if it’s basically okay with authorities to just remove them.

What do you think?