18 responses to Do Amish respect the law?
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    Marilyn from New York
    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 07:42)

    I know I owned a store once and there is a lot of red tape you have to go through, but I complied with them. I can understand how the Amish, like many of us who are not Amish, would like to beat the red tape. Some of the rules on the signs, sizes, building inspectors, etc. are so dumb you wonder why they are made, but if you are in business you still have to go along with them. I always said it was the price to pay for owning your own business. I think the Amish should go along with the rules and regulations like we do. A Mennonite friend of mine bakes for Farmers Markets, road side sales, etc. and in New York State her kitchen has to be inspected, she also has to have licenses for her kitchen and another license with her where she is selling her baked goods. Everything has to be wrapped just so with all the ingredients on it. She can not give samples of the items out as they may be infected while exposed for people to eat. She has pages upon pages of New York State laws and regulations. Every year they changes these rules and regulations, but she has to go along with them to keep baking and selling. I think that’s life in business today no matter what your religious beliefs.
    Marilyn

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    Sharon R
    Comment on Amish respecting the Law (November 8th, 2011 at 08:07)

    Amish respecting the Law

    I think the Amish, like us, are getting tired of so much governmental interference, in our day to day lives, and businesses. This is the land of freedom, but seems there is more and more regulations, every day, on us.

    Our only way to peacefully try to change things, is to contact our representatives to make them see OUR point of view, as a hard working citizen, that is just trying to make a decent living.

    I don’t think the Amish think they are “above the law”, but fear that their religious beliefs are being tampered with, in this ever changing world of politics and governmental controls. I feel their pain and respect their way of life. If only our ‘leaders’ could take the time to learn some things from the Amish.
    SharonR

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      Comment on Elect new leaders, change the laws (November 8th, 2011 at 09:47)

      Elect new leaders, change the laws

      Sharon, I think what you’ve expressed is a growing sentiment among people and business owners in particular.

      I was going to mention something about one way to change things being electing leaders who would enact new laws or annihilate bad ones, but with Amish hardly voting compared to the rest of us, that’s not exactly an ideal option for them :)

      Come to think of it, I guess this fits with the rationalization Rich describes below–I didn’t pick these leaders, so why should I have to bend to their rules?

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    Rich Stevick
    Comment on Mort thoughts on Amish and the law (November 8th, 2011 at 09:29)

    Mort thoughts on Amish and the law

    Thanks, Erik, for your important and nuanced thoughts on the Amish and the law. I suspect that proportionately there are no more scofflaws among them than among us. But most of us have high expectations that the quiet of the land will obey those laws of the land that do not conflict with their religious convictions. I have heard (unsubstantiated) that a significant minority of Amish sportsmen, for example, ignore for whatever reasons, certain game, trapping, and/of fishing/boating laws. Of course, this happens among mainstream sportsmen also.
    Through ignorance–sometimes willful—many Amish routinely use pirated songs in their compilation of music for schools, youth singings, or song books for plain people. However, I have attended dozens of evangelical church services where “off the wall” songs show no required copyright permissions at the bottom, or choirs sing from Xerox copies—“to save money for the work of the Lord.” At the Christian college where I teach, students routinely make unauthorized copies of music and DVDs, even though they have been informed about the legal and moral reasons why this is wrong.
    None of these things exonerate the Amish. I am guessing that their concept of two kingdoms—the kingdom of a sinful, dangerous, corrupt world (all of which is true) and the separate kingdom of Christ makes it easier for them to rationalize their convenient avoidance or “bending” of the laws for whatever reasons. “After all, laws made by worldly people are often corrupt and unnecessary and apply mostly to them.” With regard to the Swartzentruber Amish resistance to the slow moving vehicle markers, I think it is mostly cussedness—“These people aren’t going to tell us what to put on our carriages.” All of this said, I believe that if the Amish leaders can’t convince the government to grant them concessions, most of them, like us, will reluctantly comply. Rich Stevick

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      Comment on Amish rationalizing law-bending (November 8th, 2011 at 09:42)

      Amish rationalizing law-bending

      Well stated Rich, thank you, and for these other examples. That’s a good point on why it might be easier to rationalize.

      My meaning was not to take a holier than thou attitude–I have a lot of sympathy for these folks in this case, and hey, I’m far from perfect–but I think you struck at the heart of it. It’s not what we’d expect of the quiet in the land. And it being an Amish example, it’s only going to be louder than if it were a “regular” member of the public involved.

      Related to this is a point that came up during controversy this summer over Amish and e-filing taxes in NY state–that there is a certain amount of public sympathy for the collective Amish which may really come in handy sometime on consequential issues–as long as it isn’t squandered or damaged by a few in the meantime.

      http://amishamerica.com/amish-vs-e-taxes-is-this-really-a-controversy/

      I may be assigning too much weight to the actions of a few affecting the perception of many. Or maybe not. I’m not really sure.

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    Comment on Plain People and Law (November 8th, 2011 at 09:36)

    Plain People and Law

    When people live immersed in their church, they are likely to decide that they simply are not going to abide by all the regulations and rules of outside society. If those regulations and rules make it difficult to earn a living or cost too much money to implement, it is very tempting to circumvent them. St. Paul did warn the early church to conform to local laws, as much as they could, as God had ordained a well-regulated society. (That’s my own paraphrase.) I have to say I am of the same mind about many laws and regulations. I would not open an unlicensed commercial kitchen or bakery, though, because the penalty of lacking that regulation could be unsafe food and illness for others. That is the main reason I do not bake for farmers’ markets or other venues. I would have a garage sale or sell at a flea market without a business license or local permit if such was required, because that violates both common law and common sense.

    I think that the two kingdoms theology of Anabaptism is sometimes used as an excuse, but it also informs daily decisions about commerce and trade. Amish have had many problems with local inspectors and regulations about home and business construction because they do not want to use licensed contractors nor meet local ordnances as to wiring, fire safety and other matters. Selling milk either to the public or to dairies has also been an issue in terms of requirements for sanitation or refrigeration. I agree that often these regulations are too expensive and even nonsensical. This will always be a matter in tension between cultures of faith and the government. Regulation can be used to harass a particular group into disbanding or relocating, or to keep them from opening competing businesses with established locals. It can only be resolved fairly by discussion and arbitration. I am always sorry to see it go to court, because the court systems are often structured against those who are outside the mainstream.

    I guess I could write a long essay on this, but I won’t do that here – maybe I will give it some thought and research so I can post something on Anglican, Plain.

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    Roberta
    Comment on Other religions promote dishonesty? (November 8th, 2011 at 09:36)

    Other religions promote dishonesty?

    If the zoning board and code officers around here kept records on the Catholics, Baptists and Methodists like they do on the Amish, they would find that the vast majority of violations are committed by non-Amish.

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      Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 09:43)

      Could be true, but I think we (fairly or unfairly) have higher standards for Amish. Which is why it gets your attention.

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    Naomi
    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 09:47)

    Do the regulations that entrepreneurs and small businesses have to deal with protect the public/consumer? Or do they exist primarily because big business, big ag., etc., know that when small businesses have to comply with the same regulations as big companies, they are forced out of business due to the time and expense of jumping through all the hoops?

    “Everything I Want to do Is Illegal” by farmer Joel Salatin, is a great, informative and entertaining read.

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    Roberta Klooster
    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 10:28)

    I’m smiling at Erik’s point that we have higher standards for the Amish. True for me, and I have at one time thought their life was perfectly submitted to God. But your column and some Christian books written by authors whose families have been Amish or Mennonite show that their life too has its weaknesses. I am not surprised when I remember as Christians we are still very human, living our life in obedience as best we can. We will not do that perfectly.

    I am wondering if the different rules the individual orders of Amish and Mennonites have make this avoidance of laws easier for them to view as rules of “another culture”, and therefore as not being necessary for them to obey. I think many of us can begin to see laws that we are under that have their point but can then become over regulation.

    It’s helpful for me to see the Amish more realistically, as Christians who are doing their best to live a Godly life and that their doing so is not always perfect either.

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    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 12:33)

    The part of the story above that I find the most interesting is the one about the person who was in the position of regulating. There is a huge generalization about the Amish in our society — that they are so neat and clean that they regulate themselves. And for that reason, the people who are in the position to regulate often steer away from going after the Amish at all. Given the reputation of the Amish, many don’t want to be perceived as “pounding” on the Amish. Very often people would see them as bullies for doing such a thing.

    After I left the Amish, I ran an in-home bakery business. Using the high standards I grew up with, I never had a problem when the inspector came unexpectedly several times a year to look things over. Then one day he saw a rubber scraper I was using had a crack in it. He told me that was a health hazard. I threw it out then and there and replaced it. I bring this up because I simply did not know that. And my guess is that most Amish women wouldn’t either, being frugal and not wanting to throw away something that still functions. What else might they not know about?

    In the case of the building that wasn’t up to code, it would be interesting to know how much more it would have cost to implement the state standards. Some of the things the Amish get stubborn about are just not worth resisting, as I see it. The triangle issue in Kentucky is simply absurd. If any other religious sect in this country — say the Mormons or the Johovahs Witnesses — made issue of anything so small, what would be our level of sympathy?

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    Katie Troyer
    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 14:44)

    When I was died in the wool Amish I thought we were God’s special people and the law doesn’t apply to us. This is the long and the short of Amish thinking about the laws of the land.

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      Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 15:15)

      Katie, what a succinct way of putting it – you are absolutely right about that! I suppose I’ve been out of the Amish culture long enough to have forgotten some of the Amish ways of thinking.

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      Mark – Holmes Co.
      Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (October 15th, 2014 at 15:08)

      As someone who has always tried to obey the law, I’m not sure I’d agree with putting it like that… But opinions will vary.

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    Forest
    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 8th, 2011 at 18:20)

    I would agree with Roberts’s point that non-Amish commit just as many, if not more, violations of various codes and laws that seem foolish and unneccesary. We just don’t hear about it when they do. It’s generally only news when an Amish person does it.

    But then, here in NC there’s a general distaste for government regulation in general, shared by both Anabaptists and non-Anabaptists alike…

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      OldKat
      Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 9th, 2011 at 07:39)

      Forest,
      I think there is a growing distaste for government regulations in general; no matter where you live. I’m not sure why either as we all know that ALL government rules and regulations are so logical and well thought out (insert winking smiley face here!). I’m not sure what the right answer is, because the whole concept of food and drug safety came about because of abuses in the early unregulated markets. That said, it often seems the process is used in today’s world to discourage competition or punish political enemies. There seems to be a disconnect between what is needed to protect the consuming public and what we have in place in the way of regulations. I’m pretty sure just ignoring the laws and regulations is not the answer, though frankly I am often personally sympathetic to that position.

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    Don Curtis
    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (November 11th, 2011 at 14:02)

    This is just my own opinion and not my son Mark’s. What peturbs me about all of these health rules and regulations that the government slaps on local food producers is what about all of the food coming into this country from oversees. Are U.S. health inspectors going to the Chinese orchards, Mexican ranches, and Thai shrimp farms to make sure everything is hunky-dory. I don’t think so. But, a small Amish bulk food shop tries to sell some cheese and they’ve got to have a separate septic tank because of greasy water coming off of the cheese knife at a cost of thousands of dollars. There’s reason in all things.

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    Mark – Holmes Co.
    Comment on Do Amish respect the law? (October 15th, 2014 at 15:05)

    I think this article shows that the Amish have difficult and stubborn people among them just like any group of humans. I was going to write I don’t think it’s right to ignore laws unless they go directly against scripture, but the song-book comment brought me to a stop. I’m embarrassed to admit I did not realize copying a song could be illegal! Oh my… how often have I copied the words to a song for a family gathering singing booklet or whatever and never once thought it was wrong. Hmmm. So now what??? I’m a lawbreaker and did not even know it!
    There is another side to this story, though. It is not unheard of for government officials to have a grudge. We know of one community where it was proven a state health inspector was giving the Amish a harder time than his non-Amish places and once it was proven he lost his job. I don’t think that happens often, but it’s not unheard of.
    But red-tape? That might be one thing we all agree on — it’s frustrating!

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