Two stories have just been hitting the wires from, in some sense, opposite ends of Old Order Amish society.
In Wisconsin, an Amish sawmill owner is having permit issues. Joni Bontreger was cited for building a sawmill without obtaining a zoning permit. From the story (no longer online):
Borntreger filed a one-page, handwritten note in response saying he didn’t believe he needed a permit because his forefathers didn’t have deal with such regulations.
In an earlier court appearance, others spoke in Bontreger’s defense, arguing that the religion requires simplicity and non-conformity–arguments which swayed the judge in his favor.
In this latest appearance, however, the court “found Joni Borntreger’s arguments too vague to conclude the permit requirements infringed on his beliefs.”
These types of disputes aren’t uncommon in conservative Amish communities, with religious objections presented against state zoning or code requirements. Bontreger is representing himself, but based on this result could probably use some reinforcements.
Amish & the SEC
The second case is not so everyday, at least for the Amish. The $125 million Amish Helping Fund (AHF)–a nonprofit device used by Amish to provide real estate loans–has been found, from what I can tell, to essentially have out-of-date paperwork.
The SEC alleges that AHF’s offering memorandum, drafted in 1995, was not updated for 15 years and thus contained material misrepresentations about the fund and the securities being offered.
The fund immediately corrected this issue, thus earning it “lenient treatment”–a deferred prosecution deal. The SEC ruled that none of the 3,500 investors suffered undue harm due to the stale documents.
So this sounds a little like a storm in a teacup. Obviously the story is getting more airtime because it’s an Amish fund.
I was simply struck by the contrast here–an individual fighting out a religious conscience matter on one side, and an entire Amish financial institution tripped up by a paperwork oversight on the other.
It’s another nice illustration of Amish diversity. You probably wouldn’t see these two groups of Amish trading places though.
In other words, the folks involved in the Helping Fund are probably the type who are fine with zoning permits. And the zoning permit Amish are unlikely to be that involved, if at all, with big financial vehicles like the Helping Fund.
Though whatever your stripes, I guess no one gets a pass on paperwork.