Amish Couple Going to Trial Over Septic Tank? (Video)

Amish Septic Tank Issue

Following a look at a zoning conflict in one Amish settlement, a different sort of building issue in Minnesota has one couple banned from their new home.

You may have noticed that some Amish seem to have recurring problems with the law, over issues such as safety triangles on buggies, or building requirements for their homes.

These are typically the most traditional Amish, like those who live in the Swartzentruber Amish community of Harmony, Minnesota (Fillmore County).

Ammon and Sarah Swartzentruber of Harmony were issued with citations back in June, for building a new home without a permit. Why no permit?

Swartzentruber said he didn’t go through with the permit because an ordinance included in it requires the homeowners to build a septic system if running water is used indoors. According to Swartzentruber and his father, Jacob, the sewer system is considered a modern day convenience that Amish do not believe in utilizing in their lifestyles.

“Our group doesn’t believe in changes like going more modern or changes like that,” said Ammon.

Defendant Ammon Swartzentruber

Later it was claimed they continued to work on the new home, in violation of the judge’s conditions. The couple say that friends and family actually did the work, to enclose it for protection against the cold.

They have been ordered not to come within five feet of the home. The couple has had a trial date set for January 8th.

When I first read about this story, I wondered why Ammon and Sarah are suddenly out in the spotlight here.

After all, Harmony is the state’s largest community, has been there since the mid-1970s, and I’d estimate has something like 150-200 Amish households. Are they the only ones who’ve balked at the permit?

Also, these types of conflicts are more understandable in places where Amish have recently established themselves…not as much in older communities where there is a working relationship between Amish and authorities.

The reason? Apparently, previous building permit applications simply did not include the particular ordinance.

Amish Court Visit

The county adopted new sub-surfaces sewage ordinances in December 2013, though somewhat confusingly, the Count Attorney “said there’s always been a requirement that rural homes not receiving city water and sewage build an approved septic system.”

The video below gives you a look at the current home of Ammon and Sarah Swartzentruber, and the new one they’re no longer supposed to touch, just feet away (video/article removed).

Compromise…or relocate?

Swartzentruber Amish are among the most traditional of all Amish. It’s one of their defining characteristics. They’re about the least likely of all Amish to bend when it comes to adopting changes imposed from outside.

Likewise, this is not the first time Amish from the plainer sects have had issues with building mandates. To take one example, Swartzentruber Amish in New York rejected a requirement to install smoke detectors in their homes in order to pass building codes. “I don’t need a devil on the wall to tell me if my house is burning” said one of the men.

District Court Fillmore County

In that case, the two sides reached a clever resolution. As described in reports at the time: “The town’s code inspector will install detectors before giving homes a final approval, but whether they remain is up to the homeowners, as it is in any home.”

It remains to be seen if some sort of compromise is in the mix here. As recently as a few years ago, the Harmony community had a total of seven church districts. However, for whatever reason, as of 2013 it had dropped to six.

If septic systems become a real requirement for Amish homes in Fillmore County, that number may continue to decline.

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    1. Margaret


      I don’t mean to start a fight but I’m not understanding the dilemma. Septic tank allows ones business to go into a separate holding tank. Yes, every so often you have to call in a sewer man to come clean everything out. But honestly it’s just cleaner and healthier.

      I get that Amish want to be separate. You can’t serve two masters. I’m curious to understand how a sewer system makes one “proud”?

      Maybe it’s this whole setting precedent thing…like if the county can get them to bend here, they’ll have to bend elsewhere.

      Question if they put the septic tank in (to follow the law)is there a way to disconnect it?, after an inspection?

      1. Rich Stevick

        I think I know why

        Margaret, In my less than humble opinion, I think resistance to some reasonable requirements (SMV markers, adequate night carriage lighting, septic tanks)may be attributed to just plain ‘cussedness.’ (I don’t know where the word comes from, but if you’re over 60, you understand 🙂 Rich

      2. Leon Moyer

        Biblical teaching on sewage!

        God has not left us in darkness, but has given us a Biblical principle for each and every aspect of our lives. The world wants us to put our human waste in our drinking water, then take it back out later at a sewage treatment plant before dumping the water back into the creek or river for the folks downstream to use! How stupid. Here is God’s way, which is best and will work as in the use of an outhouse: Deut. 23:12Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:

        13And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:

        14For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

      3. Margaret; differance between cesspool, in ground septic, and elevated absorption areas

        It’s not as simple as filling and pumping a tank. Unless built on the side of a large hill, new septic systems require electric. Septic tanks allow thousands of gallons of water to seep into the ground and pumping the tank is required if it doesn’t break solids down efficiently and the sludge level in bottom gets too deep, spilling into drainage area. A holding tank system has no drain field that allows the water to absorb back into the ground. They are possible where allowed, (few areas) but require minimum pumping of the tank with receipts proving it was done…… Becoming very expensive to remove mostly contaminated water.
        State laws regulate waste disposal systems now. The old way was a hole in the ground with blocks or stones making a tank like structure that allowed liquid to seep into the ground. Solids go to the bottom, break down, and contaminated water leaches into the ground. That system is called a Cesspool. Not all soil accepted the water, lids caved in, systems failed. Then they were modernized with a septic tank and drain field to allow water to seep into the ground. Many are still in use and legal to use until they fail. The tank is buried deep enough for water to gravity flow to the drain field.
        Now most states require a percolation test for new systems. That is a test of how fast water is absorbed into the ground. Too slow is not good, too fast allows septic water (effluent) to get into ground water…… This percolation rate determines the size of an above ground absorption area that works like a big filter. (“in ground” drain field is not allowed unless strict criteria is met) So they now use two tanks. One for solids called the septic tank, and one buried deeper for the water that runs off called a dosing tank. Named so since it holds the liquid “effluent”. (smells almost like dish water) A float in the tank turns a pump on and pumps a measured “dose” of drainage water up to an elevated sand mound. This is like a big sand filter that “good bacteria” grows in to eat the bad. Problem being they require electric, and an alarm in the home in case there is a pump or system failure. Size of elevated mound and dose is also determined by percolation rate.
        Most areas don’t allow you to have a well drilled unless an approved septic system is in place first to take care of the contaminated water. Hence the reason for not requiring a septic if no pressurized water is in the home. This was when an outdoor privy (outhouse with pressurized water in home) was used. AND before a Certificate of Occupancy was needed to occupy a building. Now codes are written making outdoor facilities illegal and you can’t always get a C.O. or Certificate of Occupancy to occupy the home until you have all the modern amenities required by building codes. Most are things NO ONE had 200 years ago. So moving into an older home before CO’s were issued is one way to get around “new construction” codes until a system fails. People were simply not populating areas as dense and close to one another as today.
        Most states have an exemption for sewage laws when you own more than 10 acres since they figure you won’t pollute others water supplies. All septic absorption areas (drain field or sand mound) must be a minimum 100 feet from fresh water source.

    2. Mark - Holmes Co.

      There are radicals in a lot of cultures, and these Swartzentruber Amish fall into that category. The issues of smoke alarms, SMV triangles or battery lights on buggies, septic tanks, etc. are NOT issues for most Amish people. Rich said it well calling it “cussedness.” I just can’t quite understand how it violates Amish teachings, belief, or faith to adapt to those things. Those people don’t consider us to be truly Amish, but we see them as being totally separate and we don’t call them “Amish,” we call them “Swartzentrubers” or “Sam Yoder people” or “Swartzies.” There are things I admire about them, but a lot of things that are hard for me to sympathize with.

      1. Kevin L.

        Thanks for the insight, Mark, as to how the Amish community and the Swartzentruber’s interact. It clarifies for me the issue at hand, and one I wondered about concerning the conflict over the usage of SMV triangles, batteries, and other safety devices. Some writers make it sound like its all Amish, but obviously they are not correct! Thanks again!!

        1. Mark - Holmes Co.

          It all comes down to diversity. I remember once talking to a guy who had lived in an area where there was a lot of Swartzentrubers and on his first trip to our area, he was surprised to see how modern some of the other Amish groups are. He noticed most of the buggies he saw had lights, mirrors, windows, SMV triangles and commented on it saying he just assumed most if not all Amish were like the ones he saw around home. I told him we do have Swartzentruber Amish around here, but they are a minority. He agreed with me very strongly that in today’s traffic, having a triangle, lights, windows, & mirrors is important not only for the buggy passengers, but for the sake of those driving on the roads around buggies.

      2. Dirk

        When I think back to the Amish split in the 1860’s, when two thirds went Amish Mennonite and one third went Old Order Amish, I wonder if the Amish Mennonites back then regarded their OO Amish counterparts in the same way as the OO Amish today regard the Swartzies? As “cussedness”?

        How many current OO Amish regard today’s Amish Mennonites or Beachy Amish as true Amish? So what’s different with how the Swartzies regard you? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

        Perhaps in 160 years from now, only he Swartzies will still be driving buggies and living the OO lifestyle? And why, because what they resist today will not destroy them tomorrow.

        Once, all Christians lived as the Swartzies do, but like ripples in a pond, each passing generation moves further away from Calvary till it assimilates into the secular world. The only way to resist assimilation is to do as Paul instructed, remain separated, stand firm, resist evil, be not conformed to the world and to hold fast to the truth delivered once and for all time till Christ returns.

        Generations have gotten by without the need of septic tanks, proving that septic tanks are not a necessity nor required. Installing them opens a door to the path of worldly assimilation.
        I’m also sure having secular septic tank guys hanging around one’s back yard for three or four hours every other month while they empty the tank, is not high on any Amish parents wish list.

        Personally, I think some septic tank company, probably mafia owned, bribed the county clerk to include it as a building ordinance, so that by forcing people to install them, they would expand their septic tanks company’s business. Cos I’m pretty sure they don’t empty the tanks without charging a nice fee to the poor home owner. By the hour no doubt, which is why it takes three to four hours to do a half hour job.

        Guess the Swartzies will have to go the same route as the smoke alarms, put the tanks in to pass inspection and then disconnect them to avoid paying to have them emptied. If the county’s office had to pay to have them emptied, they would never have included that ordinance. Certainly not on an Swartzies property with their size families.

        Well that’s my take on the issue and why “it violates Amish teachings, belief, or faith to adapt to those things.”

        1. It crossed my mind they might use the same tactic, but for what must be a much greater expense and trouble than throwing up a smoke alarm for the few minutes an inspector visits.

          Not to mention, for it to work the authorities kind of need to be of the mind that they should essentially look the other way. It’s interesting that a community with a four-decade history in the area is now facing this challenge due to a change in local ordinance (or a change in enforcement of a rule, it is unclear by the texts I’ve read).

          I know nothing of local politics but it may be that there has been a change in power and now someone wants to “crack down” on Amish practice for whatever reason. Just speculation. Fillmore County is a rural county of just around 20,000 people, and the population actually declined between the last two censuses, so it’s not as if this is an urbanizing or suburbanizing area where you might expect something like this.

          1. Alice Mary

            “…it may be that there has been a change in power and now someone wants to “crack down” on Amish practice for whatever reason.”

            That’s exactly what I thought, Erik, after reading this post and numerous responses. Maybe someone wants that new house, sans septic, electricity, and all?

            And yes, you don’t need water to “flush” an outhouse “deposit”…save resources! Although, I wonder how many people died over the years (centuries, eons) by drinking water contaminated by their (and their neighbor’s) human waste, deposited via outhouse? (Especially in densely populated areas…and the Swartzentrubers are known for large families…Hmmm.)

            Curiouser…and curiouser!

            Alice Mary

        2. Leon Moyer

          no bribes needed

          Dirk, we are reaping what this nation has sowed–higher education has allowed people to think they can govern themselves without looking to the Word of God for guidance. This is voters desire and the elected officials are producing in response, all kinds of invasive and bothersome laws today, because they have been educated to believe they have the solution to saving this earth while attending the public fool system! The believer knows that only God will destroy this world, not us by using outhouses and refusing to hook up to public sewer systems (and the septic tank is only the first step for more control over rural folks–they require running water to operate, whereas the outhouse doesn’t). The correct response is to humble ourselves and accept God’s word and way.

        3. Naomi Wilson

          Dirk, do you mind my asking what is your background? I found your comment about moving away from calvary interesting. In my experience, many (maybe most?) people in conservative anabaptist churches don’t see that as they move away from “dead tradition” they are simultaneously conforming to the world. I’m unaware of any churches moving in the direction of greater separation (for solid scriptural reasons). It seems like once assimilation to the world happens, it is next to impossible to go back.

          1. Dirk

            Hi Naomi, I am baptized Brethren, so I have seen first hand how over a few generations a group can shift from being identical to the Amish in beliefs and lifestyle to being so modern and liberal that even the Methodists are shocked.
            Not all Brethren mind you, there are still some Old Order buggy driving Brethren groups left and other Brethren groups similar to conservative black bumper Mennonites. Most Brethren however are quite liberal and modern like the assimilated Mennonites.

            There are a few in the Brethren who are trying to return to a more conservative stance, under the Brethren Revival Fellowship.

            I think ultimately you are right, most Brethren will never return to a conservative lifestyle. As the Bible tells us, people preferred the darkness to the light. Perhaps the only way for the BRF to succeed, is to break away and start an independent conservative group.

            I think it was back in about the 1930’s, when the Brethren had around 200 000 members, that most of the bad changes happened, like abandoning the dress code, stopping German language in worship, and stopping other Christian and Brethren distinctives.

            Membership then was about double the current Amish membership.
            Today Brethren membership is around 100 000. Imagine what it would have been today if the Brethren had held onto their ultra conservative Christian distinctiveness. It worked for the Amish who have grown 10 fold or more since 1930. Going liberal destroyed the Brethren.

            Another reason when comparing the two groups, Brethren and Amish, is that the Amish follow a more congregational management style, whereas the Brethren like the Mennonites follow a conference style.
            Personally, I think the congregational style is better.
            If liberals get into power at a conference level, they can initiate all sorts of modern changes with the threat to disfellow any member congregation that does not follow their new ruling.
            Sadly most liberal changes appeal to fleshly desires, so many members are happy to accept them.

            With the congregational style, if one congregation falls, it does not destroy the whole denomination. The beard cutting Mulletites are a good example of how one Amish congregation did not cause the rest to topple.

            Conference style – someone would suggest that insisting that married men grow beards contributed to the Mullets behavior, another would suggest that perhaps growing a beard should not be mandatory for married men, it should be voted on as optional.

            Next thing you know, growing a beard is optional. Wearing a head covering is optional, owning a TV is optional, playing professional sport is optional, dressing modestly is optional, joining the armed forces is optional, having a rock band for worship is optional, having women ministers and elders is optional, performing gay marriages is optional, etc.

            Even being a Christian becomes optional, and look what that option got, a 50% membership decline in just over 70 years.
            So much for the liberals and their optionals.

            1. Mark - Holmes Co.

              Dirk, your response was to Naomi, but if I may sneak in here… All those “optionals” are sobering. I appreciate your comments on conference vs. congregational and agree 100%.
              My question is about the Brethren. We often meet German Baptists and River Brethren through business and in the area traveling. I was somehow thinking there were not any horse & buggy Brethren groups. Years ago we had met a few from (I think) Flora, Ind., but it seems to me I had heard the groups that had kept the horse (Petitioners?) had abandoned that a few years ago. I’d be interested to know more.

              1. Dirk

                No problem Mark. I believe there are or were three different buggy Brethren groups that varied in strictness. Each very small in number, less than 100 members each?.
                For some reason they never had a population explosion like the OO Amish did or the OO Mennonites did. Not sure why, should make an interesting study though.

                The main difference for sure is the fact they are all English speaking compared to the OO Amish and Mennonites, I think not having English as a mother tongue or home language is a very strong barrier against assimilation.

                Interesting what you say about the Petitioners split, they are or were officially called the Old Order German Baptist Brethren and I’m sure there is still a congregation of them in Ohio using buggies. There is also the Old Brethren German Baptist or Leedyites. They are the strictest. Doubt they have abandoned the buggy, as of a couple of years back, they were still using them.

                Another group I heard of using buggies is called the Old Order River Brethren who I’m guessing were from the original Dunkard Brethren and River Brethren before they abandoned the buggy. Last I heard of them is that they were down to only a handful of families. I think it was them.

                It gets confusing with all the splits and name changes.

                I will have to do some digging to get full answers for you.

                Ha Ha, I just got whacked, Ephrata was not a Shaker place, but I knew I had heard of it before in connection to something going extinct and being a celibate place. Just assumed Shaker.

                1. Mark - Holmes Co.

                  Thanks, Dirk. This is very interesting and helpful. I’ll try to do some more reading or digging myself. I did check in the book Plain Buggies, by Stephen Scott and found some info., but also know there is a good chance it is out of date.
                  It mentioned Old Order communities in several states, but there is not a lot of info. and the book was revised in 1998.

        4. Mark - Holmes Co.

          I’m sure you are right, Dirk, about how the higher churches see the Old Order. Some of the sharpest critics of the Amish are people in higher churches some of them being ex-Amish or having Amish relatives. It really doesn’t matter to me whether they see us as Amish or true Amish, just like it doesn’t matter to me that the Swartzentrubers don’t see us as “truly Amish.” It’s not about the name-tag in the end. My point was they are a separate people and we look at things in a different light. What alarms them about our way of life (including indoor plumbing, SMV triangles, smoke alarms) does not alarm me, but things about their way of life that alarm me (smoking, drinking, bed-courtship) don’t alarm them. So… I guess it’s back to two totally different outlooks. One of my coworkers made an interesting comment (or it was interesting to me anyhow) that what it means to be Amish will vary a lot depending on the context of the group under discussion.
          The “moving away from Calvary” idea is a good way of putting it. Maybe I’m just too close to it all, but when I see & hear firsthand some of the problems among the Swartzies, some of those issues seem far more dangerous and more like a crisis than a septic tank, but maybe that’s only because I feel good morals are important. I’d be more concerned about pure or moral dating standards for my daughters than someone pumping out my septic tank, but that’s probably just my cultural bias.

          1. Dirk

            Hi Mark, I hear you and agree with you, but there is one other thing that worries me.
            Jesus says that when He returns, He hopes to find that a faithful remnant still exists.

            Why hopes? This to me implies that it is possible that when Christ returns, none will be faithful, like in the days of Noah, as Paul warns us. God forbid.

            I look at the Shaker denomination as an example. they started I think about 400 years ago, grew to quite a sizable number and then declined to such a degree that only three Shakers still exist. When they die, the Shakers will be no more. Imagine if they were the True Faith in Christ, then it is on the verge of extinction. When the last Shaker dies, Christ’s light would be extinguished from the world.
            Thankfully I do not believe the Shakers are the true faith.

            (the Shakers died out because they held that men and women who were members were to remain pure and celibate till Christ returns, the world changed, people stopped converting to them and with no children produced, three old Shakers are all that is left. I think Ephrata where Charity is was once one of their communities. They lived in large common purse communities, separated from the world, like the Hutterites do.)

            If we insist that only the purist of the pure can be members, then we run the risk of extinction, for none can be so pure. For none are good, not one.
            Even the weakest in faith Amish member has value, for he/she will expose their children to the true faith by just being part of a community of faith, giving their child a chance to find true faith.

            But if one leaves the faith because they feel members are not serious or sincere enough Christians and joins say a Protestant congregation, to what then will they then expose their kids to?

            That killing your enemy is permissible, infant baptism acceptable, head coverings not important, modest dress unnecessary, remaining separated from the world an evil to evangelism, etc, etc.
            What chance then do their children have of finding true faith, of being part of the remnant when Christ returns? When the congregation or community they belong to does not follow Christs commands? Have replaced the commands of God with the commands of men. Are not even biblically qualified to be called Christians.

            For what did the martyrs die for if their descendents are to embrace the very teachings they died to reject?

            So yes, the Swartzies may have a few oddities and things such as smoking and drinking, but their oddities are not in violation of scripture, of Christ’s commands.
            For that reason we must stand united with them and support them, for they still follow and obey Christ as true Christians, even those members weak in faith are forced to walk the narrow path because of the ordnung.

            If we turn our backs on them for non-biblical matters that we may disagree with, because our elders have ruled differently to their elders, then ultimately we are turning our backs on ourselves. Their destruction will be our destruction.
            Jesus told us that in the last days, even the weakest in faith will be greater than John the Baptist.

            Romans 14:4. Do not judge the servants of another master.
            The Swartzie elders have ruled that certain things are permissible to them, that truthfully do not violate scriptural commands. We are not to hold this against them, it is their elders right to do so as their elected elders.
            If we criticize what their elders have ruled, then it is we who violate Romans 14:4.

    3. ra



      Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the … – Bible Hub

      Bible Hub

      For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. … The governments which exist have been put in place by God. … a ruler except by God’s permission, and our present rulers have had their rank …. Verse 1. – Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no …

      Hebrews 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders … – Bible Hub

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      Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. …. The people must search the Scriptures, and so far as the ministers teach according to … A good conscience has respect to all God’s commands, and all our duty. … as put in execution by them; and to their censures and reproofs, as delivered by the …

    4. Jack Mitchell

      What do the elders of the community say?

      Is this a problem that has occurred elsewhere in that particular community? I wonder what the elders of the community have to say about septic tanks. Come to think of it, if there is no sewerage system and a septic tank is not used, where does all the waste go?

      1. Dirk

        Briefly, without going into the gory details as to why and how.
        You dig a deep hole, put the wooden toilet shack over the hole and once a week throw lime or soda ash down into the hole. When the hole becomes about three quarters full, you dig another deep hole and move the toilet shack over the new hole, covering up the old hole.
        It can take many years between holes.

        1. Dirk

          Sorry Jack, you are aware that the Swartzies still use outdoor ablution facilities.
          I guess if you are going to have indoor plumbing, then you would need a septic tank. Can’t use the hole method then.

          1. JackMitchell

            Thanks for your replies Dirk. To be honest for all the things I have read about the Amish over the years, one thing I hadn’t even crossed my mind was in regard to toilet facilities. What an education this site is!

        2. Privy

          Most ordinances today prohibit outhouses and privies. An outhouse is when you have water under pressure in the house, a privy is when you don’t have pressurized water in the home. They work the same way. It’s common to also set the little building on two runners (boards or poles) and dig the new hole in front, sliding the building over the new hole. Most states do not have sewage requirements when you own 10 or more acres as long as your water supply is a minimum of 100 feet from the septic.

        3. Mark - Holmes Co.

          I might add that in the case of outhouses built on to or into a wash-house, the “pit” is shoveled out and spread on the fields and in at least once case I’ve personally seen, the “pit” was not closed in, but the waste just moved down the slope.

    5. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      I’m just going to sit and read for now, because I want to read more knowledgeable reactions before I say anything more than just telling everyone that this is my plan.

    6. Give an inch, the government takes a foot.

      Good morning, I look at this situation, as drawing a line in the sand. If one gives in to this government requirement, it is just a matter of time before another regulation needs to be addressed. If the Amish say no the first time, at least it is less likely they will be bothered again with another agrevation.

      1. Dirk

        You are right about it being a line in the sand, but not so much for the reason you give.
        We are commanded to obey secular authority, but the elders are authorized to determine if that obedience violates our religion. If so, then we disobey.

        For example.
        Forced secular education violated not being exposed to worldly influences. It was resisted and a compromise was found.
        The bright red/orange safety triangles violated a generations past color ban. It was resisted and a compromise was reached.
        The smoke alarms violated trusting solely in God’s authority. It was resisted and a compromise was found.
        Septic tanks moves a community closer to permitting indoor plumbing. Of becoming more like the modern world with their flushing toilets. It will be resisted and a compromise will be found.

        On any issue the elders will always ask, does this violate establish church discipline and principles, does this move us closer towards God and away from the world, or does it move us closer to being like the world?

        If away from the world, it is good, if towards the world, it is bad. It is as simple as that.

        If our stubbornness causes the secular authorities to ignore us, then that is a benefit but not the intention of the resistance or disobedience.

        1. Leon Moyer

          Amish can win in court

          Dirk, thanks for the explanation above of how the Amish and other conservatives view our response to Caesar. Acts 5:29: Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” HERE IS HOW THE AMISH CAN WIN IN COURT–USE THE “JURY NULLIFICATION DOCTRINE”! This requires they ask for a jury trial, and then tell the jurors they have the power to “nullify” the law by simply refusing to convict them of violating the county ordinance requiring septic tanks. This was done by the Quakers many years ago when a slave escaped from the south and was found in Pa., they were given a jury trial, and even one quaker on the jury could “hang” the jury by refusing to convict the slave of escape under the federal law. This helped bring about the end of slavery. NO one is required to hire an attorney to appear in court, the Amish can simply sit there and speak at the end during closing argument and ask the jurors to “be the conscience of the community and refuse to convict them”, or they could take the stand and mention to the jurors the jurors have the power to ignore the judge’s instructions (which instructions will say in writing to the jurors that they MUST convict the Amish if they believe they violated the law, and such instruction is a lie from the judge, since jurors have the same power and discretion to decide a case as any judge does.) Gute Gluck!

          1. Dirk

            That is interesting. I had heard of this before, but must admit I did not understand it then. You have explained it very well and I think I grasp the concept better now of the power the jury has in court cases. Thank you.


      who do you listen to?

      Well I think ,PRIDE is believing we are always right. Does scripture say you should not have running water, a septic system. GOD in creation when he was finished He said it was well. It talks about people being fair in looks. Do you go to church in your dirty clothes? No you go in nice clean clothes to worship the King of Kings the Lord. RESPECTFULLY of Him when He is in our midst as He promises when we assemble in His name. We must be careful not to be PROUD of our religious affliation rather seeking His will in our lives. I would like to hear Bible reasons why you resist giving reasons per scripture, not per mans opinion and rules. Ive always personally believed that God made ALL things for us to use and enjoy, colors etc. He is the greatest artist, designer, engineer, creator, every thing He has made is perfect. Could we say that some people are PROUD to be driving beautiful buggies some larger than others, with beautiful horses. Or should we be thankful to Him for what He has given to us to use while here on earth? IN Timothy it says He gives more to some than others. In Proverbs He says the poor will be with you always. Yet because of mans sin our world is not perfect. Even to say someone is handsome or beautiful is mentioned in the bible Its a gift from our creator. In fact the bible talks about people that are fair or not in looks. If you have a biblical reason for not having these septic tanks I would like to hear you explain it. I’m in complete agreement with so many things the Amish believe in No music in church meetings, head covering, modest clothing, being humble. Just because we have been taught a certain way doesn’t always make it right. THE TEST IS WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE TEACH US, not mans beliefs. Sometimes we do have to agree to disagree, peaceful.

    8. Eyin

      I’m always intrigued when there’s an article about Amish in my home state of Minnesota. It’s interesting that the population is decreasing in that area. I think it’s such a beautiful part of the state! I do know that many Amish from Harmony have moved to Milaca, in central Minnesota. I have been to a few of their haystack meals and I have noticed that they use SMV signs. The women in this community are very hesitant to speak with Englishers and are rarely seen in town. I’m wondering if Schwartentruber Amish will ever leave their district to create another that is not as strict?

    9. Terry Ball

      Septic tank broo-haa

      The Amish moved into my home town area in western Wisconsin in 1962. They are on the conservative side and indoor bathrooms are NOT allowed. The outhouses must not have been a problem in the township because they still use them. Years ago the law got after them to put orange triangles and better lights on their buggies. Nothing like a black buggy on a black night to have an accident happen. So, they complied and many people were relieved!

      A few years ago I visited new Amish friends and they have bathrooms inside and running hot water! That was a first for me! They have to pump water into their system about three times a day to cover the flushing use etc. Their family is grown, so it’s just the two of them. If there were a dozen kids in the house that’s a lot of water use. Most likely they use the if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down system. We enjoy our visits there much better! 🙂

      Recently I visited another Amish community and they now have rubber on their buggy wheels! Now all you hear is the clip clop of the horses hooves coming down the road. They have a gas stove and refrigerator and use battery powered led lights in the house. Another first for me!

      I’ve always thought that’s why the Amish are nomadic. One community has it better than the next, so let’s move!

    10. Valerie

      Septic vs "On That Day"

      This is an interesting discussion about what makes one a Christian or not in a sense- I am mindful about what Jesus said about the final Judgement Day, and I ask, where do you find the thinking that things like septic tanks mattering to Jesus?

      31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

      32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

      33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

      34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

      35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

      36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

      37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

      38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

      39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

      40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

      41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

      42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

      43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

      44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

      45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

      46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

      Sometimes, I think we have moved off the foundation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and for who? “For God so loved the world, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16

      1. Dirk

        Hi Valerie, the question you ask is asked by many. I hope my answer below will answer your question.

        To understand how the issue of septic tanks or any issue would fit into a biblical perspective, we can understand it as follows.

        There are three levels to church discipline.

        First level, is that which is written in the Bible, which would be applicable to all Christians.
        For example, head coverings – thus we see all traditional conservative churches follow this biblical injunction, not just the Amish or the Anabaptist’s.

        Second level, is what the founding elders for that denomination decided upon what was the correct interpretation for verses that maybe were not so clear in the Bible.
        For example baptism. All groups agree that baptism is required for membership and that water must be used, but whether dunking or poring or sprinkling, that was decided by the founding elders and in now bounding upon all members of that denomination.
        It was the founding elders decision in 1525, that baptism was only valid if applied to consensual believing adults, that caused the rift between the Swiss Brethren and the infant baptizing Catholics and Protestants, resulting in the persecutions and the derogatory nick name Anabaptist. (it is the descendants of the Swiss Brethren who today constitute the Amish, Hutterites and Mennonites)

        Third level, this is what the current elders of a local congregation or affiliation or denomination may decide on.
        On issues not commanded in the Bible or on issues not ruled on by the founding elders or past elders, such as septic tanks for example.
        Just because septic tanks are not mentioned in the Bible, this does not mean that we have individual free choice to decide on what to do with them. This is why we have elders, they will decide.

        Mat. 16:19 and Mat. 18:18, gives current elders the authority to rule on issues which the Bible and past elders are silent about.

        What current elders bind on earth will be bound in heaven, What they loose on earth with be loosed in heaven. Just as elders before them have done for generations. The dress code had been decided by 1565, and since then, nobody has changed it. Because if someone tries. then they have to leave and join another congregation or start their own under a new name.
        Current elders cannot change the rulings of the past elders without there being some major upset in the congregation.

        In other words, to go against or to defy what the elders have loosed or bound, is to go against heaven herself.

        That is how serious disobedience to the rulings of the elders is.
        It is defiance against God Himself to defy the elders. For this reason are the defiant shunned.

        In a nut shell – what matters to the elders, matters to Jesus, for they are His appointed Shepherds to safe guard His flock till He returns.

    11. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Very interesting & thought-provoking, Dirk.

      1. Dirk

        To understand my own faith, I first had to understand the Amish faith, for they had moved least away from the starting foundation.
        I think there is a saying that states, you cannot know where you are going until you know where you came from.

        What interests me most, is how two faiths can be almost identical and how one faith can shift so far from its starting point and the other remain so fixed. What are the factors that cause this, either positive or negative, and how can one enhance the positive and minimize the negative?

        I see how much my church has changed in two or three generations, so that the church of my grandparents is not the church of my sons.
        For the old people it is like they now belong to a totally different religion from the one they were born into and grew up in. I feel sad for them.
        I do not want that for myself. I personally want the security of knowing that what I believe in and how I practice my faith will be the same way for my grandkids and for their grandkids and so on until Jesus returns.

        God does not change, the Bible does not change, neither should our beliefs or faith change. Those churches who have changed had to first unharness their beliefs from the Bible in order to allow change. They are in free fall and that scares me. I cannot belong to a faith that flip flops around like a dying fish the way it changes with each new generation.
        What makes them think they can be biblically smarter than previous generations when they spend less time reading the Bible and more time distracted by the world?

        In a crazy chaotic world, the stability of ones faith is the only reality which is true and solid enough to build a life and family on. Everything else is temporary and fleeting, controlled by outside forces of whim and fancy.
        Once faith becomes as temporary and fleeting as everything else, of what value is it then? When salt has lost its saltiness…..

        I may not have been born Swarztsie, I may never be able to live like them or with them, but deep down we share a common understanding about changes in faith and in the church. In this we are kindred spirits.
        Guess that’s why I understand them so easily. It takes one to know one. And by God’s mercy, I can make an argument in their defense.

        And if I am wrong or in error, then I’m sure the kind people on this site, who are wiser and have more biblical knowledge than myself, will point it out and correct me. For I do not wish to say anything that will become a stumbling block to the blind and cause them to stumble. God forbid.

    12. Valerie

      Drifting from truth-

      Dirk you share wonderful insights and I for one appreciate your humble and genuine spirit to want to please the Lord.
      You have shared more about the difference between stricter Amish and other Anabaptists. I do know the Amish have a ‘high’ view of Church hierarchy and leadership in church moreso than most Christians. I now realize they grant their leadership to make decisions to their faith practice that are not found necessarily in Scripture itself (as in the septic situation) but the ‘elders’ make these decisions based on what- the Holy Spirit’s direction?
      My question would be, if that is what the Holy Spirit would direct, then should any Christians have indoor plumbing? If so, does that make them worldly? When Jesus talked about the ‘world’ and to not ‘love the world’, was He referring to things of this nature? Because at that time no one had electricity, cars, plumbing, etc- there must have been more to what the ‘world’ was, then these kinds of things, more matters of the heart- also if we separate ourselves so far from people, do we care about those people who still need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ that they too, may be saved? I think Jesus spoke much on these kinds of things, lest we become like the pharisees who trusted in ‘themselves’ that they were righteous. I guess I just would be concerned that an unbeliever reading this may get the impression that in order to be ‘saved’ you need to believe like the Swartzentrubers. Actually, from my conversations with the Swartzentrubers they do not read the Bible daily. They hear it on Sundays from what they have told me. And only particular parts of the Bible. What is the ‘world’ that the Scriptures talk about? It is somewhat summed up in this by the Apostle John: (and I believe that we need to discern what that means to us personally in the days we live) 1 John 2:16 Translations

      King James Version (KJV)
      For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

      That is the world we wrestle with-When I became a Christian, it was based on the fact that Jesus Christ died for the world out of love for us and in repentance we turn from the world & sin. Somehow it is hard for me to connect things like the stricter Amish see as necessary for salvation (and I guess I would say the decision of the elders) as being what the Apostles taught from Jesus Christ. I do certainly understand that a Swartzentruber Amish church member sees obeying the elders as the same thing as obeying Christ- It’s just hard to see that some of the decisions were what the Scriptures were conveying on what our salvation is based on and that could be a stumbling block to a seeker who is searching for the truth of what it means to follow Jesus. And why He died. I feel sad too for the direction of churches at large, but we know/knew by the Holy Scriptures what the last days would look like before Jesus returns and by all appearances, that time is close at hand. God Bless you Dirk.

      1. Leon Moyer

        loving the world

        Valerie: You have hit on an important part of the Christian’s life, as by not loving the things of the world it frees us up to love Christ more. No man can serve two masters, and the physical things of this world take our time and love away from serving God. Hopefully this helps you and others see how Amish consider each and every aspect of their lives under the control of church leaders, as they may be held accountable if they allow their members to use or own things of this physical world which detract from living a simple life of service to the church. So is the septic system helpful to living a simple life, or will it tend to get the Amish more invovled cares of this world? Is God’s way best, as I explained in Deut. 23:12-14 near the top of this post, by putting our waste in the ground (using an outhouse) or putting it in our drinking water, whether in a septic system or municipal sewage system?

        1. Valerie

          Deuteronomy 23:13-15

          Dear Leon,
          I understand the Amish in these things, I’m simply clarifying the difference between what the ‘world’ meant in the Bible vs seeing something like where waste is deposited as ‘worldly’. I agree with how the distractions of the world take our focus off Jesus and I appreciate that about some Amish orders. Truly I do. I agree you can’t serve two masters. I’m just not seeing this particular subject as serving ‘satan’ if you use plumbing and flush toilets, septic systems etc. To each his own, but this is why many I know left the Amish when they became Born Again because it faith wasn’t about ‘stuff’ like this-and they began to realize it. Especially when they actually started reading their Bibles. The passage you quoted was SPECIFICALLY for the Israelites, and God gave His reason for asking them to deficate ‘outside the camp’. He said in vs 15: “For the Lord your God walks about in the midst of your camp to save you and to deliver up your enemy to you; therefore, your camp shall be holy, and no shameful matter shall be seen among you and He turn away from you.

          For one to draw the conclusion that should apply to all people for all time, is totally missing the true meaning and application of that passage. We are not Israel, in a camp, where God walks about-

          However I do not know nor understand the reasons why mankind went from that way, to outhouses, to indoor facilities, septics and the like-increased populations I assume for one thing. Perhaps outhouses are best for all mankind then? I cannot comment on the pros and cons on this as the world is much more populated than when God walked through the camp of Israel- however- since the reason He said to ‘cover it up’ was for the land to be holy, it doesn’t seem to mean that we have to do that anymore- we are living under the New Covenant and the whole situation changed.

          1. Dirk

            Hi Valerie, It is my turn for a question to you, which I’m hoping you or someone can answer, cos I really cannot understand something.

            You wrote “but this is why many I know left the Amish when they became Born Again because it faith wasn’t about ‘stuff’ like this-and they began to realize it.”

            What I do not understand, is why those who claim the banner of being born again, feel the need to disobey scripture by throwing off the head covering, modest dress, separation from the world, etc. All explicit commands in the New Testament.

            I understand their claim that they have freedom in Jesus, but did not Jesus come to save the sinner, to wash away our sins. I do not find Jesus coming to excuse us from being obedient to the commands of His Father.

            Verses from the Bible do not support their claim that freedom in Jesus means freedom from obedience.

            John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”
            2John 1:9 “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.”
            Luke 22:42 “not My will, but Thine, be done.”

            Seems to me that the Jesus of the Bible would not encourage His followers to go against His Fathers will, yet the Jesus of these born again believers, who have left the Amish faith, seems to encourage this? For they now follow the ways of the world in lifestyle, dress and behavior.
            How does ‘finding Jesus’ result is such hedonistic worldliness and not stronger obedience?

            I do not understand how they can walk after the manner of the non-believing, unsaved world and claim to be following Jesus when everything they do is in disobedience to scripture.

            They seem so unconcerned about this, I really feel that perhaps there is something I am not understanding here. Well, one of us is certainly not understanding, our difference are just so great, that we appear to be following two very different unrelated religions, that just happen to use the same terminology.

            How is this possible?

            I fully understand why the Amish elder’s toes curl when they hear the phrase ‘born again’, cos every born again Amish person I ever saw, certainly did not look like a biblical Christian.

            Perhaps I am being closed minded and basing my understanding on my own experience.
            For me, when I really started to read the Bible as the Word of God and not just as a daily duty, I found that how the Amish lived to be the most biblical.

            For example, wearing a white shirt on Sunday. Such a simple thing, but with such spiritual depth.
            Rev. 3:4-5 states that the faithful will wear raiment’s of white.
            We are told that when two or three gather together in the name of Jesus, Jesus is in their midst. Mat. 18:20
            When we gather together on Sunday to worship God, Jesus is in our midst, it is the closest we will get to heaven this side of death.
            To symbolize this closeness, our future heavenly state and the dress of the faithful, we wear white shirts.

            Another example. Separate seating. We are told that in heaven there will be no marriage, neither shall people be given in marriage. Matt 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:35
            To symbolize this, our future heavenly state, the faithful sit separately as brothers and sisters and not together as husbands and wives. “And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:” Luk 20:34
            When we sit separately we are symbolizing that we are the children of God and not the children of this world.

            I could go on, for everything the Amish do can be found based in scripture. I will go so far as to claim, that until one has studied the Amish interpretation of how to live out scripture, one will never truly understand scripture. I certainly did not.

            This makes it even more incomprehensible to me, how one raised in the Amish faith, upon reading the Bible, doesn’t find a deeper conviction for their Amish lifestyle, but instead rejects it.

            Again, how is this possible? But that they have been lead astray by a seducing spirit?

            1. Valerie

              Born Again Former Amish

              Greetings Dirk,
              To answer your question, most of those that I got to know, that left the Amish when they felt they had true conversion of heart in that they became Born Again, still believe in modest dress, headcoverings, etc- some have left for other types of Anabaptist faiths. I do however know a man who started a ministry ‘to’ the Amish because when he left the Amish, he had been reached by a Baptist preacher. As you know most Baptists today, have the ‘modern’ teaching of what I Corinthians 11 regarding the headcovering is about. A teaching that I too was taught, until the Anabaptists had caused me to seek the truth about it, and then I started to cover and changed my dress to modest skirts/dresses as well. Indeed many of the former Amish I have come to know and read their writings love their beloved Amish family’s but simply feel they have based their faith on traditions moreso than Scripture. You were good to point out that they base their beliefs on Scripture- but people draw different conclusions from Scriptures. These I mention feel their eyes were opened- I cannot put myself in their shoes really-I’m only sharing what they have shared with me or in their testimonies-but they have not gone after the ‘world’ indeed many are involved in missionary work, prison ministries, etc and have not forsaken that which you believed they have forsaken- although ones that left & joined more Protestant denominations I can say yes, they don’t see headcoverings and ‘dresses only’ as a salvation issue- however it was verified to me through the Orthodox Church’s teaching that headcovering was practiced for the entire New Covenant Church age as well, not something invented by the Anabaptists. It has helped me greatly to study the Anabaptist faith and then the Orthodox faith to deepen my own faith. I hope that answered your question- God sees our seeking hearts. I read a book by an Amish minister called “True Christianity”. He lived in the late 18th into the 19th century- David Beiler- in the book he had a whole chapter devoted to John 3 and what it means to be “Born Again”. I offered to send this book to former Amish who believed their people had no idea what it meant to be Born Again- only 2 cared to read it, but when they did, they question what happened- they feel the Amish today, really don’t understand what it means to be Born Again. I have come to see all these differences to be a consequence of the Reformation.

              1. Dirk

                Just to be clear, I support those who have left totally.
                I love my car and I may even be an honorary member of the ‘drive it like you stole it’ club. So I fully appreciate that being born into an Amish family should not be an entrapment to stare at the butt of a horse for the rest of your life.

                So I get why those who wanting to be Christians but not Amish, would leave the Amish for a less strict, but biblical conservative Mennonite or Beachy church.
                I get why those who don’t want to be Amish or Christian would leave and become totally secular.

                What I don’t get is why some Amish may leave and join a secular church. Having been raised Amish, they have been exposed to a sound biblical lifestyle. They know better than a secular Christian, never raised biblically, that certain things are just not permissible according to the Bible, no matter how you slice it.
                How do they sit in a church with a rock and roll band, led by a woman pastor in pants who promotes homosexuality, evolution and tongue talking and not feel like something is very, very wrong?

                Not sure if this describes any of the ex-Amish you know, but I have met ex-Brethren who fit this description and it always shocks me that they think this is what freedom in Jesus means. Worse still when they can quote the Bible better than I can. They should know better.

          2. Leon Moyer

            still camping!

            Isn’t the whole world basically a camp? Sure, people live in bigger buildings than tents, but even the Israelites lived in large cities (around 600,000? or was it more, people in the Wilderness for 40 years)and Deut. 23:12-14 worked for them. If God’s children, which are called by His name, humble themselves and desire to obey HIs commands, then they will live in a manner in which they can comply with scriptural teachings. There is plenty of land available for 7 billion people to spread out and live on their own property with an outhouse, without running water, but such is not what appeals to “the lust of the flesh, the pride of life,…”. Laziness is a sin, and most of these modern inventions came about because someone was too lazy to live life in the way God intended for us to live–close to the earth, with meager food, clothing and shelter–not in mansions with push button electricity, running water, septics or public sewer systems, food available instantly from the fridge or microwave, etc. Such is the way of the lazy man. Shame, shame, can the people humble themselves and repent?

            1. Valerie

              Lazy Christians

              Your comment gives me pause to wonder if this is how you believe we are to live, than why are you on a computer?

              The point God was making in that passage was since He walked about the camp of Israel, He wanted it holy and to ‘cover it up’. So however we ‘cover it up’ I guess doesn’t make one more holy than the next-does it? If your conviction is to use an outhouse, than live by your conviction- that is what this topic was about- the Amish have the conviction to do so (THIS group of Amish) but my conviction is to go by the law of the land because it is Scriptural to do so (Romans 13 for one passage) UNTIL the law of the land is ‘ungodly’ or against scripture. But that passage had a specific intent for the people of Israel at that time. One can use a toilet and still have faith and not be lazy-I think that you are drawing some pretty major conclusions to assume people are lazy all the way around for having plumbing. Most Amish have plumbing. I know plenty of hard working people who have plumbing and modern conveniences and are serving the Lord as well in a variety of ministries.

      2. Dirk

        Hi Valerie, thanks for your kind words. With the help of God’s grace I will try to answer your question – “My question would be, if that is what the Holy Spirit would direct, then should any Christians have indoor plumbing? If so, does that make them worldly?” –

        For the sake of any newbies to Amish America who may read this, I will have to take a step back so that they may fully understand the answer. Here goes…

        An Amish youth does not one day wake up with the conviction that God has called him to the ministry. He does not go and study theology in order to become an Amish minister/pastor/preacher.
        Even if he did and even if he earned a Phd in theology, he will never be ordained as an Amish minister unless the following two things happen.
        1- His name is put forward (nominated) for the lot.
        2- He is chosen in the lot.

        How does this work?
        When a new minister is required, the baptized members of the congregation will meet for a special service to elect a new minister.
        After prayerful consideration, each member will put forward the name (nominate) of a brother whom God has laid upon his/her heart to fulfill the position.
        The nominated names will be tallied and all brothers that receive 3 or more nominations, will be put forward into the lot.
        Through a random selection process, one brother will be chosen from amongst those in the lot to be the new minister.

        The final selection stage is random, so that God who sees the heart of a man, can make the final selection.

        This is a tense time for both the congregation and for the brothers in the lot.

        For the congregation, God could select a minister as a blessing, one who will govern with wisdom and mercy, or God could select a minister as a punishment, one who will govern with hardness and intolerance.
        Either way, the members will obey, the faith will endure and life will go on.

        For the individual in the lot, one day they are a simple Amish man minding their own business, and the next day they are an Amish minister minding everyone else’s business. NB. It is a lifetime appointment, from which one cannot resign nor refuse.

        Ok, that’s the foundation for your answer. For it explains why each Amish minister only has authority in the congregation he was nominated in and elected in. The decisions of the elders in one congregation have now authority on the members of another congregation. (affiliations are another discussion).
        To expand further….

        Lets assume that in a certain county, there are four Amish congregations, A, B, C, and D.
        The county passes a by-law that states all new homes must be built with septic tanks.

        Congregation A elders decide that a septic tank is too modern, too worldly and refuses to build them.
        Congregation B elders decide that improved disposal of human waste is a hygiene issue and not a religious issue, so they permit the building of septic tanks.
        Congregation C elders are undecided, so they forbid any member from building a new home until the court case between Congregation A versus the county is settled.
        Congregation D decides that the by-law constitutes an ongoing persecution against the Amish by the county and based on Jesus’s instruction to flee to another place if persecuted, they tell their members to pack up and sell, they’re all moving to a new State.

        Do the four different approaches to the problem indicate that the Holy Spirit is confused? Not at all. Each congregation’s elders will make a decision based on what their convictions are, decisions which God will use in one way or another for His glory.

        God has given us the freedom of choice, a freedom that God will not take away from us by forcing us to all do the same thing.
        The important thing is not what our conclusions are, but whether we reached those conclusion for the honor and glory of God, or for the furtherance of our own fleshly self interests.
        If for God, we will survive, and if for ourselves, we will be assimilated and be no more.

        The only scriptural commands that are binding on all Christians are those with direct chapter and verse instruction in the Bible. Those commands instituted by the elders based on the Bible through interpretation, are only applicable to their own congregation over whom they have oversight, and in other congregations in fellowship with them whose elders choose to follow these interpretations.

        This understanding of Amish congregational independence is something that Sam Mullet seemed to have forgotten when he tried to set himself up as the first Amish Pope or Amish Calvin by using violence to force other elders and congregations to obey his decisions.
        It is also something we should never forget by expecting or assuming that all Amish congregations will be identical in faith and practice.

        1. Gayle Grabowski

          Dirk, thank you for the clarification; well articulated. I think this helps clarify how decisions are made in any congregation of any denomination – there are no fewer controversies within (as an example) my church, which is Roman Catholic…not every Catholic congregation is the same, reflecting the established lay-leadership of each particular congregation.
          I always interpret situations like these as freedom of religion issues, and understood that the demonstration of the virtue of humility influenced the decisions church elders made.
          I feel for this couple, and pray a reasonable compromise can be achieved.

          1. Dirk

            Sometimes having one universal leader makes things a lot easier for everybody to be on the same page at the same time.
            Only problem is, if he falls, everyone falls with him.

            It is quite ironic for me that the Protestant churches broke away from the Catholic church because they felt it was not biblical enough, now 500 years later with Protestant churches allowing their members to have abortions, to live together out of wedlock, to divorce and remarry, to have women ministers, to permit gay membership, etc. all things which I understand the Catholic church still forbids, retaining a more biblical foundation.

            I wonder what people think of that?

        2. Leon Moyer

          how many churches, Dirk?

          Dirk: Would you please expound upon “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”? Do you really believe it is the same Holy Spirit saying four different things to those four churches you mentioned above? Confusion is not of God, is it? Sounds a lot more like human nature ruling in those churches, because if they were Biblical, then they would all be quoting the same scripture–probably Deut. 23: 12-14 and Acts 5: 28, 29.

          1. Dirk

            I do, but as I pointed out, God allows us freedom of choice.

            Personally I believe that it is very important that each congregation can arrive at a different conclusion, and yet still be within the parameters of serving God.

            It proves that God truly did give the elders the power to bind or loose on earth, as they saw fit for their congregation in their space and time.

            If every congregation, Amish and others, were to arrive at the same conclusions, we would be no better than vegetables, with no freedom of choice. What need have vegetables of a Savior?

            It is that freedom of choice which allows the sheep to be separated from the goats, for those who truly believe in God and accept Jesus as their Lord and savior, they will demonstrate this by their actions based on their own decisions as well as by their actions based on God’s decisions.

            What this means is, God has given His decisions in the Bible on what he wants us to do as Christians, this is why all biblical Christians look so much alike to outsiders, that they cannot easily distinguish Hutterites from Amish from Mennonites from Kleine Gemede from Brethren from Charityites from Holdemans from Bruderhofers, from etc. Many after watching Oprah’s show on the polygamist RLDS of Texas, still think years later, that the Amish have multiple wives.

            Yet the decisions of the elders on non-biblical specified matters, allows each group and each congregation to have their own distinct flavor and style, whilst still remaining biblical. United in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” on a biblical level of church discipline eg. head coverings, but not on an elders level of church discipline, eg. septic tanks.

            It is simply not possible nor merciful to apply “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” to such an extent that there is no variation on a congregational level under the elders authority, for in the church universal, each congregation will be comprised of different members to other congregations. Congregations will be found in different ethnic groups and countries, with different socio-economic standards, in different parts of the world under different secular governments with their own unique national cultures and weather conditions. Factors which will influence the elders decisions, as they should.

            Right now observing the Amish, one perhaps only sees one aspect of the universal church in the Amish, so monotone that one expects uniformity to be the norm, but it is those very seeds of individuality on a congregational level, that will allow and has allowed Christianity to become a universal religion.

            The only way to universally apply “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” or one size fits all understanding, is to have one universal leader like the Pope, whose word is infallible and applicable is to all peoples, in all places, under all conditions, in the same identical manner without exceptions.
            Human logic and 1500 years of Catholic attempts to apply this method,and the historically recent communistic attempt, shows us that it is simply not possible or practical.

            If one cannot apply universally a one size fits all, then one cannot apply such locally, hence the Amish congregational style of leadership, with each congregation having the right of independence answerable only to their own elders. Elders who live amongst their members experiencing the same spatial conditions as they do.

            Why it is hard for the world to understand, is because the world is full of leaders like Sam Mullet, who have delusions of being the supreme mufti world leader with everyone obeying and worshiping them. Unbelievably they exist because people buy into this universalism of carbon copy identity and support power hungry world domination type leaders. Isis our most current example.
            We may be many generations from the children of Babel, but the desire for the uniformity of rigid oneness, still beats strongly in humanity.

            This rigid oneness was never the understanding of the founders of the Anabaptist faith, which is why so many different forms of the faith can co-exist and have co-existed together for generations without violence towards each other or towards others of different faiths. Quite the opposite is true. The various denominations have always reached out to help each other when needed when times were tough, as they have other non-Anabaptist denominations and peoples over the years. It also wasn’t the intention of the church counsel in Jerusalem with Paul, that there should be a rigid uniformity in all matters.
            This is the true reflection of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”. Brotherhood in diversity. United on a biblical level in Christ, but diverse on an individual level, allowing all peoples to co-exist in the body of Christ, whether as feet or eyes or hands.

            I hope I have explained this well enough, it makes sense in my head, but sometimes putting thoughts clearly into words that others can understand just as well, is hard to achieve.

    13. Leon Moyer

      missed point

      Maybe I lost all that was typed earlier, so will retype.
      Dirk: YOu missed my point when I asked you to respond to “One Lord, One faith, One baptism…” This would not make us “vegetables”, but obedient! We shall not add to or take away from the Word of God. Yet isn’t this what every Amish church leader is doing, when they use a “private interpretation” of the scripture?
      We are not to follow sects or divisions. The word “heretic” is translated as “sectarian” in the original texts in this verse: Titus 3: 10] A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
      [11] Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
      The Pope was correct on one point–He pointed out during the reformation time period, that if everyone had their own Bible, they would read it and come up with their own opinions and understandings, and there would no longer be a worldwide “catholic” (universal) church, which is why they persecuted the Anabaptists and others for leaving their church fathers. While we acknowledge sins and shortcomings in the Catholic hierarchy, is the church of today any more pure? It could be, if we once again confess there is only on Lord, only one Word and will of God, and do not add to or take away, but all say the same thing! This is why I still quote Deut. 23: 12-14 as the experession of God’s will for disposing of human waste–He never changes! While His method could change, you must find it in the Word of God before we can accept the worldly way of sewage disposal via septic tanks or public sewage systems. Amen.

      1. Dirk

        Sorry that I may not have answered your question, but I think you have answered mine. How is it possible for people to call themselves Christians and not obey the New Testament, or for churches or pastors to do likewise?

        It happens when you apply “One Lord, One faith, One baptism…” inclusively and not exclusively.

        In order to apply that verse inclusively, one is reduced to allowing the lowest common denominator to be the only standard, in order to have maximum inclusivity. Hence the modern understanding that anyone who calls themself a Christian is saved, they don’t even have to attend church, read their Bible or believe that Jesus is the only way.
        Previously when the church had a higher Bible standard, this inclusivity understanding was expressed by forcing all citizens to live in a Christian based society with a Christian government and laws based on either Protestant or Catholic interpretations of scripture.

        When applied exclusively, one has adult believers baptisms to exclude, has shunning to exclude, has biblically based rules for ones lifestyle to exclude. Exclude who? The person who will not submit to God and give up all for God.

        You want an answer that justifies “One Lord, One faith, One baptism…” as an inclusive term. This I cannot do, for I believe as the Bible teaches and the founding elders taught, that Christianity is an exclusive religion only open to those who will die to self so that Jesus may live in them. Those who want to hold onto worldliness are not fit for the Kingdom. Luke 9:62.

        This is the secret to the Amish, they have not cheapened the faith to make it more inclusive and accessible to all, rather they have strengthened the faith by making it more stricter and thus, more exclusive.
        Does it work? As the fastest growing religion in the US today percentage wise, I would say, Yes. In three or four generations time, numerically as well.

        I do not understand your statement about Amish ministers applying a private interpretation to scripture. Amish ministers do not interpret scripture, they apply scripture as literally as possible.
        The biblical insights I gave are my own personal ones and not necessarily Amish in any form or manner.

        One last thing, although J.N. Darby is accredited with dispensationalism, it is a biblical approach adopted from the start by the Swiss Brethren movement. The Old Testament enlightens us, but it does not bind us. In other words, laws or commandments written in the Old testament are not binding upon Christians.
        Hence, Anabaptist theology has more in common with dispensation theology than with covenant theology or restoration theology.

        1. Naomi Wilson

          Dirk, I really appreciate your answering my question and I have enjoyed reading your comments. Ultimately, the only thing that makes a person, Amish or not, a Christian is if they repent, believe, and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Many claim to have the Holy Spirit, but by their fruits it is apparent that they are either deceivers or deceived. I think of the Amish churches as being very well-tilled soil. Where the seed is sown, it is highly likely to produce a good crop. Unfortunately, in the churches that fall to dead tradition the true seed is never sown. I grew up in the opposite extreme, thinking that my church was Christian when it was actually new age. My husband and I are now members in a conservative, congregational mennonite church, and we have been startled to see the tidal wave of new age influences that is rushing into all churches, anabaptist ones included.

          I really appreciated your point, that conference churches get contaminated at the top, and the affects trickle down to all congregations. Unfortunately, those congregations influence their neighboring non-conference churches. Like you, I hate to see assimilation. My husband and I came across an article that was written about our church twenty years ago, and it is unrecognizable as the same church today. I have heard it said, and my own experience agrees, that a good harvest can come out of a conservative church, but out of a liberal church, never.

          1. Dirk

            That’s an interesting description to call it a tidal wave of new age influences, I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

            Perhaps it all boils down to just two types of Christians. Those who want to serve God and those who want to be saved.
            The servers say not my will but Thine, and the savers ask, “what’s the least I have to do and still skip into heaven?”

            Churches that promise salvation with the least interference to a worldly hedonistic lifestyle, will always be popular.
            The Bible tells us that many will choose the broad path that leads to destruction, but few will find the narrow path that leads to salvation.

            What caused you to realize that your former church was a broad path church?

        2. Robert

          good morning I would like to just state that in my walk with Christ that I’ve come to realize that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever which then takes us to John chapter 1 in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God was God and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us in Revelation chapter 20 states for witness of Jesus and the word of God at this point it states also throughout Scripture that Jesus is God in the flesh and if Jesus never changes then God cannot change if God is the word and the Word was made flesh which is Jesus then the Word of God never changes the Old Testament expounds on physical law the New Testament expounds on spiritual and if you read and study enough to show yourself approved like it states and timothy you will find that their spiritual in the old and there’s physical in the new we are both a physical being with the physical body we’re also a spiritual being with the spiritual body! This is really deep but yet very very simple. Now the Old Testament states that shall not commit adultery well if you do thisyou take the chance of getting a sexually transmitted disease and some diseases will kill you physically now Jesus stated in the New Testament that if you even think of any one like that you have already committed adultery in your heart the heart is the mind the innermost part of a personnow this is the spiritual death it’s really quite simple. But with this being said this is something that has to go much deeper so these people who think that the Old Testament is discredited and we shouldn’t use it which sounds like what you’re saying dirt maybe I’m not correct on that if I’m not I’m sorry but if this is what you’re saying this is why so many people are led astray true false teachings wolves in sheep’s clothing their gods or their bellies they’re seeking worldliness instead of godliness and it can never fulfill their lustful desires I come out of an ungodly family. I am a first generation born again believer in my family I do not know of anyone that has confessed Christ truly confessed him as Lord and Savior as the king of kings the Lord of lords their lives are not governed by God but I one night prayed to God end of the prayer in the name of Jesus went to bed woke up the next day I was no longer a drunk no longer doing drugs no longer had sex addictions no longer had racism I was different by the transformation in the renewing of your mind behold all things pass away and all things become new when you become a new creature in Christ the problem is people learn these false teachings and learn a few scriptures and they think that it’s all different but yet they continue in sin and paul stated shall we continue in sin that grace will abound God forbid! half of my family belongs to Catholicism and that is like Bael worship they may follow some biblical truth and principles but yet they also follow a lot more so a lot of false teaching they praise dead saints they pray also pray for dead people this is called necromancy this is in the Old Testament it tells us not to do these things the New Testament tells us that the Old Testament is written for an example well so is the New Testament it shows us what to do or what not to do at this point there is our free will or we going to pick up our cross and Crucifier flesh daily not to do the things that we would do but to do the things that God Christ instruct us to do to be less of the Spirit and not of the flesh Galatians chapter 5 sums it up pretty good. what I have found is you look at what it states about Abraham he had faith in God he trusted God and he did as God instructed even though he didn’t want to with his carnal mind he did anyway and by faith in the works of his faith justified Abraham we’re no different if we by our faith the works are produced we are justified this is the work of God not our work because our works are as filthy rags but his works are righteousness so we line up with God with Christ with the Word of God King James Bible then we will be made into his image for God is the Potter and we are the clay Romans 8 he wants to make us into the image of his son now we ask a question who is his son his son is the Son of righteousness and if we follow after him then we will be playing follow the leader a narrow path narrow gate that leads to life with this being stated this is done buy our own free will I don’t believe in once saved always saved I will expound deeply on this but I will state that Esau had the birthright and he sold it he gave it up by his own free will there’s enough other scriptures that confirm this you have to study for yourself once saved always saved I believe is a damnable Doctrine! but I must say that you are correct it is about free will dying to self daily following being obedient for Solomon stated in the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 12 verse 13 and 14 this is pretty much it in a nutshell that man is the fear God reverence and respect and keep His commandments the physical law of the Old Testament will help with your physical body it’ll help you to be healthy and everything like that but it will not save you spiritually the New Testament law spiritual we line up with it it cleanses our soul it cleanses us from all of our unrighteousness which leads us back to keeping the law like Christ it’s quite simple you’re either forced to do it and you resent it or you come to God through forgiveness and you want to do it for when you reverence and respect someone you never want to do anything that offends them will sin offends God!

          it’s really coming to the realization that we are sinners we need to admit through confession that we are sinners I know we need a Savior where to confess our sins to God and confess your faults one to another pray for one another that we may be healed we at this point now by admission confession and true repentance of turning away from our sinful nature and turning back to a holy God For it is our sinful nature that has separated is from a holy God and true repentance godly sorrow restores that relationship John the Baptist stated I must decrease that he may increase you can’t put something more in a vessel unless you take something out he wants to cleanse us from all of our unrighteousness he wants to make us a vessel to honour and not one to dishonor the Apostle Paul spoke about these things so my question is which vessel are you one of honor or one of dishonorand this should show you where you stand with God is your heart’s desire one that is pleasing to God or is it one the dishonours God?

          now about septic tank issues God has given us a brain to use and with these septic tank issues there is a proper way of disposal of human waste Eminem proper way and it can leaved to contamination which leads to death or it can lead to dispersing / proper disposal of non contaminationand God is giving us the ability to do these things he states in Romans chapter 15 I believe and Titus chapter 3 that we should obey those who are in authority above us as long as it lines up with his word I hope that all that have a great day!

    14. jerry

      Way too much verbage about why the Amish should be allowed or not allowed to live in a home that does not comply with local laws. The bottom line is that they want to live in the way all of our descentants live 200 years ago. The bottom line is that that should. I have a “hunting cabin” in the middle of nowhere PA and I’m allowed to have an outhouse. The local laws are outrageous. Let these peaceful people live their lives without so many restrictions that modern society deems healthy. Let’s face it there are simply too many laws that restrict what nature can take care of.

    15. jerry

      As everyone on here makes their post about what is relegiously right, I want you to ask yourself about the bottom line about what’s right for our enviorment. What do you do with those potato peels, those chicken bones, the carrot peels from your last meal, the egg shells from last Sunday’s omlet? Did you put any of these items into the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink? Where does it go? In my case it ends up as nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay. The Amish on the other hand place those items into the garden soil or to back into the chicken coop. The Amish eco foot print is way less than any one of you who quote the Bible. Ask yourself “what am I’m doing to reduce my footprint?”

      I place all my kitchen scrapes in the chicken coop. Some things the chickens will not eat, so they go into the compost pile. Twice a month I clean the chicken coop and put the waste onto my garden. My hens don’t like onions and garlic so they go directly into the compost bin. Sometimes I do not have to add cracked corn to feed my hens because the feast for the day on kitchen leftovers is enough.

      If it’s about what’s best for our plant… me, no, you just think about it…..the Amish are doing what is best for our plant.

      It only makes sense to anyone who understands how the earth works.

    16. jerry

      I thought I was done but as I was eating dinner I thought of more..
      I would love to go to the board meeting. I would ask each board member what they did with their household waste. Corn on the cob….what did you do with the husks, what did yo do with the cob, what did yo do with those last egg shells, what do you do with those dead flowers that were on your table last week, what did yo do with those Halloween pumpkins, that bale of straw that decorated your front yard, how many metal cans or plastic bottles did you place in the recycle bin last week, how about egg cartons, did you resuse any alumium foil or gift wrap? These are great questions that would put any of us in our place. Now ask an Amish family the same questions. Which answer do you think is the best for mother earth? Yes, each of you, I dare you to answer. And we are in dispute over an outhouse vs a spetic system? Honestly who wins this one?

    17. Kenneth Williams

      The way the article is written, it appears the zoning permit is only an issue because Ammon and Sarah use running water in the house. If Swartzentrubers are so conservative, what are they doing using inside running water? Most people in our district changed over to inside running water long ago. Unfortunately, at least some of them did so without putting in septic tanks and septic fields. Instead the “water” from the house was discharged out onto the surface of an adjacent pasture. That’s right, whatever was flushed out of the bathroom ran straight out over the grass. When runoff from that flowed onto our own pastures, it nearly killed some of our livestock. That has been solved since then, but the practice evidently continues elsewhere. If people want to use hand pumps and outhouses, they should be able to do what they want on their own land, if no cross-contamination occurs. Other times however, encouraging or requiring homeowners to do the right thing is necessary. I don’t expect anyone wants to kill a neighbors livestock, do that to their own, make neighbors sick, or make their own children sick. I don’t see why its an issue for any Amish anyway. Septic tanks were invented in the year 1860, and were being installed for houses in America as early as 1883. Not exactly a new concept. The septic tank’s predecessor, the enclosed underground cesspool, began being used in the 1400’s. I can’t imagine a legitimate excuse for anyone using inside running water not to use a septic tank or enclosed underground cesspool. Period.

      p.s. Over the last 30 years, we’ve only had to have septic tanks pumped out every 15 years or so. Its just a matter of having good soil for the septic field and following a few rules about what you pour or flush down the drain. That’s not very intrusive. Beyond that, I’m sure someone in the district could figure out a way to make a business out of it, keeping money within the community.

      1. Leon Moyer


        Kenneth, I understood the issue to be the Amish in the article were being required to install septic tanks to catch even the water from a sink and run that into the septic tank and leach field. Don’t they still use an outhouse, which doesn’t have running water and does not require a holding (septic) tank? So the water in some Amish homes is actually pumped by hand from a cistern and this may be what the building inspector was claiming required a permit and septic tank, but the sink water often runs into a five gallon bucket under the sink which is dumped when it gets full, maybe even used to water trees or bushes! Is this the situation in the story? If they indeed have toilets hooked to running water, I agree with you then a septic tank is necessary, but I doubt that to be the case. I could not access the video today, only read the article. Please clarify.

        1. Kenneth Williams

          Our experience is that sewage from toilets inside the house was discharged directly over grass in the pastures adjacent to the houses. That’s what almost killed our livestock. Diesel-driven compressors store compressed air in tanks, which then powers the well pump, that then automatically puts water into a tank for use around the house. Its just a matter of turning on the tap, or flushing the toilet. When pressure drops, the diesel automatically kicks back in to put more water back into the tank.

          Evidently not everyone has learned about septic systems. During 2006, Swartzentrubers in Cambria county Pennsylvania, were using a 50 gallon drum under an outhouse at their school to collect human waste. “It was overrunning the barrels,” Deborah Sedlmeyer of the county Sewage Enforcement Agency said, and it was being dumped, untreated, onto nearby fields. Not good.

          Articles in Minnesota papers this January seventh, picked up by the Associated Press, indicate County Attorney Brett Corson has decided to try Ammon and Sarah Swartzentruber in civil, rather than criminal court. They made their first appearance there on January 23rd.

    18. jake schwartz

      septic systems

      The Mich Health Department Law Book says a suitable septic system is a anything that holds n is used to dispose of human waste .It can be a outhouse chamber pot.etc Was wrote many yrs ago that the government.states etc r separated from all church n religions.The county don’t care n they r money grabbers.Went thru bout same thing but with a camper on m own property cause it wasn’t hooked to a septic tank.Mi.state health book told bout a suitable system etc.The county had to back off permanently.Everyone needs to get a free health code book at their health department