Amish sewage violators must move

From the Columbus Dispatch on the Ohio Amish outhouse controversy:

Henry Yoder read a letter signed by the Hardin County Amish community’s seven bishops — its leaders — asking the board to reconsider its orders to condemn two new Amish homes because the owners haven’t installed required wells and septic systems.

“Our goal is to uphold and maintain the biblical principles of faith which our forefathers believed: to be a separate people,” Yoder read. “And, as stated in Romans 12th chapter, ‘Be ye not conformed.’  ”

“Our goal is to live simple, God-fearing lives, and we feel your requirements are undermining our simple way of life,” Yoder read. “Our plea is to live in peace among our fellow citizens and maintain our lifestyles on our own personal properties unless it is definitely proven we are a health hazard to our neighbors. We humbly plead for a variance. We beg for mercy.”

After more than two hours of testimony from health officials, the board’s eight members didn’t change their minds. They reaffirmed the orders they issued in January to condemn the homes.

What next for the Amish?

Now, the families have three choices: They can dig proper wells and install approved concrete pits under their privies, appeal the orders to the Hardin County Common Pleas Court, or move.

By and large, the Amish don’t believe in taking legal action. Hardin County Prosecutor Brad Bailey said that if the Amish don’t appeal, a judge will be asked to sign the order, and the families will have to leave.

He couldn’t say how soon that might happen if there is no appeal.

Bailey showed photos of what health officials said was gas and oil from a pump that already dripped in or near Hershberger’s uncapped well. He said the issue is bigger than just two homes, that leeching and contamination from the human waste and bad wells can reach the water table and hurt others.

“Our rules at the health department are to prevent problems before they happen, not to react to them,” he said.

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    1. Damon Hickey

      Doesn’t Romans 13 say, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement”? It must be frustrating for governing authorities to hear, “We can’t be subject to your lawful injunctions because we answer to a higher authority,” even though the required wells and septic systems themselves don’t seem to violate any fundamental principle of the Amish faith.

      1. ann

        Not only that but they’re not being asked to forgo outdoor toilets- simply to contain them in a concrete pit. I don’t honestly understand their resistance here. More than 50% of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and all my grandparents are Amish so my sympathies go their way sometimes. But not this time. This does not seem an issue of faith to me but rather an issue of ‘You won’t tell me what to do.’ But living in a community among other people means we must conform to some legal standards.

        1. Jean Junkin


          I can see both sides of this issue. It’s kind of what the government is trying to do with our Second Ammendment Rights. So no comment either way for me.

    2. Alice Mary

      Damon, I wasn’t familiar with that biblical quote. I wonder how these affected Amish would react to it?

      Erik, how DO the Amish (Bishops? Ministers?) interpret such (to us, “obvious”) biblical words/meanings? Do different groups (conservative, liberal) get to interpret such biblical wisdom in different ways? Am I right in assuming the Amish have Romans 13 in their bible?

      Things like this can be pretty confusing to an outsider!

      Alice Mary

      1. They definitely have Romans in their Bible. This would fall under a two kingdoms approach to the world.
        Generally there are common understandings of Biblical passages and concepts. Not all Amish are going to see incursions by earthly authority in the same way, however.

        Here’s another important passage from Romans for the Amish:

    3. Jeannie

      Damon is Correct

      Damon is correct to quote the scripture, it is only when the laws of the land are contradictory to that of the laws of GOD that we must in good conscious go with GODS laws.. but also understand we run the risk of true persecution.. not because of what but because of WHO we are representing.

      I think the Amish should be left alone on this if its not being proven that a actual health concern is there, but if there is they should desire to want to keep their communities healthy.. Are not our bodies a temple we still have to take care of them… and if I am understanding alright, they are not fully grasping the scriptures of what they use to keep them selves separate, because Christ also commanded us to go and preach the word.. being separate means NOT partaking in the sins of the world,lusting, drunkenness,fornication,murder,greed ect..

      May the ONE who gives us the Light be shown for all the world to see.

    4. KimH

      Sometimes, I think people can take anything just a little too far, Amish or anyone else. This is one of them.

      The article said there was already evidence in the community of contamination from wells & human waste..

      Im almost always on the side of the Amish in most matters, but not this one. This issue doesnt just affect them alone, it affects the entire community, Amish & non-amish & the local water table & land. It doesnt affect their faith or them being yoked to the English systems if they’re able to build septic systems, since they’re self contained.

      I guarantee you, if your next door neighbor had feces and urine that was trickling onto your yard & into your drinking water, you’d be raising all kinds of holy hell.

    5. Lattice

      I’m regularly around some rather conservative Amish and Mennonites, and although they typically grumble about intrusion and increased personal expense, I’ve never known them not to abide by regulations, even new ones.

      Is there any chance that some Amish groups are “fishing” for persecution? After all, isn’t persecution a major factor in promoting cohesiveness?

    6. Don Curtis

      Dik Keppi

      I asked my son, Mark, about the privy issue to see if he was privy to it. He responded that he felt the Hardin County Amish were being what he termed “Dik Keppi.” It is a term in Pennsylvania Dutch that translated literally means “thick headed.” It means to be unreasonably stubborn. Mark feels that is the case here. He said that sometimes the Amish get this mindset that they are separate from the world and don’t have to abide by its laws if they don’t agree with them. The government has already bent over backwards regarding the Hardin and Degraff Amish not wanting to display the slow moving vehicle signs. Now they don’t want to follow the health rules. It’s not as if they can’t have outdoor privies if they want. They may. Just they must be over containment tanks. But they claim that is interference in their religion. Mark feels that is a poor light to the world. They need to be obedient to the authorities unless a law is unscriptural. Actually, that precept is one of the Eighteen Articles of the Dortrecht Confession of Faith. Mark said that it’s more a matter of the Amish not wanting to pay the cost of sinking a proper well and installing a concrete containment tank under their outhouses. There have been outbreaks, in that community, of water born illnesses. Mark said that he wouldn’t want to drink their water.

    7. Don Curtis

      Dik Keppi (continued)

      Mark said that sometimes the Amish can get this “we are a persecuted people mindset”. When they get that way they close ranks and just hunker down and refuse to budge. When they get that way you just about can’t reason with them. That may be the case here. If the authorities have to deal with them that just reinforces their “persecution complex.” They look back to Europe from five hundred years ago and the atrocities committed and recorded in the Martyr’s Mirror and just get intransigent. But, this case is not about religious beliefs. It’s about having safe water and properly disposing of your own poop not about how your pray. Mark says he is just not in agreemt with the Hardin County Amish over this. He figures if somebody would pay for the new well drilling and containment tanks that the problem would go away soon enough.

    8. stephanie

      The Amish (including our church, the Beachy church) follow that passage in Romans. We bwlieve in obeying the law as long as it does not conflict with God’s law or Biblical principles. God comes first and there are many instances in the Bible to point that out. The midwives ordered to kill but babies (in the Bible)disobeyed. Daniel ordered not to pray to God, prayed. And so on. Having said that, I am not sure you could make a Biblical case out of this but rather a lifestyle preference. If it were buggies or clothing I would say not conforming to the world but honestly this is another issue entirely

    9. David McConnell

      Does anyone know how the settlement in Kenton came to be and what distinguishes it from other Swartzentruber or related groups? When Chuck Hurst and I were doing research for An Amish Paradox, we were told that the Kenton Settlement was established in 1953 and that there were 7 church districts, but when we asked for the “affiliation” of this group, we were told they should be called the “Kenton” affiliation, not Swartzentruber. I am now realizing we never learned why this was the case.

      1. Don Curtis

        Hardin County Amish

        I asked my son, Mark, about the Hardin County, Ohio Amish. He said that he thinks that they originally came out of Indiana but he’s not sure. They are very conservative Amish but are not as conservative as the Schwartzentruber Amish. For one thing they will fellowship with other Amish and the Schwartzentrubers won’t do that. Hardin County Amish would fellowship with Gladwin, Michigan; Bremen, OH; Stockport, OH; and some of the Ashland County, OH Amish.

    10. Forest

      thanks for your passing along Mark’s thoughts on this. I’m not familiar with that community, but based on what I have read, I would agree with him completely. NC is similar; your can still legally build an outhose, but it must have a concrete containment tank. I don’t see this particular instance as a government intrusion; just common sense.

    11. Sadie

      I think I’ll be putting off my trip to visit Kenton for a while. And I think I may just skip stopping at any produce stands or farmer’s markets there might be in the Amish areas.

      1. It’s certainly not good PR for the produce stands, even if it’s spread elsewhere.

        I just remembered, I did enjoy some delicious blackberries I purchased while in Hardin County a couple summers ago. I should post a photo 🙂

        1. KimH

          Haha… Your comments gave me the giggles…

        2. Sadie

          Erik, It’d be nice to see that photo! I promise I won’t share any thoughts that come to mind concerning the current events in Hardin Co., either, in regard to the fruit you bought…. I’ll just let those thoughts stay in my mind! 😀

    12. I do not get why the government feels the need to micromanage our lives. Leave the Amish and others in peace to live as they are called as long as no one is harmed.

    13. Our Government are a bunch of Democrat satanic hypocrites !

      All those democrat pigs do is steal our freedoms away.They are nothing more than the Devils workers. Their is nothing wrong with using our own Poop and Pee on our gardens if you compost it first for 1-2 years with a steady temperature of 160-200 degrees in your compost bin. Joe Jenkins of Northwestern Pennsylvania composts all his families Poop and urine with all their food scraps garden weeds etc. And he has not gotten sick This is one of those subjects you have to keep quiet about he has been doing this style of composting for 40 some years and the end result you get rich black soil that looks nothing like Poop.