10 “Exceptions” To Amish Rules

On certain things, essentially all Amish agree. Things like wearing plain clothing, not fighting in wars, or closing businesses on Sunday. These are universal across all Amish groups – part of a widely-shared culture, tradition, and belief system.

amish business no sunday sales

Outlined in each church’s Ordnung are more specific rules and understandings, which will vary. There can be a lot of overlap, as well as variation, on where individual Amish churches draw the lines.

This may be seen in different styles of hair or clothing, or, say, rejecting an engine mower in favor of a push mower. But for the most part, many general practices, beliefs, and customs are followed by nearly all Amish, or a great majority.

However, then there are the exceptions. These are practices that might be seen among 98% of Amish…while a small handful do things a bit differently. Or, one sizeable group stands out from the bulk of Amish society.

Sometimes this is a more progressive minority, accepting a technology that few others do. And sometimes it’s a more conservative one, rejecting a practice that nearly all Amish accept.

Yet they’re still seen as “Amish” – by both themselves and other Amish people. They just have a bit different approach on this, or that.

So let’s have a look at 10 of those exceptions to “Amish rules”.

10 Amish Exceptions To The Rules

1. Church meeting houses

Nearly all Amish hold church at their homes, or in pre-existing structures at their homes, like in workshops or basements. Yet a small minority builds and holds worship in separate meetinghouses. The Amish of Somerset County, Pennsylvania are one of the best-known examples of this.

2. Beards

Most Amish begin growing beards on getting married. But the custom can vary both between groups, and within a church. For example, some start growing a beard at baptism.

Others will grow a beard after marriage and moving into one’s own home. In other cases, unmarried Amish men will grow a beard at a certain age (for instance, once hitting 40).

3. Public electricity

The vast majority of Amish still reject any direct connection to the public electric grid. They get needed electric power from generators, solar sources, and batteries.

Yet one subgroup – known as the “electric” New Order Amish – does permit connecting to public power. Additionally, in some communities there have been some exceptions made for buildings meant for business purposes.

Image: Don Burke

4. SMV Triangle

Nearly all Amish (over 90%) use the orange Slow-Moving-Vehicle triangle on their horse-drawn transport. The one big exception is the Swartzentruber group of churches, who have always rejected this symbol, along with electric lighting on their carriages.

A man with a beard and glasses is talking to the camera.

5. Camera

Most Amish do not pose for photos or appear in videos. This is the popular “rule” cited by many in the public. However on an individual level, Amish people may feel comfortable appearing on camera.

For example, the screenshot above shows an Illinois Amishman named Joseph Yoder discussing Amish ways for a news station. Certain more progressive churches as a whole may be generally more accepting of the camera as well.

Image: Karen Johnson-Weiner

6. Alcohol

Generally Amish don’t consume large amounts of alcohol, or do so in moderation primarily for health purposes. However, in some communities, alcohol use and even abuse is not unheard of.

7. Raising tobacco

Most Amish farmers do not raise tobacco. The biggest exception is found in Lancaster County and at least some of its related communities, where raising tobacco as a cash crop has a long tradition.

Image: Don Burke

8. No hired drivers

While most Amish accept the hiring of drivers (“Amish taxis“) for longer-distance travel (to and from a workplace, or for visiting family or going on other trips), the Swartzentruber Amish only do so in emergency situations. When traveling longer distances, they rely on bus and train service.

Image: Ed C.

9. Volunteer firefighting

This refers to the tradition seen primarily in Lancaster County (and sister settlements) of heavy Amish participation in local volunteer firefighting companies. It’s an example of civic involvement common among this group of Amish, and not seen too frequently or on the same scale elsewhere.

10. Assurance of salvation

While most Amish hold a “living hope” of salvation, some churches profess a belief in assurance of salvation. The New Order Amish churches are the best example of this, but Amish in other churches might also express similar beliefs.

So there you have ten exceptions to common Amish custom and belief. But that’s certainly not all of them. Feel free to share any others you would add.

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    12 Comments

    1. Anon.

      Interesting

      I follow some 00A ladies on Instagram and on Facebook who have mlms. I noticed while allof them of them do videos, some will also do videos with makeup on also sell MLMs that also include makeup for sale. Would you be willing to do a post about Amish women with mlms and having social media which is obviously not allowed even in places like Lancaster County Erik? Thanks

      1. Erik Wesner

        Are you asking about a guest post? It would make an interesting topic.

    2. K.D.

      Exceptions . . .

      Hello . . .

      Question for Anon. What does MLMs stand for? Thanks for clarifying for me.

      K.D.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Not sure if Anon will see your question – MLM stands for multi-level marketing.

        1. K.D.

          Oh, thanks for telling me, Erik?
          K.D.

    3. Taylor

      Wayne and stark Counties

      I live in Massillon Stark Country, Ohio which is Northeast of the Amish Country. I grew up in Dalton Wayne Country, Ohio which is just North of Amish Country. Between Alliance and Louisville Ohio is Beach Mennonite Church and Oak Grove Church Mennonite close to Smithville, Ohio. Both of these churches started out as Amish Churches in the 1800’s. and both build church buildings and sometime later they both join the Mennonites. JM Smucker was from Oak Grove Church born 1858 and died in 1948.
      I follow Eli Yoder on YouTube. He grew up in an Amish Group very much like the swartzentruber, but is not Swartzentruber from Kenton, Ohio. Do you know anything about these Amish?

      1. Erik Wesner

        That’s another quite plain group, I’ve visited once. They are sometimes compared to Swartzentruber Amish as far as being traditional though I believe not quite as conservative, though they also reject the SMV triangle and instead use reflective strips arranged in a box like shape on their buggies. Communities they fellowship with: Gladwin, Michigan, Bremen, OH, Stockport, OH, some of the Ashland County, OH Amish.

    4. You are helpful

      We have 4 Amish woodworker families building or Little Free Libraries.
      They are from Baldwin WI.
      Check out our front yard sharing boxes at ShareWithOthers.net
      ……why do so many, many young women have dentures?
      ….how can we help?

    5. Blaise Prentiss

      Voting

      Most Amish affiliations have traditionally not voted in elections in the U.S. One Old Order Amish man in the Holmes/Wayne community in 2016 told me that he and his church voted “on their knees”. Another Amish man in a nearby community told me that some Amish were choosing to vote because they want to preserve America’s status as upholding religious freedom. I will be very curious to see how Amish approach the prospect of voting in the next presidential election.

    6. Al in Ky

      The Paoli, Indiana (Orange County) group which organized in 1957 also fellowships with the Kenton, Ohio, group. “People from both of these settlements (Kenton and Paoli) started other settlements until there are now about 12 settlements with approximately 21 districts”. (From the book “Amish & Mennonite Settlements of America” by Jacob Stoltzfus, p. 394.)
      I have visited the Paoli settlement many times. They have really grown in recent years and now have 3 districts with total population of around 540.

    7. JON THORELL

      How about spreading the gospel?
      Where is the out reach?

    8. Bill beyrer

      Curious

      Your picture of a meeting house. It is takenfrom a video clip of a funeral service. The reason I know the are singing “City of Light”. The center is at Oakland MD, I believe. The hymn is one of favorites and the video is exceptionally well done.