Updated May 5, 2015 | Jump to update
WNYF reports that Amish in the Swartzentruber community of St. Lawrence County, New York fear being sent to jail, due to a recent push by county legislators to require the Slow Moving Vehicle safety triangle on their buggies.
But does the triangle really even improve safety compared to the current solution?
Before touching on that question, a little background. When they worry about going to jail, Amish in St. Lawrence County no doubt have the recent experience of their co-religionists in Kentucky in mind.
Numerous Amishmen in three Kentucky counties were either cited or jailed in 2011 and 2012 for refusing to pay fines for failure to display the triangle (at least 17 in total were imprisoned).
A later change to state law allowed them to use reflective tape around the buggy border instead of the triangle (you can see an example in the photo, of a similar group in Ohio, above).
Amish in St. Lawrence County already use the tape, thanks to a three-decades-old exemption to New York state law. Apparently local authorities have felt the need to re-address this issue.
The Swartzentruber Amish are the group most famously opposed to using the triangle (see here for reasons why Amish object to the SMV triangle). In the video below, SUNY-Potsdam professor Karen Johnson-Weiner addresses the issue from a Swartzentruber viewpoint.
As we’ve seen in Karen’s writings here on the site, she knows the Swartzentruber community well, perhaps better than any other non-Amish person. Karen says that for members of the group, “it’s too fancy, it suggests a reliance on man-made remedies rather than God.”
As far as input from the Amish community, one member had this to say:
Levi Miller of Flackville told us putting an orange symbol on the back of his black buggy would not make it “plain.”
He says “the community relies on God, not symbols or reflective tape, to keep them safe” on busy highways.
Others in the Amish community questioned why no one has come to them to talk about the safety issue or need for reflective triangle signs.
A vote on the issue is scheduled for the May 4 meeting of the county legislature. Many Amish are expected to attend.
Does the SMV triangle really improve safety?
There’s one possibly faulty assumption here–and it’s one that I made for many years: that the orange triangle is in fact the best marking to help prevent road accidents (or at least, better than silver-grey reflective tape).
Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies editor Cory Anderson addressed the question in a 2014 article titled “Horse and Buggy Crash Study II: Overstretching the Slow-Moving Vehicle Emblem’s Abilities: Lessons from the Swartzentruber Amish.”
He finds that the triangle is not necessarily better than reflective tape, and–surprisingly–may even decrease safety (Huh? was my first response to that).
If you’re scratching your head too, this suggestion stems from two potential factors: First, the triangle’s lack of ability to convey width (which reflective tape around the vehicle perimeter can do) while drawing attention to the center of the vehicle. This may be a factor in the common rear-strike collision during passing.
The second factor is something called the “moth effect“–interestingly, crash analysts have observed that motorists tend to drive towards well-lit vehicles, not unlike a moth to light. The triangle plus bright lighting used by more progressive Amish may create this effect.
You can read our summary of that article here or the article itself in full here.
So, the “common-sense” assumption that the triangle must be the superior safety marker may be wrong to begin with. I wonder if anyone in the St. Lawrence County legislature has read Cory’s article.
Do the authorities really understand this Amish group?
I was a little surprised to see this conflict arise, given the age of the community (Amish have lived in the county since the mid-1970s), which suggests that there is a satisfactory co-existence between Amish and non-Amish, at least over the triangle.
You’re more likely to see conflict between the plainer Amish groups in young communities, where locals are unfamiliar with Amish ways.
On the other hand, there has been recent conflict here (over smoke alarms, though resolved in 2012), so there may be an ongoing tension not visible on the surface.
I don’t know if the local officials realize who they’re dealing with (I realize that sounds like a line from an action movie, but I’m not suggesting anything ill here). What I mean is that I’d expect the entire community of over 1,000 Amish to move before they adopted the triangle.
I don’t know of any situation in which a Swartzentruber group has accepted the triangle. They don’t bend on many things, and that’s even more the case with something as visible and symbolic as the buggy and orange triangle.
So asking the Swartzentruber Amish to adopt the triangle is asking more than they probably realize. Karen Johnson-Weiner understands this stance well. Hopefully the authorities in St. Lawrence County will gain similar understanding before this takes a course like the Kentucky situation.
UPDATE May 5, 2015: County legislators met last night as planned, and unanimously decided to postpone a vote until June 1. Citizens on both side of the debate spoke at the meeting. From the Watertown Daily Times:
The decision came after hearing from three citizens who spoke in favor of the requirement and three who argued against it during the meeting’s public comment period.
Norma R. Finley, a retired public health nurse from Ogdensburg, said the Amish are allowed to “get away with anything they want” and she has had several near crashes with Amish buggies.
She threatened lawmakers that if they don’t take action to improve the visibility of buggies on the roadway, she will not hesitate to file a lawsuit against the county and the state.
Karen Johnson-Weiner was among the speakers:
Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, a SUNY Potsdam professor who is considered an Amish expert, said research has shown the reflective tape is more effective than the orange triangle at improving visibility. She suggested that non-Amish drivers should slow down and pay close attention when driving.
Mark Matthews, a member of the Kendrew Grange, a community organization, suggested not imprisoning Amish who violate an SMV law, but rather impounding the buggies. “If they’re taken off the road, that’ll make the roads safer for all of us,” said Matthews.
Legislators and Amish leaders are scheduled to meet May 21 to discuss the matter. “A face-to-face meeting with the Amish will do much more than send a resolution to Albany,” said Legislature Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot.
Here’s a report and video from the meeting via WNYF:
Image credits: Example buggies (Holmes County, OH)- ShipshewanaIndiana
You might also like:
I’m just surprised with all the major issues going on in the world right now and covering the television daily that this would actually be an issue that would merit someone going to prison. As in the smoke detector issue and now the triangle issue I just feel like it’s Amish people’s decision if they choose to have the safety triangle on. Is it not their right to refuse on behalf of religious beliefs?
In Response to Christy. That used to be the case. Now things are changing as government takes more control. Not to change the subject but to state a fact. Are bake shops or ministers or florist allowed to refuse to do business with same sex couples because of religious beliefs? Well not for a whole lot longer they aren’t. To make my point, if the supreme court has the power to say business must follow a law that goes against their religious beliefs than shouldn’t the Amish also be required to flow the law even if it goes against their religious beliefs?
No, it was never the case...
The Supreme Court ruled many years ago that you could not flout laws of general applicability based on religious belief. These injunctions against the Amish don’t represent anything new. Nor do people have the right to refuse services to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs. People tried that argument to defend segregation decades ago. They said it was their Biblical belief that whites and blacks should be seperate, and so they didnt want to serve blacks in their restaurants, etc… It’s nonsense. You can believe what you want, but you have to treat other people respectfully. Its just being part of a functioning society.
I live in New York State. I would love to go to that meeting on May 4th. In the news it said they all get along. It doesn’t sound so to me. First fire alarms and now this.
If you do happen to go, I hope you’ll let us know what you learn. It’s not a setting Amish are accustomed do, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are quite a few Amish in attendance.
We have many Amish near our place in upstate Maine. At night I have come so close to hitting these buggies because they are so hard to see. We have to consider safety first. Not just the Amish but the English also… I for one would love to see the Amish in Maine add these to their buggies…
God's Authority Out-trumps Man's Authority Any & Every Day
I belong to another “spiritual group” that believes in the supreme authority of the Bible and would like to personally encourage these folks to continue their stand. There are some areas with “room for compromise,” but at no time does any of men’s rules and regulations over-rule God’s rules and regulations. Be well, friends.
Safety triangle and Religion
When are the English ( US) ever going to realize that the pitting of reflective triangles on Amish buggies is a religious issue, and the Amish should be protected from having to conform to our laws on this issue, not jailed!!!! Of particular interest is that this problem is caused not by the Amish but by the very people that are attempting to enforce the law? If we cannot understand that a large black buggy clopping along our country roads at 8 miles an hour is recognizable as a slow moving vehicle, then we are the ones that should be penalized not the Amish. Many of the Amish church groups have moved to New York State not only for cheaper land but for more conservative religious issues, such as buggie triangles, use of technology, and separate Amish schools. In Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Pennsylvannia amd other areas many of the more conservative Amish people such as the Old Order Amish see their religious upbringings compromised by the intrusion of technology and loosening morals, issues that threaten Amish young people and induce Amish youth to leave their conservative church groups. Most English do not realize that each church group can have different Ordnungs or rules the Amish live by, with church groups having different Ordnungs for instance of the Old Order Amish only a few miles apart. The bottom line is that we need to embrace these hard working people instead of finding ways to make us feel better.
Many thanks for the posting, Erik. The Swartzentruber Amish were certainly caught off guard by this. I think many in the local legislature are new and don’t know the history–including the fact that many Swartzentrubers did go to jail in the early 1980s until (after months of negotiating and compromise by all) an agreement was reached. Contrary to the suggestion by some that Swartzentruber community leaders are unaware that sometimes buggies are hard to see, a number of Swartzentrubers have mentioned to me the need to remind folks to buy “the best tape” and to change it regularly. I was talking with an Andy Weaver Swartzentruber bishop, who noted that “sometimes folks forget,” and he added that young folks need to be taught. (Of course, non-Amish drivers don’t always follow the rules either, and many accidents happen because of speeding cars, DUI, and driving while texting or talking on cell phones.)
I think what is particularly difficult for non-Amish in the area is that not all Amish are the same–and other groups in the region (Swiss, Byler, Old Order) do use the triangle. But even other Amish don’t necessarily understand the Swartzentrubers! I also hear people say things like “it’s public safety, not religion.” But the Swartzentrubers (like other Amish) don’t compartmentalize life into those things that “are religion” and those that aren’t.
Karen thanks for jumping in to share some more local insight, and very interesting details. It is good to hear that you’ve seen evidence the Amish side is concerned with maintaining the level of safety that they have agreed to.
I think in any area there can exist some tensions between Amish and non-Amish and it seems the plainer the group the more scope there is for disagreement, just due to the sheer greater distance between “us” and “them”.
I believe you illustrate that idea well in New York Amish, considering the wide variety of Amish groups in the state. Since this is the 2nd national-news level conflict in the past decade in Heuvelton (maybe there have been others as well I’m not aware of?) it hinted to me that there might be some underlying English/Amish tension below the surface. No obligation to comment on that, just a speculation.
I would imagine that those who held positions of power at the time of the last SMV conflict 30-some years ago are probably no longer in those positions, or very few of them (maybe those who were can speak up now?). I do hope no one has to go to jail like in Kentucky as they try to resolve this latest conflict.
Amish fear prison over safety triangle
If the Amish aren’t able to compartamentize, then maybe it’s time they got more than an 8th grade education! There are more people in this world than the Amish! What makes their religion better than anyone else’s?
You are basically saying that the Amish “should” compartmentalize, otherwise they show that they believe their religion is better than everyone else’s.
As I understand the Amish, they believe their religious tradition comes as close as possible to the pattern laid out in holy writ and practiced by the prophets and apostles. So in that sense they believe it is better than other religious traditions. If they didn’t believe this then they would have already adapted themselves to religious beliefs and practices they thought came closer to true religion. This is perfectly logical. What seems exceedingly illogical is for a person to stand up on Sunday morning, recite the Apostle’s Creed, and leave church and say that all religions are equally valid. That strikes me as exceedingly naive and in need of further education.
And it isn’t a matter of the Amish being unable to compartmentalize (contra “maybe they should get more than an eight grade education”). Rather, they do not consider compartmentalization a healthy practice.
Ny amish fear prison
It’s common knowledge that the Amish up and leave if they don’t get their way! They aren’t interested in compromise! Is that an adult/ mature attitude? ” If you can’t play by my rules then I’m taking my ball and going home.” Furthermore, the Amish do not consider themselves to be American. If you ask them they proclaim to be “Amish” but, when things aren’t going their way, they are the first ones to want ALL the rights and liberties that America provides! Is that right, let alone Christian?
A community’s response is normally determined by how they have been taught over multiple generations.
At times they can be rather aloof. The Amish, too, are human. Nevertheless, I’m not sure your analogy fits, at least in terms of describing a general pattern of behavior.
Amish identity is a complex matter. Different groups (and individuals within the groups) have different interpretations. For starters, was the United States founded as a Christian nation? Different Amish offer different answers. Then there are questions about the relationship of state and church, the church and culture, etc. There is more variety than meets the eye. Nevertheless, you have a valid point that at times they seem to “defend their rights” on the basis of certain values the American political system has cherished for many years; and at the same time do not want to self-identify as American. Perhaps part of the reason for the confusion is that when the Amish appeal to rights or freedom they are not appealing to the same sources that the founders appealed to but are appealing to beliefs that they held long before Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson or any of the deists came on the scene. And, in fact, they believed in it so strongly that they sealed this testimony with their own blood rather than compromise with the state.
As you noted, “compromise” is not a popular word among the Amish. They would not be what they are today if they would have compromised along the way. Even small compromises over the past three-hundred-plus years would have had significant consequences. To be fair, they struggle with the question of when to take a stand and when to compromise. Nevertheless, the ‘older’ the order, the less likely they are to compromise.
On the other hand, your Christianity just shines through in your comments. I can’t imagine why you don’t have a better relationship with your Amish neighbors. Sheesh…
I do agree that their buggies should be clearly visible. In our area of Ohio the fairly large sized Amish community objected to the triangles but compromised with a triangle of white reflector tape with a red reflector in the middle. It works well for everyone.
I truly do feel for the car drivers having to deal with this dangerous situation, but I also feel for the ones being subjected to petty bigotry.
Ny Amish fear prison over safety triangle
Perhaps they wouldn’t be subject of “bigotry” if they didn’t hide behind their religion to circumvent their civic responsibilities! Don’t you people get it! The general concensis is that the Amish should be held accountable the same way any one else is! Plain and simple!! Stop using religion as a weapon!!
Society, Civic Responsibility, and Amish Weaponry
The Amish consider society an unreliable guide for their community. This belief is derived from the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures and reaffirmed throughout history. Because they consider all societies — not just North American society — as spiritually desolate and transient, they do not concern themselves with fulfilling any supposed “civic responsibilities.” I am surprised by your appeal to civic responsibilities considering that we are talking about melting pot North America not Elizabethan England.
You claim that they hide behind religion but it is a question of authority. They consider scripture an authority and government another authority worthy of respect and obedience but not society. As a result, they do not honor society in ways you think they should. Apparently this irritates you. Unfortunately, this situation is unlikely to change any time soon.
I don’t know what ‘general consensus’ you are referring to. Even if there was a general consensus about the matter, why would the Amish care?
The claim that they are using ‘religion as a weapon’ is revealing. We are talking about a non-resistant Christian community relocating to another state not a violent death cult like Islamic State committing acts of genocide. Perhaps a different word could have been chosen.
Tel us Fran ...
is your hatred of Christians limited to the Amish, or is it Christians in general that you hate?
NY Amish fear prison
Rather than accusing someone of hatred, wouldn’tt it be more accurate to say there are two sides! The one I see on a daily basis & perhaps the view majority of the public has been told that the Amish are….whatever. My point ithroughout this entire exchange has been to open people’s true vew of the “amish.” Because, I will say this for the last time… the view the public has of the Amish is quite different than how they actually conduct their lives. If you doubt that statement, then perhaps you unwilling to see both points of view!
So who is responsible for the public views of the Amish? It’s not like there is an Amish PR firm or the Amish are offering press conferences. This website is a great resource for learning who the Amish “really” are. Have you done any reading on the other articles on here?
You are right, Fran, there ARE two sides to the issue, but you could have gained much more sympathy had you refrained from nasty comments and belittling the Amish. Your comments come across as rather bitter at best. No one is doubting the frustration of the traffic hazards, but veering off into derogatory comments about 8th grade educations, eating at MacDonalds, and so on just comes across as very petty.
And before you wonder, I drive a car in an area where there are Swartzentruber Amish. Personally it has never bothered me, but I am a very cautious driver and am used to watching for them. Do I think they should update their buggy safety ideas? Yes. Doers it make me see them as awful people? No.
So the fact the Amish way of life might not match all the touristy stuff upsets you? C’mon… we know the Amish are real people and only a totally naive person would believe it’s all barn-raisings, fresh baked bread, and good pies. I’ve been around them all my life and they have never seemed to me to be pretending to be anything other than who they are: humans with weak points and problems just like everyone else. They are much less pretentious than a lot of people I know. Maybe instead of bashing the Amish you need to go after the ones who portray them as quaint relics so they can promote tourism.
Persons not using their names
Anonymous, the fact is that very few people on these blogs understand the Amish and it appears that some quake at using their real name like I do, because they actually want to help the Amish or understand them. Every day I hear the misinformed in my area voice concerns over how bad the Amish treat their animals. One lady remarked to me ” look at the dirt on that poor horses legs they should be ashamed” I remarked to her ” do you wash that car that you just drove here in every minute you get it soiled for right now it is dirtier then the poor horse, I wonder what the Amish are thinking now” . She hurried off. When thinking of the Amish you need to understand one single very important point. They are in this world but not in it. Amd you need to think about this in Amish terms not yours. Their animals are their livelihood, and they are farmers. Their horses behave better them most of our young people. Their horse and buggy is used just like you use your car the only difference is their transportation moves at a sedate 8 MPH amd they have to feed it, brush it off, touch it, and care for it every minute while we can drive our cars and trucks at any speed, park it without feeding it and as most people do today never worry about its health until it breaks down. I bothers me when I see so many comments on this blog by people that are writing things that are incorrect, and probably things they heard third or forth hand from those as misinformed as they are. But this is not their fault. Why? Because first there are so many different Amish and Mennonite Church Groups, they dress differently, have different Ordnungs that govern their lives, and even different dialects of what WE call Pennsylvannia Deutsch. The Amish are undergoing a renaissance among their religious groups, some wanting to go back to the very restrictive Schwartzntruber Amish and some Amish going forward to the less restrictive Mennonites. These. Concepts we do not understand since we look at the Amish and Menninites from a misinformed viewpoint and not as an Amish or Mennonite man or Women. As you get to know them you will see that they are under a lot of stress just like we are. The only difference is that they will not talk about it and absolutely not be in the Internet speaking about it while we voice our opinions every chance we get sometimes even though we are completely ignorant of the subject. Our TV show lately, ” The Amish Mafia” for instance is something from someone’s wild imagination, structured to make money. All of them were excommunicated and shunned, before they ever appeared. Are there rebellious children, of course, but not even close to the problems our children are facing today. We had better hope the Amish do not spend money on making a TV program about us, the high illegitimate rate, churches bankrupt and closing, pedophilia, among the black youth an 80% school drop out rate, rampant drug problems. When compared with that the Amish do live in a Paradise. I have found them to be standoffish at first but once they know you are someone that can be trusted they are warm but cautious. Just remember these people have endured over 500 years of discrimination sometimes resulting at burning at the stake instead of giving up their religion. If you want to get your Amish facts for the TV or the Internet you will not find it. There is a YouTube series made by an excommunicated Amish Swartzentruber named David Yoder from St Lawrence County, NY. It is called “Amish Deception” while his initial motive was honorable, abusing Amish Children the way he goes about doing it is not. The best thing we can do if we are Christians is to get the facts, before we condemn. It is the old Golden Rule ” treat others as we want to be treated” Notice that I use my real name and have given before here where I live. I have made it my aim to learn as much as possible about the Amish and the differences between the many different Church Groups over the last 40 years, not only here but in other Countries and states. I have found the vast majority of them to be exactly as they appear.
I totally agree with you, Mr. Warner. The whole point I’m trying to make is they are real people with strong points and weak points just like any human group. I do understand the Amish are very diverse and I do respect them very much on many levels. One of the reasons I like this website is it gives me the chance to learn more.
In choosing to post as Anonymous I am doing what many people do to preserve my privacy, but chose not to use a nickname or user-name. To each his own.
I will add I respect you also for your effort in understanding and speaking up for the Amish.
What makes anyone’s religion better than anyone else’s? I love the diversity of our country and appreciate the fact our country has historically been a country where religious freedom has been a part of our history and culture. I might not agree with everyone’s belief or their way of expressing it/ living it, but I do believe in their rights to do so.
Anonymous I understand what you said about keeping your identity private however it is confusing to me. We are speaking about people that cannot defend themselves if someone makes a claim about them that is either erroneous or worse untrue. As far as a word like diverse, and I assume you are comparing them to what the Amish call English ( all of us outside the Amish Church). They are far less diverse by a quantum to us. Their Ordnungs amd heritage restrict the way they carry on their outdoor activities which is all you would ever observe unless they took you into their confidence after quite a long time. Even then it is doubtful if they would ever divulge something they do that is connected to an Ordnung. In fact most of what we know is either thru Amish that have either left the Group willingly or thru excommunication or shunning, or in books written by former Amish. One person that I noted who published “Amish Deception” who describes things covered under his former Swartzentruber Amish church group Ordnung may or may not be true. Him and his wife describe and act out very intimate things like bed dating, sex before marriage, how women dress and are restricted by their clothing in certain ways, and the minutia of ,ensuring the exact hat dimensions, what they are made of amd the difference between a Bishops wardrobe and a regular Amish man and woman’s clothing when they attend church.
Of particular note I find it outrageous that so many are publishing stories including pictures of Amish amd Mennonites that are disingenuous as to their appearance. If the Amish were to see the, they could instantly tell you if they were for instance Old Order Amish men or women etc. Their are sometimes subtle differences in their dress, buggies and horse trappings that identify them as to how Comservative or Liberal their Group is. Someone on this blog mentioned that the Amish do not feel they are of this world. actually they are very clear in that ” they are of this world but not in it”. That may sound confusing but once you make friends with them for a while you will understand. They do indeed circulate among us, drive their buggies to town to shop at our stores and occasionally eat at a fast food restaurant. But the Ordungs thatt their entire baptisted Church Group agreed to guides them thru our world, and which separates them from us. They do this mostly without consciously thinking from long accomplishment in our world. The hair of a Swartzentruber baptized man is cut to satisfy the Ordnung they religiously follow! Hair Cut straight across just above the eyes down each side of their head but covering the ears. There can be no part in the hair and normally worn outside with a straw hat which the wife may make, and a black felt hat to church which is,always held I’m a Church Group members home. For this they are calld ” The Church Amish” to differentiate them from Mennonites which may meet in a church. . Even the hat will conform to certain dimensions long passed down by that church group in their Ordnung. What I would ask you, is to be careful of condemning or asking questions why they wear certain colors of clothing, or even why they rigorously refuse to use slow moving triangles on their buggies. The easy answer is to say Because, although that would be a terrible way to describe their long long history of the persecution they have endured just to carry on their religion in the manner their forefathers decided over 500 years ago. How many of you today would carry on your religion today if those in charge of our decided either you stopped meeting in Church every Sunday or you would be burned at the stake? Think seriously about this when you ask something about the Amish and why they do not change. The fact is that every year many young people are lured into our society for the use of a car, alcohol, English clothes and a different lifestyle. To do this they must give up the closeness of their Church Group of a hundred people or more that will instantly come to their aid if anything happens to them or anyone in their family. They give up knowing that when they grow old they will not be put in a rest home and taken away from their family, and so much more.
As a member of an Old Order Amish church, I’d say “we are in the world but not of it” is how it is often said. Small difference in words but big difference in meaning.
Nice to hear from you, Mark.
Rather surprisingly, some of my Baptist friends believe this phrase shows that the Amish practice of “separation from the world” is in error. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to understand that “we are in the world” is meant in a literal temporal-physical sense while not being “of the world” is intended in a spiritual sense, not following the habits/practices/ways of “the world,” that is, human societies.
To piggy-back on Karen’s comment. There are many different Amish orders and typically they do not socialize with each other. The “higher” ones (more lenient) don’t know the inner workings of the “lower” Swartzentruber. This is the order from which our son-in-law and two “adopted” sons ran from. To many Amish the Swartzentrubers are reclusive.
Three personal thoughts, for what it’s worth:
For the most part I sympathize, however, I wish these Amish would see another perspective, that the drivers of cars that are involved in car/buggy accidents become victims as they experience the guilt of hurting or killing someone in a possibly preventable situation. Isn’t seeing the other perspective part of practicing the golden rule?
I think there is an alarming trend towards increasing government regulations. An personal example for me is that I would like to be able to freely purchase raw milk for my family, but regulations make it quite difficult. I don’t want to rely on the government to tell me what is right or safe for my family. However…
The Bible has very clear instructions for this situation:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.” Romans 13:1 ESV
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, ready for every good work.” Titus 3:1 ESV
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” 1 Peter 2:13 ESV
Acts 5: 28,29 supercedes the bible verses quoted above telling us to obey the authorities. Likwise Gal. 1: 10 and other places allow for believers to obey Holy Scripture over the laws and rules of man, whether secular or religious man made rules!
They say they rely on God to keep them safe, but do they not go to doctors, tell children not to walk down the middle of a major roadway, not to skate on thin ice, or jump from the top of a tree? God gave us brains. If you use lights in your home to see, why not put lights, even battery operated, on your buggies? It doesn’t make it “not plain.” It makes it safe. Lights aren’t intended to be a decoration. If you think that, might as well take all of them out of your homes.
I don’t understand why certain things must be kept plain or why all colors are considered to be the opposite of plain. An unadorned white buggy could hardly be considered fancy. Why not make them white or light? God gave us all of the colors of the rainbow. He created this gorgeous world. Using color is hardly a sin.
NY Amish fear prison over safety triangle
Exactly Amy, using the triangle does not make it “not plain.” The Amish need to understand it is a public safety issue, period. They may feel it is God’s plan if one of their own is injured or killed in an accident but, they also need to be aware that the other person involved may be non-Amish and has to live with the after affects for the rest of their lives. The issue surely cannot be over bright colors for them. Just drive around and look at their clothes lines. There are many bright colors they use in their lives on a daily basis!
The Amish are not the only ones who make up our society. But, their stance over issues of public safety leaves one wondering how much they truly care about others. It seems, every time an issue arises that does not sit well with this group, they use their religion as a weapon! That is not the spirit of ” Seperation of Church and State” our forefathers had in mind when this country was founded. If you are active in society, then you should be prepared and expected to obey ALL laws. Allowing religion to dictate public policy needs to stop! Especially, in instances of public safety!
Amish ordungs or rules for the Amish way of life
There is something that we all have to understand about the Amish. Most of us are at fault for calling anyone with a beard, a straw hat and different clothes Amish. Actually they are all Mennonites, and within the Mennonites certain church groups have split off for RELIGIOUS reasons to form Stwartzentruber Amish, Old Order Amish, New Order Amish etc? For instance there are three different Swartzentruber Church groups with different Ordnungs. Each of the different church groups whether Amish or old order Amish can have different color clothes, different style buggies, different home decorations, different ways of using technology. some can use chainsaws for cutting wood, some use a crosscut saw. Some use kerosene lamps for light, some Lp gas, some Mennonites use electricity. Makes me wonder if Amish call all of us Catholics, or Baptists for instance, I know it is not true but I suppose they could. The fact is that most of us that post here know little about the Amish history and why they have held on to their customs like the use of buggies and living off the electrical grid and limited use of technology for example. The simple answer is they want to concentrate on their religion,and their families and believe staying away from modern family life helps them do that. We Need to understand that we should do what ever we personally can to not intrude on them the same as they do for us. We have 25 Old Order Amish families living close around us here in Cernin Center,NY. All Amish pay the same taxes we do except for Medicare and Social Scurity. They pay school taxes but do not use our schools instead building their own one room school houses. When these families moved here they had few school desks and green boards for their school so my wife and I provided 110 desks and several green boards for them. They have approximately 35 scholars ( we call them students) to a school and already in two years they have built three school houses for these 25 families, over 100 scholars. It is obvious I hope that we believe the Amish are a good thing for our community.
NY Amish Fear Prison Over Safety Triangle
Thomas I read your post and understand the position from which the Amish come. However, maybe you have lost sight of the fact, the Amish are not being singled out for religious reasons. This is a public safety issue! You contend,The Amish want to stay away from “modern life.” I believe herein lies the rub. The Amish have made theme selves part of society, by traveling public roads, shopping at big box stores, eating at McDonalds and
yes, even using cell phones. If they truly want to be left alone then they need to practice what they preach. They are making their TRUE lives too public. Out of sight is out of mind.
Before, all of the Amish sympathizers chime in about the cell phones and McDonalds I suggest they check out the Facebook posts concerning this issue on the local tv station!
I close in saying the Amish are much different than how they are portrayed. If they are going to be insistent about their right to travel freely in society, then they should expect to be held to the SAME standards as anyone else. The Amish are conducting their lives too publicly. As long as they continue showing a public life, it can be expected that their actions will be open to scrutiny!
Problem is, if the Swartzentrubers in NY are like their Swartzentruber brethren in IN, and they are in full fellowship as many travel back and forth and marry between groups, these Amish do not eat at any restaurant at all unless traveling and never own personal cell phones as children under their parents nor while church members. Rumspringa is highly suppressed so the young folks should not be using them either.
These are not like the main stream Amish you see near the large settlements and their daughter communities. Swartzentrubers are very different!
And people are implying the Amish are narrow-minded and whiny? There are good and bad Amish people and good and bad English people. Some of these comments definitely back that up!
What’s next? Round ’em all up and put them on a reservation? How dare they eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores!
In our area of PA we have a mix of Amish from the conservative to the more modern. I appreciate the well-lit buggies on the road but even the ones who still use lanterns have reflectors. I’d have a problem with buggies without safe markers. But I have Amish friends who even with an 8th grade education show more courtesy and tact then some English people. I’m just saying…
This should be good
Fran, would you please expound upon this: “That is not the spirit of ”Seperation of Church and State” our forefathers had in mind when this country was founded.” … since the term “Separation of Church and State” appears NO WHERE in our Constitution. Look it up, if you think I am kidding. (I am told, though I haven’t actually confirmed it that, quite interestingly, that exact term WAS used in the constitution (or whatever their founding document was called)of the old USSR.
There is a clause in our constitution that deals with establishment, or actually the anti-establish of a state church. We were NOT established as a Catholic or Lutheran or any other “denomination” country, nor would the founders allow that to be the case as they had seen enough of that in Europe … as had the Amish.
You said it ...
when you wrote “I don’t understand why certain things must be kept plain or why all colors are considered to be the opposite of plain. An unadorned white buggy could hardly be considered fancy. Why not make them white or light? God gave us all of the colors of the rainbow. He created this gorgeous world. Using color is hardly a sin.”
It is funny that people that would PROBABLY consider themselves open minded would find so many ways to question the beliefs of other people,especially who happen to be different than them.
You are right, Amy, you don’t understand (the Amish reasoning). Not saying that I fully do either; I’m just not questioning their or anyone else’s logic … least they question mine.
Just yesterday I was out driving on St. Rtf 32 in Ohio. 60 is the ‘re organised speed limit in that area. The first thing I noticed was an orange triangle sign on the back of an Amish buggy travelling on the shoulder of the road. I noticed the triangle long before seeing the buggy. I was able to slow down in advance.
On another occasion I was travelling at night on a two lane highway that I didn’t know. In addition it was raining and the road was very curvy. I wasn’t speeding but going around a curve I almost hit an Amish buggy in the opposite lane. No reflectors or light. If it hadn’t been for my son in law who was travelling with me I probably would have hit the buggy. It was so dark and with the buggy being dark also I didn’t see that buggy. I couldn’t believe that the buggy had no reflectors or light of any kind.
I feel the triangle law is in place for good reason. Yes I believe it is a necessity to have the triangle on all slow moving vehicles. I notice and recognize that symbol as a caution warning. If other drivers don’t than they need to go back to driving school.
Should the Amish be required to have the Orange triangle on the back of their buggies. YES. If they are out in traffic they need to obey the laws of the road. It would be nice if they were also required to have some kind of light or reflector on the front of their buggy also.
Who was breaking the law
shirley if you almost hit a Amish buggy at night then you must have been in violation of the law for you must have crossed the road divider in order to be in the opposing lane. The law is simple you must have control of your vehicle.
At the heart of the matter ...
is this: “I notice and recognize that symbol as a caution warning. If other drivers don’t than they need to go back to driving school.” I agree with you about some drivers not recognizing the meaning or the significance of the SMV triangle.
As someone that has to move farm equipment (though not horse drawn equipment)from place to place on the public roads I can tell you that many (most?) drivers pay absolutely NO HEED to the SMV triangle. THE BEST thing that I have found to keep them from running over me is reflective tape, but possibly even better is simply not being out on the highway after dark with a slow moving vehicle. Though that is probably not an option for most Amish.
Don’t discount the link that Erik provided to the study that says that the SMV triangle is not all that effective. My experience agrees with their findings. So while some cautious and courteous drivers, such as Shirley, watch for and respond to the SMV symbol …a sizeable percentage do not.
I personally hope that technological changes in automobiles can help overcome this problem, as I have never seen a SMV symbol or reflective tape on a stray cow or horse, a deer or a wild hog out on the highway, or even a downed tree, etc. People hit these items with great regularity. Even stalled automobiles can be difficult to see in the dark if their battery has drained and the flashers are no longer working. Another thing that would help would be for all people to drive at a reasonable speed. Well, never mind that because THAT is apparently asking too much.
In northern Indiana the Amish buggies have been using the SMV orange signs for years. The reflective tape has become much more popular in the last few years, though. The first time I saw the reflective tape a few years ago, it gave me quite a start, but I much prefer that in the dark. They use a gray tape and outline quite a bit of the frame of the buggy. It makes it very easy to see in the dark. And because it is a plain color, it is not noticeable in the day time.
My thoughts match those of Naomi & Amy. Any non-Amish who may be involved in an accident with an “invisible” Amish buggy at night on a public road would live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.
Do unto others what you’d have them do unto you. Who knew how much controversy the “Golden Rule” would cause over the centuries?
The Amish arrived in this country seeking freedom of religion. Since some (strictest) are finding that increasing government laws are curtailing their idea of freedom of religion, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps (at least for those strictest Amish like those opposed to orange triangles for safety) it’s time to look to another country with equal or better freedom of religion where they might also prosper in peace. I do not mean any disrespect, but if it’s not working for them (and I’m not sure how many U.S. states or other North American venues won’t have similar rules/laws), perhaps other locations need to be seriously considered—even back in Europe. I don’t know, as I’ve never traveled there nor am I familiar with modern European laws as they pertain to freedom of religion.
Does anyone else know if European countries would be more welcoming to a strict Amish lifestyle these days? But then there’d be the issue of getting there–if not by plane, by boat? I’m honestly curious, as there are so many more laws here today than when the Amish first arrived.
I have travelled all over the world during my 75 years on this earth and lived in many states including hawaii and countries to include Framce amd Germany. We have expanded from nothing to over 330 million people for a reason, our Constitutional and Bill of Rights. We have had freedom for our religion from the very beginning. The Amish live all over the world excluding for the most part Europe. Some Amish have been invited back to Russia where many of them first lived. Religion is the focal point for rhe Amish Family and their Church Group. Twice a year those within their church group, those that have been baptized and joined the Church have what is called a Gmay where they discuss their Ordnungs for that Church Group and vote on them. If everyone agrees on all of them then they stay together. However if anyone or more disagree with one or more of their ordung parts then they either have to cha GE their mi ds or leave the Church group and find another Church Group that will accept them. If the Church Group has a serious problem within the area where they live, they will not sue, or live u der those things they feel imposes on their family and their religion. They will instead sell their property and move. That is how serious they are about their way of life. You will not find many Baptists or other Protestant religions that are so dedicated and watchful over their 500 years or more of following their faith of their forefathers. Actually the Amish way of life has changed little over that time. They jealously guard their way of live so they can pass it on to their children and grandchildren. How many people do you know that conform to a strict rule of what they wear, colors and styles, what transportation they use, and there way of life. When you think of this, you should realize these people are not trying to make YOU follow their way of life but to pray you are tolerant of theirs.
I don’t know if I can say much on other countries–it seems that the US/Canada tend to give those of different religions, backgrounds, etc one of the best environments in the world, from a tolerance and economic standpoint.
It is an interesting theoretical question though–could Amish return to and live in Europe? I don’t know that they’d find the land prices as appealing, for one. The cultural differences would be there as well–the Amish are Amish, but they’re also American (and Canadian), and they appreciate many things about their North American homes and culture and have made many of those things part of their own Amish cultures.
South of the border, Mexico has a large population of Old Colony Mennonites who are similar in some ways to the Amish, but you have a pretty drastic cultural and economic difference, and the OCM groups have had some serious problems stemming from poverty.
I would hope that the Amish could find a solution here in the US, and I am confident that they will. There are many other states and Swartzentruber communities where their safety marking arrangement is accepted. But hopefully it is resolved locally so that no one has to move.
SMV's have no effect on accident rates
There seems to be presumption that SMV symbols have a substantial effect on accident rates.
I was surprised to learn that some university or other outfit did a study to find out why farm equipment was still being hit after the installation of SMV symbols. It was found that the before and after SMV symbol accident rate was a 1% difference by whatever method they compared. I believe that would be within the statical error rate. In other words, it had essentially no effect on accident rates.
I did not save a link to the study, and if someone has access to the nexis/lexis database, maybe they can find it for us.
Cory’s article that Erik provides a link to above points out many shortcomings to the SMV symbol, too. It is not a foolproof cure all.
In light of this, I can see no reason to FORCE Amish to have them on their buggies.
I should disclose that I spent 2.5 years a Amish convert in a community that had no SMV symbols and would rather be jailed than use them. They were not a Swartzentruber group, but a conservative old order, just a lot more conservative than most.
Agree with Alice Mary on this one.
And stiff fines should be levied on owners of unmarked buggies involved in accidents–use the money to provide psychological counseling to the driver of the vehicle involved.
It sort of bothers me when I see folks say “The Amish should do this” or “the Amish don’t do that” The Amish are not a group with identical beliefs and practices. Many Amish do use the triangles without a lot of spiritual heartburn over the issue; the poster who stated that many Amish do not understand the Swartzentrubers is, I think, spot on.
Secondly, I think some sort of compromise, probably involving reflective tape, would be the best bet. Accidents involving vehicles without some form of illumination/reflective material do not just injure the persons in those vehicles. If you want to drive on the road, you follow the state laws or you don’t drive on the state roads.
I have written this before in the comments section of this blog.
I absolutely amazed at how people look at modern main stream large community Amish and say Amish are not like that or not like this, yet they more closely accept and agree with their beliefs. Yet, when presented with pictures of Swartzentruber Amish and other conservative groups, they fawn over the pictures and comment on how that is what Amish are supposed to look like, until they are presented with the beliefs that create that look. Then they want to FORCE them to change.
Now we have a very long time poster in the comments wanting to force them to leave the country if they do not comply! I do hope that they do leave.
The Amish are not here for your amusement. They are here because we used allow people to obey God in this country. I see that is coming to an end.
If you’re referring to Alice Mary’s comment, I didn’t at all read it as “wanting to force them to leave the country if they do not comply.”
I read it as her wondering from a place of concern about them considering a different place to live “with equal or better freedom of religion where they might also prosper in peace” given what she sees as the burden of increasing regulations in the USA.
While I don’t think that is the solution, I do think it is interesting that she raised the issue, because it makes us (or at least did me) think about all the good things America has to offer. And also the fact that we have 50 different states with 50 state governments providing 50 different environments (not to mention further differing laws across the local level) suggests that there ought to be many places that would accommodate a plain Amish lifestyle.
uniformity of laws
Erik: The laws in this nation are mostly uniform because states have lost their right to “opt out” after the 14th amendment was passed to the U. S. Constitution. This is based on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the “due process and equal protection of the laws” clause. So when Congress passes a law, it applies to all jurisdictions, not simply federal, but the states, the counties, the city governments, etc. Examples are the civil rights laws, the handicapped access laws, employment related laws, the time Congress blackmailed the states into accepting the 55 mph speed limit by threatening to with hold federal highway funds , etc. While there may be small local variations in perhaps planning and zoning laws, even the building codes are “international” as are other codes at the local level.
Also, on the subject of moving to another land that is more friendly to Amish and conservative lifestyles, I was contacted last week and asked for a quote to haul some personal items on my sailboat for folks who are moving from the U.S. to another country, where they hope to find less gov’t intervention in their lives, and not support the immorality that U.S. gov’t seems to be supporting with their decisions and laws. I don’t envision large bodies of Amish moving yet, but it could happen.
Still quite a few examples where laws differ
Marijuana, gay marriage, raw milk sales, SMV triangles.
Use of triangles on buggies, religion or safety for the Amish
When the Amish are driving their buggies, which governs their compliance with the laws of using reflective devices on vehicles moving less then 20MPH. This is a complicated area of concern for we as English sometimes forget they have lived in this country since the early 18rh century having moved here because of religious persecution in Europe and other areas amd live very close to the same way they did when first broke off as part of the Protestant Reformation. The Amish are primarily governed by their religion as set down in unwritten Ordnungs ( rules) they have chosen to abide by as members of their Church Group. To break one of these Ordnungs could mean enforcing the meidung ( shunning) or excommunication ( being expelled from their Church Geoup) both very serious church matters. Ro understand the ways of the Amish or Mennonites you have to understand the religion amd Ordnungs of the specific Church Geoup you are speaking about and there are many variations although some basic ones run thru them all. in the case of the Swartzentrubers which are the lowest order, or what we call most Conservative, the use of a triangle on their buggies signifies they are not putting their full faith in God to protect them. If they are hit by a vehicle and someone is endured rhey accept it. Most Amish Groups feel the same way about insuring their barns from fire or destruction, to buy insurance is defying gods will, and if their barn burns down, the community will have a barn raising and rebuild it. They feel the same way about getting sick. They use mostly home remedies but will use a hospital and Doctors if they have to. However medical plans and Medicare and Medicaid have raised the cost of Doctors and hospitals to the point that they have a very difficult time paying these exorbitant coats. Last year I negotiated a solution for the families around me, and rhey now get a special rate at our local hospital when they pay cash. It is a compromise that works for every ody. We need to start working together for honestly I see. O downside ro Tje Amish amd Mennonites moving here to New Uork State except to the misinformed. This has been a good exchange on this site. I hope to see more questions so we can dispel rhe many myths that I hear about these hard working people.
Use of triangles on buggies, religion or safety for the Amish
In my last post I made a mistake in using the word protect instead of the use govern for the Amish not using a triangle on their buggies. To use a triangle would signify they were putting their religious belief in the safety symbol amd not being governed ny God. The Amish like may Christians believe their destiny is governed bu God. And one more thing. I first was Tote Amish in St. Lawrence County,NY where I was born. the Swartzentrubers moved into Heuvelron and Norfolk,NY in 1974.. Few of the originals are still there the majority of them leaving over issues much like the slow moving symbols for their buggies and the problems the Swartzentrubers are having in Dekalb Junction,NY also in St. Lawrence County. The Swartzentrubers are also having a problem in the Dekalb Munction area due to Tje excommu I cation of a Swartzentruber who did not agree with his Bishop over the child molestation of a Cousin by another family member. Tje Swartzentrubers have been u compromising on many issues in that area from building codes, use of fire alarms, to outdoor toilets, all issues based on their religious beliefs and their Ordnung GS. In these Amish Church Groups rhe if al sword on problems like this for the members of the Church Group is the Bishkop who the Amish feel is chosen by God and should be obeyed. The bottom line is that the Amish amd Memno it’s Church Groups have the same problems the general public has. The difference is that the Amish who belong to a Church Group follow their Bishop amd the Ordnung with little opposition. These societal issues have been handed down for generations. I apologize for some of the typing mistakes I make but I am using mu iPad and this small keyboard is easy to make mistakes on.
My own experience coming from an area that has many buggies on the road is that the position of the reflector on the buggy can affect how well it is seen. However I could usually recognize a buggy by its lights well before I could see the SMV sign. They may be effective by day but good lights and the grey reflector tape are much better than the SMV by night.
I’m saddened by this discussion, because I would have thought that the authorities might achieve their ends by more flexible means. Assuming that they genuinely believe that the orange triangle saves lives – why not designate some of the statistically more dangerous roads as “orange triangle only” where slow moving vehicles are concerned, then set lower speed limits on the others?
How Many Wrecks?
Maybe I missed it (nothing new for me) but what are people pointing to as the reason for upgrading from reflective tape to the Triangle? Were there a number of wrecks in the last several years that changed everything? Usually it seems like that is what prompts people into changing things.
Tom in Lincoln
How many wrecks
I have never been able to find any statistics concerning whether adding triangles or reflective tape to the rear of buggies or any place on buggies , reduces the chance of accidents between Amish buggis, cars, trucks or other vehicles. However it is the law, and many laws since as education, Medicare, Social Security etc have alreadybeen determind to NOT have to be used by the Amish. But actually that is not the reason that Amish would elect to either use these devices or not. The reason concerns the individual Amish groups Ordnungs and their Religious faith handed down to them for centuries,with little change in what determines their plainness or their religion. If the Amish Church Community at one of the semi-annual Gmays decides that an addition to their buggies such as the triangle effects negaively on whether they maintain their plainness or it compromises them in whether they believe god determines what happens to them when driving their buggies or the triangle does, then they will reject the triangle. If there is no effect on the Communities concensus of their plainness, or it does not conflict with their religious principles then then may decide to use it. It is hat simple. We all Ned to understand this reasoning amd stand behind the Amish in these manners. After all our ancestors lived the very same way less then a hundred years ago. It was not wrong then.
Buggy accidents in St. Lawrence County, NY
A good point and question. It comes from somewhere. The community is large to begin with and likely growing at an Amish pace which means more and more buggies on the road. You’ll find some St. Lawrence County buggy accidents listed at these links for the past few years:
I also came across a 2010 letter to the editor from a local veterinarian calling for SMV triangles on St. Lawrence County buggies.
In another recent article, you have the wording of the county legislators’ resolution, which describes and increase in accidents and “unreported near misses”:
‘A committee of St. Lawrence County legislators voted 13-2 Monday to request state Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Barbara J. Fiala to require the Amish to install slow-moving vehicles emblems on “all means of transportation used on public roads and highways.”
“As Amish communities spread across the geographic areas of St. Lawrence County, combined with frequent travel, there has been an increase in the number of automobile and Amish buggy accidents, as well as a number of unreported near misses,” the resolution states.’
“As Amish communities spread across the geographic areas of St. Lawrence County, combined with frequent travel, there has been an increase in the number of automobile and Amish buggy accidents, as well as a number of unreported near misses”
Two questions: (1) What percentage of these increased Amish buggy accidents would have been prevented by SMV markings[ Presumably daytime accidents would not, for example, have been impacted much by the SMV triangles], and (2)how in the world do you factor in “unreported near misses” if they’re unreported? Just wondering…
#1 is the million dollar question, and to hazard a guess at #2, I would say they were probably officially unreported incidents, but nonetheless talked about and stories probably circulated in the community so authorities have probably heard about them informally. “Did you hear Uncle Ralph nearly hit an Amish buggy the other day…”
Yep. Nothing better to base legislation on that anecdotal stories heard third hand from you cousin’s girlfriend’s uncle’s co-worker.
Also, does“all means of transportation used on public roads and highways.” REALLY mean that? That’s gonna cause a lot of drag on bicycles and scooters I would think…
My thoughts exactly, Forest in N.C.! Also, putting the triangle on “all means of transportation” would mean putting it on the horse, not the buggy! The “means” of moving is the horse–buggies don’t go anywhere on their own! Our elected officials are great at making the world full of more laws, most of which won’t get enforced except sporadically and arbitrarily, and often don’t accomplish that which is intended.
I asked my son, Mark, about his take on the orange SMV triangle. He has them on all of his vehicles, as well as battery operated LED lights and flashers. Mark said that he looks at the situation like this. If the Amish are driving on their own privately owned roads, lanes, land, etc. they shouldn’t be bothered and should be allowed to drive with whatever lights they feel comfortable with. However, when the choose to leave their own property and travel on PUBLIC roads they should obey the rules that the government has set down. In Mark’s view, driving on the public roads with a horse and buggy should be considered as a privilege not as a right. What if the government just simply forbid all horse and buggy use of the roads? Mark feels it is a poor witness or light to the world to be so stubborn. Also, he feels it is selfish and inconsiderate of others to care so little for the safety of the general public that you adamantly refuse to comply with safety requirements. Mark told me that some of this goes back to the persecution times of the Reformation and that some Amish still harken back to this when they are confronted by the government. They get this “persecution” mentality and just hunker down and refuse to budge. Mark wonders if it wouldn’t help to have a non-involved party in to help with dialaog. Maybe somebody Amish from a different community that has the SMV emblems and can speak Deitsch. Somebody Amish might be able to reason more with them than English authorities that these conservative Amish feel intimidated and threatened by.
While Mark’s input is good, I believe that to a Swartzentruber, it would be considered irrelevant. The New Order Mark is with is much more like, spiritually and physically, to the main society world than the Swartzentrubers are to New Order. I have had both Swartzentrubers and high(progressive, more modern) Amish agree with that statement. Also, New Order and Swartzentrubers have a great deal animosity between groups, therefore, they rarely speak to one another.
It is a rational thought to say it is good to put the SMV symbol on a buggy. But religion is often very not rational. For Swartzentrubers, and a few other conservative Amish groups, resisting the SMV has become a tenant of the religion. If those Swa. Amish in NY were to adopt the SMV symbol, they would get excommunicated by other many or all Swartzentrubers. This could mean losing all of one’s brothers and sisters, parents, and other relatives, forever. Few will accept that. Would you lose all your family for a device your people have lived for decades without? To make them put the symbol on the buggy would be to force them to disregard a important part of their religion. Remember, these people have rules about buttons, clothing cuff size, hat band and hat brim size, helm on skirts, what underwear can be worn, if any, yes, if any, what pots and pans can be made of or whether there can be non-stick coatings, how hay is put up, baled or loose, etc, etc. The make rules about many things we of the world never could think of as religious. All Amish do this, but Swartzentruber have more rules and far less willing to change them, especially from the outside.
Assuming the ruling is passed to force the symbols on the buggies, the vast majority of this group in NY will not adopt them, but would prefer to go to jail instead. After being in jail long enough, some may get in to financial difficulties. After that, I believe that most will just move away. That recently happened in PA, didn’t it? They won’t accept your seemingly wise rational thoughts, nor those of more progressive Amish, nor a mediator. In many ways, Swartzentrubers are as divided from the rest of the Amish in the way Chicago is separated from Montreal, or we are from them.
I apologize to Alice Mary, she did not say to force them or kick them out and you were right about what she said Erik, sorry.
This is really thought-provoking. So where is the dividing line between preserving freedom of religion, or interfering in an out-of-control cult? I am thinking specifically of issues like polygamy. Or radical Islam, for that matter. I am not in any way making a value judgement on Swartzentrubers. If there was a community of all born again, Anabaptist believers that lived as basic as the Sw., I would probably be there in a heartbeat, if at all possible.
No worries from my side, Lance. I always appreciate your comments. I have heard the distance between Swartzentrubers and other Amish described similarly to what you say here. There is a much larger gap than people might realize.
I think you hit on a good point that as wise and rational as any arguments we make here might seem, this isn’t really about what is rational, but is rather about religious belief and faith (and also the strength of tradition and as you suggest the ties across Swartzentruber society).
Buggy Safety Suggestions
If it would help, I might suggest buggy lanes on the road shoulders, or reflective bands on the horse’s legs, or asking Amish landowners to donate road frontage land so a buggy lane could be installed. A person could ride a horse or walk. Somewhere I read about splitting a Slow Moving Vehicle emblem and putting half on the left edge and half on the right edge of the buggy.
Saloma Furlong, who was raised Amish, put her thinking cap on and wrote a common-sense opinion, “At the intersection of two cultures: Resolving the Amish buggy problem.” Here is Saloma’s proposal for New York:
“The Swartzentruber Amish bishops would have the same choices other Amish have, ranging from simple to difficult: 1) accept reflective tape, battery-powered lights in their buggies and/or a reflective triangle; 2) hire their English neighbors to drive them where they want to go after dark; 3) change their lifestyle to stay off the roads after dark; or 4) pay to have a network of buggy paths built along the sides of the roads, through the fields and woods, connecting with one another throughout the community.
If the Amish don’t make any changes, they should face the same consequences as motorists who violate the rules of the road. And the message is clear: “If your buggy isn’t visible at night, it cannot be on the road before sunrise or after sunset. And if you disobey this rule, then the police will impound your buggy. And you will need to pay a fine to get the buggy back.”
Read more at: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/opinion04/saloma-furlong—at-the-intersection-of-two-cultures-resolving-the-amish-buggy-problem-20150422
On the other side of the coin, Mary Bell of Lanesboro, Minnesota, who has coordinated Amish classes for Eagle Bluff’s Skills School, took a buggy ride, and wrote an article, “Courtesy is key when sharing roads with Amish.” The following is quoted from Mary:
“At the end of the day, I had learned how helpful it would be for people to slow their vehicles and dim their lights when an oncoming buggy is seen. If possible, give buggies some space in case the horses act up.
Also, try to minimize noise by waiting until you are a block away before accelerating. Jake brakes on trucks and honking horns can spook a horse and literally scare it to death.
I believe nobody wants to be the cause of an accident. Mutual courtesy and understanding may be the best remedy. And, what’s wrong with taking a little time to slow down and become more aware of each other?”
Vote postponed until June 1
Just updated this post with reports from yesterday’s meeting. The vote has been postponed until after legislators meet with Amish leaders (May 21). Above you’ll find a new video with footage of speakers on both sides of the debate.
NY Amish fear prison over safety triangle
Mark now you have confused me and possibly the readers of this blog as to the problem we are talking about as to the Amish feeling of the world. It appears from your post that you are Old Order Amish. I am not aware, nor have I ever heard of an Old Order Amish Church Group whose Ordnungs allowed a member to use the Internet, or for that matter electrical devices. Further more you seemed to say that my statement ” they are of this world but not in it” is a different interpretation then you use. I would appreciate it if you would explain where I ER? There are indeed changes in the Amish and Mennonite communities as they wrestle with the rapidly changing technology as well as the changes in the English community concerning religion. While in our community church attendance has rapidly dropped, churches are closing and our perception of right and wrong has chamged, in the Amish and Mennonite Church Groups it is very constant. It is very difficult for us to discuss intelligently the Amish way of life since the Amish Ordnungs are unwritten and passed by word of mouth during the closed meetings where those that have been baptized and are then members of the Church gather to discuss whether each church member will continue to abide by every Ordnung or not. Those that agree to abide by the Ordnungsmof the Group carry on the Commu ion several weeks later, those that disagree must leave the Church and either join a other Church Group of like Ordungs or join a Group then feel comfortable with, which sometimes will be a Mennonite Church Group instead of Amish. I am by no means an expert on the Amish ways, only getting my information from extensive reading over many years as well as speaking to Church members that have felt comfortable,with speaking to me. I am not under any illusion that I am always told the correct information. I have volunteered my time, expertise,assetts, and personal connections in areas that the Amish do not feel comfortable entering into. I have learned that if we endeavor to learn their ways, accept them without condeming those parts we might not feel comfortable with then they respond in kind. But on the other hand I have personally witnessed people around me react to the Amish ways in ways that threaten their way of living. In those cases the Amish will strictly follow their Ordnungs and heritage and sell their property and move instead of suing someone or attempting any kind of law Inforcement. If you find mistakes in spelling in my posts it is,due to my iPad. There are times when it has a mind of its,own. While I am educated with degrees in computers and Electrical engineering, the iPad has so far not been impressed. Howeve I have compromised and use it more then my other computers since the iPad is always with me and allows me to store hundreds of books which I download free.
I have posted on here before and we have covered the whole Amish & computer issue on other posts. Jonathan Edwards made a good comment on the “in the world but not of it” topic. I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m short of time and can’t go into detail because of that.
Discussion over of this world but not in it etc
Mark I have not always been aware of this blog and only recently posted to it. But I fear you appear to be hiding behind something because of my questions of how an Old Order Amish man can use a computer and speak of other things that appear to me to be against any Old Order Amish Ordnungs that I am familiar with. I believe it is important to ask these questions because what you say goes against what I have learned, and I believe it is wrong to tell things about the Amish that confuse others. mark I see it all the time on RV and the internet especially on Youtube which I watch because of the wonderful documentaries on History. I believe therefore it is important to ask this questio, has your Bishop allowed you to use a computer or are you doing what some young amish are doing by doing it in violation of your ordnungs? I am familiar with Holmes County and the fact that many Church Groups has become more liberal and that is why many Old Order Amish Church members are leaving there and relocating her to New York State and other areas where the land is cheaper and they can join a Church Group that they can agree to the Ordnungs and live in harmony. They feared that continuing to live there would endanger their children to things that might cause the children to leave their Church Group and the community. I have spoken to several older Old Order Amish men here near me that are against Rumspringa entirely and were against it in Holmes County. They do not want their children to leave the community in their teens and experience the cutting of their hair, wearing clothes, using radios and TV, driving automobiles and using alcoholic beverages like our teenage children are doing. I hope you understand why I am answering your post in this manner, not to be rude or condescending but to clarify something that I believe strongly.
Thomas, I’m starting to get a little annoyed here. Mark is Amish. You say you haven’t commented here for very long. Mark has commented here quite a bit in the past, before you began commenting. We know him here. Mark also uses the computer at work, which some Amish people do, and as he said, is busy. So maybe it is a better idea to accept his explanation in good faith rather than suggest “I fear you appear to be hiding behind something.”
Second, I’m finding it puzzling – in a comment above you suggested that few people here know anything about the Amish: “the fact is that very few people on these blogs understand the Amish and it appears that some quake at using their real name like I do…”
Yet you also comment above “nor have I ever heard of an Old Order Amish Church Group whose Ordnungs allowed a member to use the Internet, or for that matter electrical devices.”
Okay…I think many of our regular readers here realize that Amish do use electrical devices often, in many cases powered by battery–flashlights and other portable lighting probably being the most common example. Or some use them in non-Amish settings, like a builder using conventional plug-in electric tools on a jobsite at an English home, or in a non-Amish place of employment (where a number of Amish also have access to computers). It’s something we’ve covered fairly frequently here in various posts on Amish technology use.
There are articles on this site that will explain some of those things in greater detail. I’ve posted links to some of them below, or use the search box at the top. Or if you want academic sources you can read good recent books on the Amish like An Amish Paradox (Hurst/McConnell) about the Holmes County community, or The Amish (Kraybill/Johnson-Weiner/Nolt), on the Amish in general.
I am at work and with a busy schedule the last while, I need to be short. Don’t take it as “trying to hide.” I have tried to be open on here and have nothing to hide — but since my computer use is only from work (or the local public library) time is something that needs to be considered. You are right, it would be wrong to tell others things about the Amish that might confuse others, but since this is my life & my people we are writing about, I might have something to say and also know what I am writing about.
A few quick short notes —
– I am not a rebellious youth, I am inching up on 50 and have been a baptized church member in the old Order Amish church for 23 years.
– Our bishop did not need to give permission to use a computer, as our group allows it for work use provided it is not a computer at home and the computer has a filter or monitoring/ accountability program on it. (See the links Erik kindly shared — it might help you to learn.)
– Our bishop himself works at a non-Amish owned business like I do and also uses a computer (though I really cannot see how that might be your concern).
– We are members in the largest Old Order Amish church in our community. There are many groups here, and though most are called correctly “Old Order” only the original group (ours) is not known by another name. we are not the most conservative or the most liberal, but the oldest & largest and the other groups have split away from this church.
– We might live in Holmes Co., but neither us as parents or our particular church endorses car driving, smoking, drinking, radios, TV, etc., etc. as you mentioned. Does it happen? Yes. Does everyone do it? No. Do parents oppose it and their teenagers do it anyhow? Sometimes. Do some not object to it as much as others? Yes.
Now… I really do need to get busy with my job.
Am I reading this right? Did an English writer just reprimand Mark from Holmes County by writing “I believe it’s wrong to tell things about the Amish that confuse others”? That’s a rank thing for an English guy to be writing to an Amish man! I’ve appreciated Mark’s comments because they have helped alleviate confusion! Keep on posting, Mark!
Regarding why the Swartzies refuse to allow the SMV triangle, we can turn to the Bible to explain it.
Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world.
2Co 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,
As the more liberal buggy driving Amish use the triangle, if they the Swartzies were to use the triangle, it may appear as if they were conforming to a more liberal stance in religious beliefs, of lessening their separation from other Amish.
By not conforming and using the triangle, they are publicly declaring that they have nothing in common with those other Amish.
Instead of County legislators trying to force them to conform, they should rather come up with a solution that allows the Swartzies to be non-conformed to both the world and other Amish. Such as a 3’x6” rectangular board with chevrons like that used at T-junctions stretching from one side of the buggy to the other side.
The Swartzies are perfectly aware that it is a privileged to use public roads, that they must do everything possible to avoid being the cause of collisions, that the government has the right to pass laws, etc, etc.
They have changed 101 things in their lifestyles to be distinct from those other Amish, forcing them now to look like them is just too much to ask.
As planned, a meeting took place last Thursday between Amish bishops and officials. It sounds like the two sides may be able to reach a compromise. From the Watertown Daily Times:
During an hourlong meeting with state and county officials in the Heuvelton Fire Hall, four Amish bishops said they are willing to consider alternatives to installing the orange slow-moving vehicle signs, which are against their religion.
“I want to come to something that will work,” said Mose J. Miller, an Amish bishop from Heuvelton.
The options discussed included a new type of reflective tape that’s supposed to be more visible than the white and gray reflective strips now used.
The bishops said the Amish might be willing to accept the new tape, which is manufactured in a variety of colors, including black — a color to which the Amish won’t object. They also were asked to consider using wider strips of tape to improve visibility.
“It could be possible, as long as it’s plain,” Mr. Miller said. “We wouldn’t want to put red tape or orange.”
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin M. Wells suggested the Amish use a combination of the white reflective strips and the black tape. State law requires horse-drawn vehicles to have a minimum of 72 square inches of high-quality white or whitish-gray reflective tape.
Adding black tape to the mixture would be considered an enhancement that would not require revising state law, he said.
Update: Resolution remains tabled following June 1 meeting
As planned, St. Lawrence County legislators met Monday, but the resolution on requiring SMV triangles on Amish buggies remained tabled. There is no reason given in this report:
From the article:
Last week Senator Patty Ritchie held a private forum to discuss possible compromises that could be reached between county legislators and the Amish community.
At the meeting both sides agreed to explore their options, but no decisions were made.
The county is expected to revisit the issue at a later date.
Update from Central Pa
About six weeks ago I attended an Amish event in Winfield, Pa. I think they are a Nevada settlement. There I noticed that the buggies do have the SMV signs but every time the buggy is parked the sign is removed and stored. I’ll send Eric a couple of pics showing what I mean. This is the one and only group that I have ever seen that does this. Their message must be “Yes we will comply with the law but we don’t like it.”