This story caught my attention first for how the paper framed it with their headline: Horses lead the way to a less peaceful coexistence in Amish country.”

Is that meant to be a cute title? It sounds like it is strictly blaming the Amish for the conflicts, at the least.

The article addresses two issues, both of which we’ve had an eye on here.

  1. One is the proposed horse diaper, rubber horseshoes, and 4-side buggy numbering requirements in Lycoming County, PA
  2. The other is the issue of Amish moving into subdivisions and small town areas in Lancaster County.

Horses are at the cruces of these matters, and the actions and desires of Amish people are pushing these issues to the forefront.

But framing it this way seems to absolve other parties of any part or responsibility in the conflicts.

For that matter, though horses are involved in each, these are two separate issues. I suspect this gripe of mine is more relevant in the case of #1.

The article itself is actually more sympathetic or neutral towards the Amish than the headline would suggest.

I’ve noticed that often with articles, you see two hands at work: the story which the writer researched, spend time digesting and understanding, then wrote – and the headline that the editor attached to it.

I’m not guaranteeing that’s what happened here, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

I suppose “Amish lead the way to a less peaceful coexistence in Amish country” would have been a bit too bold. So horses here are a stand-in for the Amish.

Something like “Horses At The Center Of Conflict In Amish Pennsylvania” would be less subtly charged against the Amish while acknowledging the issue.

Maybe that’s blander, but if they put more than the 30 seconds I did into coming up with something catchier yet more neutral, I’m sure they could.

Updates on the 2 stories

As for the actual content: I thought this was a good insight from Steve Nolt – that the axes of Amish conflicts with government have shifted from the state level to the more local level – such as with townships:

“It’s part of a pattern we’ve seen historically since the mid-20th century, of high-profile conflict over schooling, military draft and Social Security,” said Steve Nolt, a senior scholar at Elizabethtown College, who has written extensively on the Amish. “But the conflicts you see now are with local governments, not the state.”

On matters of substance in the two conflicts, I did learn something new: the Lancaster County East Hempfield township horse barn issue was apparently resolved last month by an amendment.

I did not see any other article on this, and can’t find one now with a search, so I guess this is original reporting?

Supervisors finally addressed the complaints last month by amending an existing ordinance to prohibit horses on smaller lots in residential districts. That means the proposed barn can be built, since it will go up in an agricultural district.

So going by that snippet, it seems the Amish person in question will be able to build his barn because it happens to be in an agricultural district – but that horses will now be prohibited on “smaller lots” in districts zoned for residential.

I wish the info here were more specific, because it’s hard to tell what that means, and if the Amish-wanting-to-keep-horses-in-subdivisions-side actually lost meaningful ground here (and how much).

The Lycoming County diapers-and-rubber-horseshoes situation has not been resolved:

Levi Stoltzfus, whose parents were among the original settlers in this Amish outpost in the 1970s, eased his horse onto the pavement of Mill Road on a recent morning jaunt. He has generally shrugged off the angry rhetoric. Yet like other Amish, he is prepared to fight to protect his right to travel without conditions.

The proposed requirements are untenable, in his view. Rubber horseshoes could cause lameness, he said, and horse diapers are hazards that simply don’t work.

“I just don’t see room for compromise,” said the 45-year-old Stoltzfus, who operates a sawmill.

A lawsuit is possible in this case. It seems there are a couple of underlying issues here, and, little surprise, they’re both about money:

  1. Amish moving in have driven up land costs, pricing out some non-Amish (sort of a reverse effect of what Amish experience in places like Lancaster County)
  2. Who pays for road maintenance? Buggies damage roads and some places don’t want manure on the roads. Some of the money for road maintenance here comes from gasoline taxes, and Amish don’t buy gas for their buggies.

A pastor quoted in the article suggests regular conversations between the two sides would help.

It’s not a guaranteed path to peace, but if they haven’t been talking much outside charged environments like contentious supervisors’ meetings, a cup-of-coffee chat might be a good place to start.

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