The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

November 16, 2012

Amish sect moving on

Will new digs end controversy?

— After a 15-year stay in northwestern Cambria County, the Swartzentruber Amish are moving on.

We expect they will leave behind many friends they made in Barr and Blacklick townships. And hopefully they are taking with them more fond memories than those of conflict and confrontation with agencies and the county courts. 

The ultraconservative sect of Anabaptists are migrating to what they hope will be greener pastures.

Although the sect’s members prefer to live simple, private and unassuming lives, their stay in our region has been fraught with controversy.

Included were:

* Arrests by police for refusing to affix caution triangles to the rear of their buggies, a state law.

* Run-ins with sewage-enforcement agencies over issues with outhouses at their schoolhouse and the human waste being dumped on land.

* Confrontations with game officers for refusing to wear orange clothing as designated by state game laws.

Members have been dragged into magisterial and county courts; some even were jailed for refusing to cooperate and change their illegal ways.

“They are very honest and hardworking, but you have to comply with the laws of the state,” Blacklick Township Supervisor Joe Sherwood told our Kathy Mellott. “When we were having trouble with them over the septic issues, we had a lot of people saying that if the Amish don’t have to obey the laws, they didn’t either.”

Exactly.

Each time there was controversy involving the Amish, we heard from area residents urging that sect members be left alone to live their lives in whatever way they chose.

We have strongly disagreed and, instead, have applauded the agencies and the courts for maintaining their convictions while working with the Amish families to reach compromise.

We respect everyone’s right to privacy and to practice their beliefs as long as they don’t conflict with laws and rules we all must follow.

When people move into a community, they must comply with the laws of that community.

No exceptions.

We wish our former Amish neighbors well.

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