December 2012 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of eight Amish men who were fined and jailed in September 2011 for violating a law requiring all slow-moving vehicles to display a bright orange triangle.

The men, who are all part of the Old Order Swartzentruber Amish, said placing the signs on their buggies would violate their religious beliefs. They also refused to pay the fines for violating the law, which ranged from $148 to more than $600.

While some Amish groups obey the requirement, these eight men belong to an especially strict sect, and they argued that paying the fine would be a form of complying with a law that is against their belief system.

A lower Kentucky court, however, held that as long as a law is equally applicable, personal religious beliefs are not a defense for refusing to obey it.

The controversy over the signs eventually led the state to modify the law. Kentucky passed a measure in April that allows Amish buggy drivers who oppose displaying safety triangles on their vehicles to use an alternative. The law does not, however, apply retroactively.

William Sharp, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky who argued on behalf of the Amish, said the ACLU is disappointed by the decision but happy the law has been changed.

“We are pleased that the recent legislative change will nonetheless enable our clients to continue living and worshipping here in Kentucky,” Sharp said, according to the Associated Press.