November 2011 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Eight Amish men in Kentucky were sentenced to four days in jail in September in a dispute over safety regulations for horse-drawn vehicles.

The men were fined anywhere from $148 to more than $600 for failing to comply with a law requiring safety emblems on their buggies, a misdemeanor violation. While some Amish groups obey the requirement, these eight men belong to a strict sect called the Old Order Swartzentruber, and they argued that paying the fine would mean complying with a law that is against their belief system.

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

“I don’t think it’s right to put somebody in jail for practicing their religious beliefs…but that’s what we’ll do if that’s what it takes to abide by the biblical laws,” Levi Zook, one of the eight who was jailed, said, according to a Sept. 12 article in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The eight men have appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which as of the Church & State press deadline, had not yet decided whether to take up the case.