Judge jails Amish unsafe buggy owners

2012-01-12 22:41

Mayfield - A judge in western Kentucky jailed a group of Amish men on Thursday for refusing to mark their horse-drawn buggies with reflective triangles for traffic safety.

The men belong to a conservative Amish group that believes the orange signs are flashy and conflict with their pledge to live low-key and religious lives.

Ananias Byler, the first of 10 Amish men due in Graves County District Court on Thursday, was sentenced to 10 days in jail for not paying $489 in fines.

"I totally understand your objection," District Judge Deborah Crooks told Byler. "But you're in violation, and it's not up to me to change the law. It doesn't really matter what I think about any of this."

The men belong to a conservative breakaway group of Amish known as Swartzentruber. They live simply, with no electricity, plumbing or appliances. They have been running afoul of the law in recent years for refusing to use the triangles on their buggies, and some were sent to jail last year.

One of the men, Jacob Gingerich, said the men will continue to refuse to pay the fines.

"We're just not going to pay," Gingerich, a farmer with 12 children, said before the court appearance.

Gingerich and two other Amish men have sued over the state highway law, saying it infringes on their religious freedom. The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case later this year after the state appeals court rejected the Amish men's argument.

Gingerich said on Thursday that he wished the judge would have waited for the state Supreme Court to hear the case before throwing the men in jail.

Kentucky lawmakers are considering changes to the highway law to allow the Amish to use grey reflective tape instead of the orange triangles.


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