Mayfield, KY has a real problem with hooligan Amish men repeatedly breaking the laws. Sheriff DeWayne Redmon said, “We’re citing them for their own safety as well as the safety of others.”
Graves county in Mayfield boasts the most Amish arrests over the dreaded orange triangle statewide. Ten men are not being arrested for refusing to don the emblem on their buggies, but for accruing fines over refusal. The brightly colored reflective shape flies in the face of their deeply held religious beliefs concerning modesty. The law’s challenge of their beliefs has been a constant battle.
Ananias Byler, among the ten found in contempt of court last Thursday, told Judge Deborah Crooks that he will not pay the $489 fine. The Amish often believe that paying the fine concedes that the law is correct in violating their religious beliefs. These men belong to an older, strict order called Swartzentruber.
But when it comes to cut-and-dried state laws — there are no exceptions. “I totally understand your objection,” the judge said. “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.”
Byler was sentenced to 10 days in jail. Jacob Gingerich, father of 12, was sentenced to 13 days and owes $627.
“We’re just not going to pay,” he said. The men were noted for their politeness and respect in the courtroom.
Gingerich and two others have an interesting ally: the American Civil Liberties Union. The Kentucky chapter has sued over the State Highway law, citing religious freedom infringement. The state appeals court rejected an appeal last June, but the Kentucky Supreme Court decided they will hear the argument sometime this year. Gingerich wishes the Court could have heard them before they landed jail time.
In the face of the Amishmen’s defiance, lawmakers are finally considering a compromise that would have saved a lot of trouble from the beginning — grey reflectors.