ACLU Of Michigan Defends Amish Lack Of Plumbing As Religious Freedom

WWJ News
December 19, 2019 - 3:23 pm

MORENCI, Mich. (WWJ/AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union is defending more than a dozen Amish families in southern Michigan in a dispute over outhouses and plumbing.

The Lenawee County Health Department has filed lawsuits, asking a judge to order property owners to comply with county waste disposal rules or face demolition.

After "harassing" the Amish community for years. the ACLU says, the county health department posted signs on the Amish families’ homes earlier this year condemning them as “unfit for human habitation." Then last month, the Lenawee County filed lawsuits against 14 families, asking a judge to order property owners to comply with county waste disposal rules or face demolition.

If successful, the ACLU says the lawsuits would effectively banish an entire religious community from the county. 

In response Wednesday, lawyers for the families said their way of living is not a threat, and accused the county of violating religious freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

“The county is persecuting this Amish community because of their deeply held religious beliefs that have safely guided their way of life for generations,” said Phil Mayor, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, in a media release. “Lenawee County residents should be outraged that their local officials, using taxpayer money and in the county’s name, have condemned their Amish neighbors’ homes and are threatening to demolish their houses, and leave them homeless. They should contact their county commissioners and other local officials and implore them to end this vicious attack on the Amish religion.”

In counterclaims against the county, lawyers for the families said they adhere to “simple living” and avoid modern technology. This includes hand-pumping water from wells, using outhouses instead of flush toilets, and not using electricity, cell phones or automobiles.

“This is not a question of public health — it’s Lenawee County officials using religious discrimination as a tactic to run this Amish community out of their homes and destroy their way of life,” said Richard Schulte, attorney with Wright & Schulte, LLC. “This community’s commitment to live according to their religion harms no one.”

A message seeking comment was left with the health department.