A Waren County Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania is ordering an Old Order Amish family to hook up their home to install an electric grinder pump against the family’s religious beliefs.
The Yoder family currently uses a privy, an outhouse, but was instructed by the court to install an electric grinder pump, a device that hooks up their home to the public sewer system.
The Western Journal reports:
The Yoder family abstains from using electricity due to their religious beliefs, especially when the public grid is the source of the power. Instead of the modern-day sewer system, the family uses an “old-fashioned privy” — an outhouse — that doesn’t require electricity or running water.
However, Warren County ordered the Yoder’s connect to the municipal utilities “without further delay,” an act that the Yoder’s have fought the city over because connecting to the public line requires them to also install an electric grinder pump, a device that directs waste away from their home.
As noted by PennLive, the Yoder family made an appeal in June 2016, sending the case back to county court to be further debated.
However, in early January, two of three Commonwealth Court judges agreed with County President Maureen Skerda’s assessment that the pump was the only practical option for waste removal, according to the York Daily Record.
The court essentially told the family it doesn’t care what their religious beliefs are.
American government always has the heaviest hand for those who truly pose no threat. https://t.co/p7FCTtXDmL
— Paul Hair (@PaulHair1) January 9, 2018
A Pennsylvania state court has ordered an Old Order Amish family to use electricity and connect to a public sewer system — even though it violates their religious beliefs. https://t.co/kYIbQIAzE2 pic.twitter.com/RAlmkDXOIA
— Kat Murti (@KatMurti) January 10, 2018
Currently the Yoders use an outhouse devoid of both running water and electricity at their Sugar Grove Township home, according to Simpson’s majority opinion.https://t.co/7PHaAzFWSj
— Legal Intelligencer (@thelegalintel) January 11, 2018
The story has since erupted into controversy, as many feel the court infringed on the family’s religious freedom.
The judge excused the court’s actions by bringing up instances when the family used electrical devices in the past.
The Western Journal continues:
Judge Robert Simpson referenced multiple instances when the Yoder family had previously used electricity and not received any backlash from their religious community, observed that the family had used power tools, cell phones and ridden in cars.
Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini agreed with Simpson on the matter.
However, Judge Patricia A. McCullough disagreed with the decision to force the Yoder’s to access the public system, citing the right the family has to uphold their religious beliefs without influence from the government.
“I believe (the Yoders) are being denied their rights to religious freedom,” she stated.
Obviously, a handful exceptions of past use of electrical devices is quite different from present and continuous ownership.
According to the Western Journal, the ACLU argues that the court didn’t bother pursuing other options that wouldn’t infringe on the family’s religious liberties.
Besides violating this family’s religious liberty, it’s alarming that the court’s decision may now pose as example for decisions that defy religious rights in the future.