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Nine Amish jailed in Kentucky; refused to put orange triangles on their horse-drawn buggies

Nine Amish men have been jailed after refusing to put go-slow safety signs on their carts — and there are dozens more facing a similar fate, reports the British newspaper the Daily Mail.

The men, who belong to the conservative Old Order Swartzentruber Amish in western Kentucky, had objected to displaying the triangular stickers because they are bright orange and violate their modesty code. Their buggies are black and grey. Their clothing’s colors are similarly subdued — and never orange.

All nine were caught at the reins of their family-owned horse-drawn buggies and charged with failing to comply with a state law requiring the orange safety emblems on any slow-moving vehicles on public roads. The requirement was imposed after a series of tragic accidents resulting in Amish loss of life.


Fines for the minor motoring offences were imposed, but a long-running legal battle followed after the Amish men said paying the fines would mean complying with a law that is against their religion, reported the Daily Mail:

Finally, at a court hearing in Graves County today each of the defendants were handed between three and 10 days behind bars.

However, there was a problem – in jail they would be expected to wear orange jumpsuits, so dark-colored ones had to be specially ordered.

Not all Amish groups — including another community that lives nearby — refuse to comply with Kentucky state’s safety requirement. But the Old Order Swartzentruber Amish do, saying they won’t wear bright colors or put trust in man-made symbols for their safety.


The sect has appealed to the state Supreme Court, which has not decided whether to hear the cases.

Judge Deborah Hawkins Crooks said she had 44 other cases involving the same charge. The Old Order Swartzentruber Amish claim the Kentucky constitution’s religious-freedom clause requires sincerely held beliefs to be accommodated. The men have sought permission to use lanterns and gray reflective tape rather than orange, but the state and courts have said that wouldn’t be as effective in daytime.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment CopperheadKid

    I do not understand how Kentucky law enforcement can attempt to enforce administrative law upon citizens that have no contract to obey such laws. That is, as I understand it they have no driver’s licsense. Furthermore they have not willfully injured or killed anyone nor damaged property by their actions. Licsensed drivers have run into them! They have offered to put a reflective tape on their buggies but the state says that is not good enough. I think some state attorneys better look at this a little harder as the Amish have been very successful at educating attorneys into understanding Constitutional law! It trumps administrative law everytime especially when the defendant has no obligation to obey it.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tabitha

    I am all for religious freedom, BUT this law was put in effect to protect the Amish safety as well as those they share the road with. When their failure to obey the law puts other people’s safety at risk all because they say “its against their religiion” that makes me mad. I know a lot of the roads down around Amish country in KY. They are hilly, curvy and flat out dangerous in the best of conditions for a regular motor vehicle. Add slow moving hard to see at times buggies to the mix and that’s just asking for a fatality. I say they either obey and put on the reflectors or stay off state funded roads.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ann

    It is not that clear cut. If you have a vehicle – any vehicle – on a public road, you have to abide by safety ordnances. It is not only your safety that is at risk; that of other vehicles is also compromised. An example might be, swerving to avoid a cyclist – or carriage – which had not been visible until the last minute and hitting another car or cyclist. This does not even take into account the trauma experienced by a driver who hits and injures or kills another person even if it is not his/her fault. The option, of course, is not to use public thoroughfares. Then you are not bound by these rules. If this is not a viable choice, then your options are limited to changing the ordnance through legal channels, obeying it, or going to jail.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary

    I live near Amish country in PA. It is almost impossible to see a buggy, but the signs help. The roads around here are major highways with minimum speed of 45mph, up and down large hills with sharp turns. There are some accidents now, but with no signs on the buggies there would be many more. Oh,to the person saying the Amish aren’t hurting anyone-there was a situation where an Amish family did not have a sign and were out late at night. It was the first slushy snow of the winter last year. They decided to go a back way home through the farms. They came across a swollen stream that they didn’t see in the dark. The buggy was swept away killing all nine (yes, nine) people inside, five children and a baby included.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Julie

    as a Christian I commend these people on their lifestyle,much too spoiled myself to live this I guess! lol but this is a safety issue here in KY,we see them allot in our community and fall is coming soon and it will be dark early,it is very hard to see them until it is almost too late.we have read several stories on accidents with the buggies and would hate to see more lives lost.please,compromise and wear them for you safety!!! but jail time does seem extreme in this case.could they not be fined?

  • http://None Patsy Davis

    My name is Patsy Davis and I live in Charlotte, N.C. I read Amish books that are written by a woman who grew up in Amish country. The Amish have different segments that go by different spiritual beliefs. I think that they should not be held responsible for some State rule that makes them display a orange triangular sign on the back of their buggies because it is against their faith. They should be left alone and allowed to live within their spiritual beliefs. Just because they live differently than other people does not make them wrong. I hope the Supreme Court decides in their favor.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment timby

    So where is the ACLU on this one. If an Atheist wanted to have a cross removed from an Amish’s field they would be all over it. Or if a Muslim women was told to remove her Hijab the world would know about her oppression. So how is this any different. This is against their fundamental religious beliefs. So if we are going to prosecute them for this then we need to back off the other perceived insults to other religions.

    It seems our laws are only to be applied when it makes a sensational news story. We wonder why our country is going down hill.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment elaine

    I understand and feel for them but isn’t a public road. They do not have to use it. Also, the road use is against their beliefs because it is man-made. They cannot have it both ways. They drive on these roads, they need to think of others. Hurting another human in this manner is not their practice either.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Terry Harmon

    Why can’t these men bend a little bit? I understand they have rights under the freedom of religion clause of the state and the us clause on that subject . But why can’t the state bend some too? triangle would be a help to these people and others who uses the same roads. There would be loss of life on the Amish side . And that is what the state is trying to curb. Loss of life is so importment for both the Amish and non Amish peole a like.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment James R. Maxwell

    I respect their relegious beleifs and it would be great if their actions did not place others at risk. The addition of a safety triangel does not violate their relegious beleife or freedomes. But by not
    using such a safety device does present a
    clear danger to drives and others ont he road. Each instance must be studied and in this matter the greater good must be taken into account. They are not forced to change their beleifs but the must understand that this is for the safety of others not just for themselves.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shelley

    God gave man a great brain.Please use it.I live where there are a lot of Amish and a family was just killed.Then the same day five kids where in a cart and hit and killed.Just keep killing yourself off.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment BitterClinger

    This is not about safety, it’s about getting control of a % of our population who basically grow everything they eat. Our government is slowly but surely destroying all forms of production in America…..

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment From Pa

    I live in a community where the same Amish are. They refuse the orange triangle too. But they ride their buggies on a busy highway to get to Walmart, Dollar General to shop. They are hazard waiting to happen. It seems to me that they make their laws to suit themselves. Rather than making them special prison uniforms just let them wear their black clothes? That is the problem these days that WE must always conform to the criminal.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment PATTY H

    I am so sorry that this is now a nationwide story. put people in jail for drugs etc not because of there beliefs. and it scary to me that this is now happenIng in the USA.We need prayer for them and our the way they spend there money in the town. but the famlies are talking about moving out.

  • http://durtroads Terri Hart

    I have a solution to this problem with
    the Amish! If they won’t put the
    triangels on their buggies and they
    hate our manmade roads, make durt roads
    then everyone well be happy.I was in
    missouri and saw some amish I can see
    why no one can’t see them at night.I feel
    sorry about their horses.because of there
    amish belifes.Life is changing and for the
    amish they have to except it.I am sorry.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Marie

    I’m all for religious freedoms, but the Amish are very unwise to not place those orange stickers on their carriages…it is for their protection as well as for others. God tells us to use wisdom and right now, I feel they are not very wise.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment kygal2009

    As a Christian, I don’t like being forced to do things I don’t agree with, but in this case, it is a safety issue. It is not only for their protection, but it is for the protection and safety of the person who might run into them with a motorized vehicle. When religious views cross the line and break the common sense rule and the decency to neighbors rule, then it is time to disregard that religious view. It is time for these people to realize that they have a right to follow their own beliefs up to a point. However, when their views may cause physical harm or death, then they need to understand that God wouldn’t want them to persist in this. Common sense must prevail when safety is concerned. Duh!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ellen Bose

    Most Amish (not all) but most are Puppy Millers and their cruelty to animals is widely known…..They may be kind to one another but they treat their animals horribly…Please help stop Puppy Mills…Adopt….Buying that puppy will only insure that there will be 20 more to buy due to profits….You are not rescuing that puppy in a store , you are putting money in the hands of animal abusers and assuring that Puppy Mills continue..Adoption, the only option…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment LutheranChik

    I live in an area with a variety of Amish and Mennonite communities, and attitudes toward slow-moving vehicle signs vary from community to community – around here, depending on the Amish “district,” buggies may carry anything from battery-operated lights (using a car battery mounted on the buggy) to white reflective tape and kerosene-lamp headlights. While I don’t understand the Old Order Amish stubbornness involving orange slow-moving vehicle signs, at least around here the Amish do try to make their buggies as visible as possible for others. And I’ve seen incredibly rude, even abusive treatment of Amish buggies by “English” drivers — trying to provoke their buggy horses to rear up, for instance, or trying to run buggies off the road. I think the jurisdiction in question needs to study how things work in areas like ours (mid-Michigan), where the Old Order Amish are fairly well integrated into the community and we’ve all learned to accomodate one another. I also think “English” drivers need to show some courtesy and common sense while driving in Amish country, in the same way that they need to show courtesy to bicyclists and other travelers. And I think maybe some of the more progressive members of the Anabaptist tradition, like the Mennonites (many of whom drive, and some of whom are visually indistinguishable from other folks in the community), can maybe be helpful as go-betweens in situations like this, between Old Order Amish and law enforcement; despite differences in practice they speak the same theological and cultural “language” and can maybe help broker compromises from both sides.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment EXOO

    While I think way to much is being made of this, there is one major point no one has picked up on. Where does the money to build and maintain roads come from? Answer: from fuel taxes. Because of this Mennonites, Amish etc. contribute no money to the public coffers for roads. Obviously they dont buy gasoline for cars and avoid that tax and like most other farmers they do not pay tax on diesel fuel used for tractors equipment etc. As such they are using public roadways without contributing their share for the privlidge. The Amish folks should at least have the decency to abide by the laws of those who pay for the roads. Just a thought…

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