Tiny Amish Sect in Pennsylvania Clashes with State Over Unlikely Religion Issue: Outhouses

May 30, 2008

Author: Genaro C. Armas

Source: Star Tribune

Wire Service: AP

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Amish farmer Andy Swartzentruber is determined to live the simple life of his forefathers, plowing his field with a horse-drawn tractor, getting around in a horse-drawn buggy and offering eggs for sale to help support his family.

But now he and a school elder in his Amish settlement are being compelled to defend their religious beliefs over an unlikely issue: sewage.

The two say that they will not comply with state code that governs how they handle waste from two outhouses at their community's schoolhouse. The men are members of the Swartzentruber Amish, one of the Christian group's most conservative wings. Their only Pennsylvania settlement is the one here, about 70 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Their refusal to budge has left officials in a quandary: They are not eager to throw the offenders in jail, but also believe they need to apply the law uniformly and prevent contamination of water supplies.

Waste from the outhouses has been collected in plastic buckets, then dumped onto fields. The county is demanding the Amish install a holding tank and contract with a certified sewage hauler for disposal.