A woman who left the Amish Church, and has been shunned as a result by other Amish people, has prevailed in a suit she brought against a store owner who refused to serve her.
Ruth Irene Garrett claimed that Erma Troyer, an Amish woman who owns a thrift store in the little settlement of Cub Run, Kentucky, discriminated against her by refusing to sell her some goods two years ago. The two women differed in their accounts of the incident, as reported last fall when the suit was filed.
Garrett maintained that she was humiliated by the experience of being denied the right to buy goods from the store. Troyer claimed that she tried to deal with the matter quietly and offered to let Garrett take the goods she wanted without paying. Because of the shunning order, Troyer maintained, she would not be able to take money from Garrett. If she did, she might also be shunned by her church.
Garrett is the author of several books about the Amish, one of which Troyer had just finished reading. She recognized Troyer from her photo on the book jacket when she entered the store. Because of the confrontation, Garrett decided to approach the state Commission on Human Rights to file a discrimination suit.
The Lexington Herald-Leader/Kentucky.com, and numerous other news sources, carried an AP story on Friday, April 21, reporting that the Commission had decided in favor of Garrett. The Commission ordered Troyer to pay Garrett $100 “for the embarrassment caused by the confrontation,” according to the news story. Garrett indicated she will donate the money to the Salvation Army.
The Commission also ordered Troyer in the future to serve Garrett and other Amish who have been shunned. The Commission staff attorney, Emily Riggs Hartlage, indicated that the Commission order might have an effect on other excommunicated Amish people.
“I hope it empowers other shunned Amish people to assert their rights,” she proclaimed during an interview.
Garrett also explained in an interview on Friday, “it feels like a vindication because I just don’t see how it’s right or how it’s fair that they can do this [shunning].”
Troyer deferred questions on Friday to her attorney, who couldn’t be immediately reached by phone. A discussion of the Amish shunning practice and the ways it strengthens their society were featured in a November 10 story about the incident in this website.
Garrett indicated on Friday that she intended to go back to Troyer’s store to shop again. She maintained that her suit was about the principles involved. “It was never about the money.”
Quite by coincidence on Friday, the Capitol Times of Madison Wisconsin, reported that Garrett, the author of Born Amish and Crossing Over: One Woman’s Escape from Amish Life, will present a public lecture on Tuesday, May 23 at 7:00 p.m., at the Madison Barnes and Noble East. The same bookstore, in the East Towne Mall, will feature her giving a reading to children from her picture book Ruthie Goes to Town at 4:00 p.m. that day.
The promotional material in the Amazon.com entry for her children’s book indicates that “she is the best-selling author of three previous books on Amish life since 2001 … lectures frequently on Amish life to eager audiences across the country [and] has been featured in numerous magazines such as Glamour and Marie Claire and television broadcasts such as Fox News, Extra, and 20/20.”