Andy Schwartzentruber, the Cambria County, Pennsylvania, Amish man who refuses to let sewage officials dictate how he will handle waste in his outhouses, may be heading for jail in another month. Hauled before county judge Norman Krumenacker on Thursday afternoon last week, Schwartzentruber was held in contempt of court for ignoring the judge’s earlier rulings in the case.
He failed to pay the fines totaling about $1,600 that the judge has levied against him in a previous hearing, and he has not made the changes to the outhouse design that the judge required. Schwartzentruber owns a farm with an Amish schoolhouse on it, and he is resisting demands by sewage enforcement officials that he follow all proper code requirements in the construction of the outhouses and the disposal of waste that accumulates in them.
If he fails to pay the fines and bring the outhouses on his property into compliance with county and state regulations within 30 days, he is likely to be sentenced to six months in jail—plus additional fines, the judge indicated. Schwartzentruber said after the hearing that he has no intention of paying or of bringing the outhouses up to compliance with the regulations.
As he put on his dark blue coat and wide-brimmed hat, one reporter asked him if he would comply with the judge’s orders. His response was definitely not. “No, I can’t do that,” he added. “We go to jail and read the Bible. We have to stand for our religion.”
The judge also warned the defendant and the other dozen members of the Schwartzentruber Amish sect present in the courtroom that he will order the school to be padlocked if they continue to resist his orders. “I really thought we could work this out, but the law is the law,” the judge said. While he wants to respect the religious beliefs of the Amish, he said that people do have to obey the law.
The attorney for the Amish, Jim Stratton, said that the Schwartzentruber members simply want to be left alone. In letters to the court, members of the Amish sect said government interference was the problem. “They pay taxes, provide their own schools and attempt to live simple lives,” Mr. Stratton said.
They do appreciate the fact that the judge is willing to try to work with them to find a compromise solution—and they understand that there may be consequences for their refusal to follow his orders. Stratton said he was not optimistic that the defendant would make the changes required. Mr. Schwartzentruber is willing to serve time in jail rather than compromise his principles.
Stratton was not sure how the Amish people were reacting to the judge’s threat to padlock their schoolhouse as well. “They didn’t really say anything,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell what they are thinking. They’re not too expressive.”