Judge Norman A. Krumenacker in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, who sent an Amish man to jail in March, last week ordered two other Amish families to be evicted from their homes. At a court hearing on Friday, he gave the two families the weekend to remove their belongings from their buildings. He ordered sheriff’s deputies to padlock the houses and all outbuildings on the two properties on Monday morning at 10:00 AM.
In November, the judge expressed hope of reaching a settlement with Joely Schwartzentruber and John Miller and their wives over the fact that they had built homes in a rural part of the county but had not followed the required sewage treatment guidelines. He subsequently visited one of the homes and told the Amish people that they must get into compliance with regulations.
But he suggested a compromise solution with them. They could add lime to the waste, store it in an approved tank, then spread it on their fields after having it tested. However, the Schwartzentruber Amish feel that any compromises would violate their religious beliefs, which include a strict adherence to doing things exactly the way their ancestors did them.
Deb Sedlmeyer, the Sewage Enforcement Officer for the county, told the judge on Friday that recent inspections of the two properties showed that neither had made the changes he had required earlier. The Amish people repeated their view that following required county practices would violate their religious beliefs. They told the judge that they intended to “stand by our religion, our church.”
Mr. Schwartzentruber commented after the hearing that the Amish people were puzzled by the judge’s ruling. After all, they had followed an Amish blueprint for constructing the houses, he said, which included sealed sewage tanks that they had built themselves. Evidently it had not occurred to the families to check with county officials about their plans before they built the houses.
Mr. Schwartzentruber also said, “we hoped to settle here and have freedom,” but he added that his family and the Millers were not sure what they were going to do. Mrs. Miller added, “I try to leave everything to God. I try to think God will lead me where we should be.”
William Barbin, the solicitor for the county agencies, approved of the judge’s decision since he did not order the Amish families to be sent to jail. The judge, he said, “is particularly concerned about the sewage and that no additional sewage be spread [on the fields].” Mr. Barbin added that, under state and federal laws, the states must try to accommodate religious beliefs unless such beliefs tend to undermine the society.
News reports on Monday show the sheriff’s deputies evicting the Amish families. The last thing Mrs. Miller was able to do in her home was to bake a batch of oatmeal cookies, which she handed out to the deputies while they padlocked the house.
A very different spirit prevailed last week at a Montour County, Pennsylvania, Commissioners meeting, where complaints about manure along public roads from Amish horses appear to have been resolved with compromises and good will. The complainers, plus an Amish representative and others spoke to the commissioners in Danville, the county seat, Tuesday evening.
County resident Walter Laidacker indicated that horse manure can be a problem for people who like to bicycle or walk along the secondary roads that the Amish also use with their horses and buggies. The vice chairman of the board of commissioners, Jack Gerst, asked the man to give him a call when he encounters problems. But, the commissioner told the complainer, “don’t call me about a couple of road apples. Call me about giant piles.”
Another complaining resident, John Rose, suggested that the Amish could fit their horses with diapers. He told the commissioners that he has to clean up horse manure from his driveway five times a week. “If they used diapers, nobody would have a problem,” he said.
The chairman of the commissioners, Trevor Finn, said they had met with representatives of the horse-using communities, Amish and Mennonites, and all had agreed that drivers of buggies should move over onto the shoulders of roadways to allow motor vehicles to pass. That would also help keep the manure off the central parts of the roads.
In any case, Jake Hershberger of Montour County said that the Amish community wants to help resolve the problem. Moving onto the shoulders of roads so vehicles can easily pass might help the situation, Mr. Hershberger said.
Chairman Finn indicated that the Amish community really wants to help. If they are alerted about large piles of manure, they will seek to avoid concentrating animals there in the future and they will certainly come and clean up the horse droppings. Mr. Finn said the Amish “are willing to work as a community and to live in peace. They don’t want to fight. They want to communicate through us if there are concerns out there and they’ll work on those concerns.”
Other citizens of the county expressed their support for the Amish. Dale Muckelmann said she has been riding horses for 60 years, and she feels that muddy roads pose far more of a problem than encountering some horse droppings.
Another lady, who told the meeting that she trains horses, asked rhetorically, “where does this stop. We’re not living in town. I’d hate to see this get out of hand.” The woman indicated that Amish people have been especially kind to her. They have helped her by cutting her wood and bringing food when her husband was ill with cancer.