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Freedom of religion: Amish win lawsuit over sewage system

Freedom of religion: Amish win lawsuit over sewage system

A Minnesota court ruled that the Amish should not be forced to install septic systems. The “compelling state interest” that would justify restricting religious freedom has not been sufficiently explained in previous operations.

The other side now has 30 days to appeal. “We are taking this opportunity to digest the decision and consider what we will do,” said attorney Brett Corson. It’s an important issue for all parties – the region, as well as the Amish community. Courson: “In a county like ours, the Amish make up a huge part of the community. They are our neighbors and our friends. We work together.”

No electricity or running water

Currently, about 360 thousand Amish live in the United States. They are a Christian community that rejects modern technologies such as electricity due to their religious beliefs. The Swartzentruber Amish subgroup do not have running water in their homes for this reason. In 2013, when Fillmore County in Minnesota decreed that homes should be equipped with septic systems to clean up sewage, the Amish Schwarzentroopers sought an exemption based on their religious beliefs.

They also provided alternatives to sewage treatment that was already in use in several other states at the time. The exemption request was denied and an administrative complaint was filed against 23 Amish families. They were threatened with civil and criminal penalties and the loss of their right to life if sewage networks were not installed.

years of operation

While the defendants have cited their right to freedom of religion, county officials have stressed that the required sanitation systems are important to meet the government’s interests in protecting public health and the environment. Plus, they would only restrict Amish families a bit. The process went all the way to the US Supreme Court in 2021. This overturned court rulings that required the Amish to install septic systems.

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Governments should only restrict sincere religious beliefs as a last resort. The case returned to the Minnesota courts for reconsideration. Here the ruling fell in favor of the Amish. Also because it is not made clear whether the alternatives proposed by the Amish will not work enough.