Search This Blog

Friday, March 16, 2012

Safety Placards, Amish and Your Religious Freedom

Most of us here in the US are familiar with the first Amendment to the US Constitution (in part):

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."

In Kentucky there's an interesting case before the Kentucky Supreme court regarding this.  Its about the Swartzentruber Amish.

Months ago Jacob Gingerich, a member of the sect, was pulled over and issued traffic tickets for failing to display the triangular "slow moving vehicle" placard on his buggy.  Members of this sect believe that these emblems represent a flamboyant display of color, which is against their religious beliefs in modesty.  They also believe that the shape of a triangle represents the Holy Trinity - making the placard a religious symbol which the sect has strong beliefs about not displaying on their possessions or person.

After refusing to pay the fines associated with the tickets Mr. Gingerich was jailed.

"I don't have to pay them to prosecute me for my religion," said Mr. Gingerich in an interview according to this article.

The visit to the Kentucky Supreme Court is to determine whether or not the conviction should be overturned.

What's interesting here is how neatly this case boils down much of what's going on with respect to the "nanny state" and freedom. 

The Amish have no specific concern about safety when riding in their buggies - and are not bringing it up as an issue, i.e., its dark and some "English" hit my buggy with his car.  The Amish are also will to display religiously acceptable "slow moving vehicle" elements on their buggies - so its not as if they want nothing to do with "community" or "safety" either.

Nor is it an issue of whether the Amish will be an endangerment to others - though I suppose you could argue a "reckless" individual who drove their car or truck into a buggy might be safer if the placard was displayed on the buggy. (In Pennsylvania if you hit another vehicle from behind its your fault regardless of the circumstances.  But since the Amish have won victories in PA previously in regard this issue one imagines that what you hit from behind or what warnings what you hit from behind displays is irrelevant.)

Nor is it an issue of the Amish being lawless.  Mr. Gingerich recently wrote "It is our religious belief to abide by the law of the land, as long as it does not interfere with our religion..."

What they object to specifically is that the state government of Kentucky requires them to do something for safety that violates their religious beliefs.

The Amish have already won exemptions from displaying the system in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Given victories elsewhere I expect one here for the Amish as well.

And I think that this type of case demonstrates the protection the US Constitution offers anyone of faith against the government "nanny state" and its enforcement of the "greater good."

The law requiring the display of the slow moving vehicle placard is like anything else where people have a choice - whether its vaccinations or road safety.  Certainly the Amish, more than anyone, would be the most aware of the danger not being seen on a highway would raise.

But it seems that their religious beliefs trump at least what the government has deemed to be the solution.

Which to me means that you are free to make unsafe choices so long as hold that these choice are based on religious conviction.

And this is something the government does not like for several reasons.

One is that you are out of their purview - the Amish don't need the government to run their affairs.

Another is that once people see that the government can be defeated in this way more will follow.

And finally government does not grow if there aren't reasons for it to do so - such as saving people for their own stupidity and folly.

But at least in this case as long as your "folly" is based on religious belief the government will have no say...

Which to many is the most "dangerous" thing of all...

No comments:

Post a Comment