After harassing the Amish community for years regarding its water supply and disposal, the county health department posted signs on the Amish families’ homes earlier this year condemning them as “unfit for human habitation” and filed lawsuits against 14 Amish families in November.
If successful, the lawsuits would result in the demolition of the Amish families’ homes and would effectively banish an entire religious community from Lenawee County. The ACLU and Wright & Schulte filed answers to those lawsuits Wednesday in Lenawee County Circuit Court, which include counterclaims against the county for religious discrimination in violation of the federal and state constitutions and the federal Fair Housing Act.
“The county is persecuting this Amish community because of their deeply held religious beliefs that have safely guided their way of life for generations,” said Phil Mayor, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan. “Lenawee County residents should be outraged that their local officials, using taxpayer money and in the county’s name, have condemned their Amish neighbors’ homes and are threatening to demolish their houses, and leave them homeless. They should contact their county commissioners and other local officials and implore them to end this vicious attack on the Amish religion.”
The Amish community in Lenawee County adheres to their “old order” religious way of life by hand-pumping water from wells, using outhouses instead of flush toilets, and not using electricity, cell phones, or automobiles. Despite the fact that the Amish community’s choice to live in traditional ways causes no harm to themselves or anyone else, the Lenawee County Health Department has condemned their homes and is now asking a court to authorize the demolition of their property, unless the Amish community abandons its religious beliefs.
“This is not a question of public health — it’s Lenawee County officials using religious discrimination as a tactic to run this Amish community out of their homes and destroy their way of life,” said Richard Schulte, attorney with Wright & Schulte, LLC. “This community’s commitment to live according to their religion harms no one.”