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ACLU says Lenawee County is 'persecuting' Old Order Amish community with lawsuits over water, sewer systems

Local Government

By Sarah Downey | Jan 15, 2020

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has countersued the county of Lenawee on behalf of Old Order Amish residents whose homes have been condemned by the county's Health Department.

“The county is persecuting this Amish community because of their deeply held religious beliefs that have safely guided their way of life for generations,” Phil Mayor, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said in a news release. “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 live in adherence to their “old order” religious customs by using water from wells, outhouses instead of flush toilets, and no electricity, cellphones or cars. The lawsuits against the families were filed in November.

“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,” the release states.

According to The Daily Telegram, the health department filed the litigation against 14 families in Medina and Hudson townships whose properties allegedly failed to meet health code due to insufficient water and sewer systems. County officials have said the suits were filed following nearly three years of trying to work with the Amish to bring the homes into compliance. County health officer Martha Hall has said she hopes they can still arrive at a compromise.

“We are very open to discussing options,” Hall told The Daily Telegram. “It is still my hope ... that’s how we are going to resolve this.”

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American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan

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