After a five-year legal battle, a court is forcing an Old Order Amish family to defy their religious beliefs and connect their Pennsylvania home to a public sewer system immediately.
Due to religious beliefs, the Yoder family lives without electricity and a modern-day sewer system. Instead, they have an outhouse, or an “old-fashioned privy,” that uses no electricity or running water, The Western Journal reported.
Nonetheless, on Jan. 5, the Commonwealth Court in Warren County ordered the family to begin using public utilities “without further delay.”
Connecting to the public sewer system requires the Yoder family to install an electric grinder pump, which is used to transport waste away from their home into the Sugar Grove Area Sewer Authority system in Warren County.
The Yoder family appealed the case in June 2016, but state judges sent it back to the Warren County court to determine whether the family would be required to use electricity.
But this month, County President Judge Maureen Skerda determined that the Yoder family must be required to install the electric grinder pump, and two of three judges on the Commonwealth Court agreed with her decision.
In the majority opinion, Judge Robert Simpson said the Yoders had used telephones and power tools and traveled in cars. Simpson said the conservative religious community hadn’t shunned the family for doing those things, according to PennLive.com.
Simpson said the family cannot continue to use the outhouse.
The dissenting judge, Patricia A. McCullough, said the ruling is a violation of the Yoder family’s rights.
“I believe [the Yoders] are being denied their rights to religious freedom,” she wrote.
Even ACLU senior staff attorney Sara Rose agreed with McCullough’s assessment, the York Daily Record reported.
Rose said, “The didn’t consider the other ways the government could have achieve its ends.”