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September 14th, 2011
08:52 PM ET

Amish men jailed over refusal to use orange safety triangle on buggies

By Kim Hutcherson, CNN

(CNN) - A group of Kentucky Amish men would prefer to do jail time rather than violate their religious beliefs, which they say forbids the placement of bright orange safety triangles on the backs of their buggies.

The orange triangles are required on all slow-moving vehicles, according to Kentucky state law.

Nine men in the western part of the state have refused to use them. They belong to the Old Order Swartzentruber Amish.

According to court documents, this sect follows a strict code of conduct, called Ordnung, which "regulates everything from hairstyle and dress to education and transportation." They believe that displays of "loud" colors should be avoided, along with the use of "worldly symbols." Swartzentruber Amish believe such symbols indicate the user no longer trusts fully in God.

The Swartzentruber Amish use reflective tape, but refuse to use the orange triangle.

After the appeal of their 2008 conviction was denied, Menno Zook, Danny Byler, Mose Yoder, Levi Hotetler, David Zook and Eli Zook refused to pay the small fines associated with their conviction. All six are currently serving sentences ranging from three to 10 days in the Graves County Jail, according to the jail's website.

Two other men, Jacob Gingerich and Emanuel Yoder, have already served their sentences and been released, the website says.

The men are "very polite, respectful, everything you would expect," said Graves County Chief Deputy Tim Warren. He said the men dressed up in their "Sunday best" to report for their jail sentences. The men are not forced to wear the orange county jail uniforms, Warren said. They are allowed to wear uniforms that are dyed a dark gray, but they are not allowed to wear their own clothes.

A ninth man, Levi Zook, had his fine paid by John Via, a Graves County resident who has close ties among the Amish community.

Via said he paid the fine because Levi Zook has a son with cerebral palsy. "The Lord just put it on me," Via said. "It was bothering me too much. I know the problems in that area."

Via says there is another problem with the orange triangle for the Swartzentruber Amish. The triangle is a symbol of the Holy Trinity - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. Swartzentruber Amish believe in the unity of God, says Via, which motivates their refusal to use the symbol, in addition to the other reasons.

In their appeal, the men argued not only that Kentucky law violated their freedom of religious expression, but that the law has been selectively applied against the Swartzentruber Amish.

It is an assessment with which Via and his wife agree. Both questioned why the men were not allowed to wear their "plain" Amish clothes in jail when other arrested people were allowed to wear their own clothing. "People around here feel sorry for them," said Via's wife, Dolores.

Via points out that the Swartzentruber Amish use a high-quality reflective tape on their buggies, along with lanterns and red reflector lights. They are trying to comply with the law, Via said, without violating their religious beliefs.

But he says the men - some of whom are elders and deacons in their church - see this as a battle over religious expression. "They don't want the fines paid," Via said. "They want to serve their sentences."

And the story may not end when those sentences are served. Via says the Swartzentruber Amish could take their grievances over Kentucky's safety triangle laws to the federal level. "The Swartzentruber Amish are the most strict order," he said. "They will not do certain things. And they will not use that triangle."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Amish • Crime • Kentucky

soundoff (1,221 Responses)
  1. when

    Oh for pitty sakes. You posters that are SO a nal about this triangle, are the same bunch that hate everyone that believes in God. The perfect solution is what the other poster said: let them have a circle or square. And white is effective as well. Every one of you posters that are spewing your objections have probably broken the laws of the road and more than likely DO all the time. Now you're gettin all high and mighty with your objections. Sometimes I wonder how people get so warped.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Andragogue

      Sunday school.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      My religious beliefs say that I should be provided with a new Porsche to drive. They also say that everyone else should get off the road when I'm driving. C'mon, it's the law. Nobody should hide behind religion to go above the law. Simple enough, even the Amish should understand it.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • J.W

      I agree. Why does it have to be a triangle. Bicycle reflectors are not in the shape of triangles, nor are lights on cars. Why make this rule specifically for buggies?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Andragogue

      Can you say, " S L O W M O V I N G V E H I C L E " ???

      September 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      When, I support their objection, as the const i tution, which is forbidden to be spoken here on the fascist column of CNN, their trinity objection IS respectable, there are more than ONE sect of Christianity that object, for STARTERS.
      So, the square, circle, octagon, whatever that is REFLECTIVE AND OBVIOUS of a vehicle moving at slow speeds.
      I can only assume that Kentucky thinks their citizens are morons and unable to know that if it reflects, you should steer your moonshine drinking can around it.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Fred, if I have a state law that says you shall be silent in my presence and bow, will you follow it? No? It's the law, go to jail, your family without income by that side entry to the law.
      That IS essentially the same. THEY have the same problem with silence and bowing to another man as you AND with the trinity, they're not the ONLY Christian sect to have that problem. Or do we now have an official state religion in the Fascist States of America?
      If so, I'm sorry that I wasted over 27 years of my life in service protecting this once great nation.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Laura LaVertu

      The triangle is an international traffic symbol, standardized to increase awareness and safety on the roads, regardless of language or country. I don't think it's too much to ask to display such a sign in order to save lives.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Laura, I'm INTIMATELY familiar with international traffic signs. MPH is NOT an international sign or unit either.
      As a hint, I can be profane in 7 languages, sufficient to get the listener to pull out any weapon that he or she has.
      Now, we either go 100% international OR respect that stupid first amendment OR repeal the entire thing.
      For, SOME free speech has me ready to pick up a gun. As one who HATES violence in the extreme after nearly 5 year at war, that is exceptional!
      So, do we have a first amendment or is it a first optional and we don't have a bill of rights, we have a bill of optionals upon convenient excuse?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • FloridaGal2005

      My hats off to these gentlemen who stand up for what they believe in.

      Also, we live in a republic, not a dempocracy. It's amazing how many Americans don't know that. Has it been hijacked and altered into a democracy. Sort of was. Now, its been hijacked again. Borderline police state.

      The Amish are law-abiding and respectful people. Too many Americans do not think for themselves or engage in critical thinking. They've been driving buggies on American roads a good 100+ years and 99.9% of accidents which involve the buggies are not the fault of the buggies' drivers.

      Will you get in the cattle car when it pulls up to your door? The feds are going to say it's for your safety. I bet these Amish men won't!

      I'm with the Amish on this one!!!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      All they have to do is get the law changed. Or don't they believe in the law because it isn't from the Bible?
      Very simple fix for very simple folks. Very simple. Simply simple in a simpler way simply because it's simple. Simple. 😀

      September 14, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Laura LaVertu

      Wzrd1 – It is in the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals. You can look it up.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Laura, apparently, you've missed the part WHERE I WAS ABROAD FOR MANY YEARS IN ALL PARTS OF THIS PLANET.
      Yet, the US is NOT compliant, due to MPH on the signage.
      Hence, it's NOT 100% or even 50%, IGNORING the MPH bit.
      And I DO hold an international drivers license. Do YOU?

      September 15, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Reason

      Wzrd1, you need to turn it down a notch or three. I'm sure that your accomplishments and experiences are impressive to some, but they are irrelevant to this. It is also rather poor behavior to try to use them and such tangents as the US's compatibility with international symbols to distract from the issue. The traffic law is on the books, slow moving vehicles will use this symbol. These people are not in compliance with the law. Injuries and deaths may occur, by some accounts have occurred, due to not using a symbol that becomes instinctively associated with slow moving vehicles due to repeated exposures. I had forgotten the exact reason for the triangle, but since I see them on tractors my instinct says "something is going slow". I might not react in time with strips of reflective tape in various places; I would see an unexpected shape with reflective bits and if I did not have a properly ingrained reaction available I would do nothing while consciously processing what I was dealing with. The time to do that might be small, but it could also be critical given the speed differential. Religion must yield to reason, or what good is rationality?

      September 15, 2011 at 2:10 am |
    • Norman Smith

      People, these people have the right to decide for themselves due to their beliefs. Laws, no laws or whatever, any responsible motor vehicle operator on the road should be paying attention to what is in front of them as well as around them. Therefore, if you are being responsible and you see strange reflections doesn't common sense dictate slow down or stop. Put down your cell phones, iPads, iPods, Game boys, & other toys. You're the one who wanted the license, now be responsible with it. Laws are created only as a direct result of the overwhelming majority of society not being responsible for their actions. Open thy eyes, mind, and soul and think and be responsible for yourself. These people are.

      September 15, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  2. Laura LaVertu

    If they want to spend time in jail over a simple orange triangle that is their right. If they want to endanger peoples' lives over an orange triangle, that is not their right. It is completely ridiculous, and they should be ashamed of themselves for it.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      Amen!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • I don't always read comments, but when I do, I want to downvote everything

      Yes, how dare they endanger the lives of other citizens by not donning a reflective orange triangle? How dare they risk the lives of everyone else with that atrocity? The horror; not using an orange triangle. This epidemic must be brought to light. Forget about murderers, rapists, "gangsters," and drug-dealers. The true felons are those who will not use this orange triangle...moron...

      September 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Andragogue

      Whiner, you who down-vote everything. When they do get creamed, flattened and the semi that hits them careens out of control and wipes out a young couple with 4 small kids, who's fault will that be?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Andra, you're RIGHT! EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, THE FIRST AMENDMENT IS HEREBY REPEALED.
      The official religion of the nation will be Islam, to stop a war.
      Speak without government permission, go to the gulag. No free press, they need government clearance for their stories, word for word. No free religion. No free expression. YOU SHALL OBEY OR GO TO THE GULAG AND FIND THE OVENS.
      So blessed is the USSA under YOUR lunacy.
      REFLECTIVE MARKERS ARE ON THE THINGS ALREADY. Any trucker that hits something with a reflective tape marker should NOT be allowed to drive EVER AGAIN. They'd GO STRAIGHT ON CURVES! And land in the HOME of the family of 8.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      And the first person to be put in the gulag shall be Wzrd1 for making such an ass of himself! Sounds great!

      September 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  3. ken

    What is wrong with reflective tape? A small triangle, when it gets dirty, is useless. Lots of tape makes more sense. The Nanny State is controlling every thing you do. No more freedoms! Wait until the law requires fat people to wear the triangle on their butts!

    September 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Ken! I greatly resemble that! 😉
      Seriously though, apparently, the government of Kentucky thinks that their populace is as inbred and stupid as the rest of the nation thinks of the entire state and unable to RECOGNIZE that a reflective tape labeled object is NOT to be hit by your car. Like that serpentine road, the barn on a curve or the buggy. ALL move at about the same speed...

      September 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  4. Cheech

    Well, let them drive their buggies with no reflectors. If God is looking out for them, they won't be involved in fatal crashes with cars/trucks. Right?

    September 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  5. Julie Byler

    i have amish family and they have a different veiw on things then we do but they arent trying to be rebellious its what theyve been taught give them time.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • D. Beyeler

      Thank you, Julie, for your comments. I'm glad that you are voicing your opinions and support the Amish. You may be interested to know that you and I have ancestors that came from Guggisberg, Switzerland. Your first relative to the USA was Jacob Beyeler (Beiler) who came to Berks Co., PA in 1737. In Jacobs family, sons and grandsons, some had names spelled Beiler, Byler, and Boiler. For sure. Historically, Beyelers and Bylers go back to Barneveld, the Netherlands, first known in 1233 with name Bylaer and Beylaer. I am planning to visit these places in Europe next year. I wish you well. Don

      September 18, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  6. Andragogue

    What makes these fools think it's O.K. with God to drive buggies?

    September 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Julie Byler

      they are not fools.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Andragogue

      Sorry, you're right. Not fools. Heretics!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • TIM HAWKINS

      Do you hard at being stupid or does it come easy for you ?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • I don't always read comments, but when I do, I want to downvote everything

      Can't tell if trolling, or just REALLY stupid.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Ultimate Troll

      ^Epic FAIL!!!!! What a moron. Learn proper grammar.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Andragogue

      Alright brainiacs: Who made the Amish religious rules? Men. No god handed them down. Who made the traffic laws? Men. No god handed those down either. This is a simple matter of one group's man-made opinion trying to take precedence over the highway safety laws established by valid governments. If they want to drive their buggies down the highway, they can follow the rules. If not, plow a path across their own collective properties. They have THAT choice, always. There is nothing in the American creed that requires me to honor someone else's religious beliefs if I find them repugnant or stupid. But the American creed does require all citizens and visitors to respect and obey established law or else work in lawful ways to change the law. That is the essence of the American Experiment, the casting off of "monkish ignorance" to establish a self-determined government of men, not one based on the divine rights of kings or anyone else. If you think your religion puts you above all that, then you are one of those "domestic threats" we were warned against and I will fight you to uphold the oaths I have taken to defend this nation from all threats, foreign and domestic.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  7. LinCA

    We can't have a civil society unless everyone abides by the same rules. That means that, for the US, the constitution supersedes all other laws and rules. Federal, state and local laws and rules will have to supersede any religion based rules. And religion based rules only come into play at the personal level.

    Any rule, based in any religion, only applies to those that follow that particular religion. Religous rules can place additional restrictions on those that follow that religion. They can't provide additional freedoms or rights that are not available to the general population. they can also not impose restrictions on those that do not follow that particular religion.

    The amish get the same rights and restrictions as everyone else. If they really can't live with any particular rule, regulation or law, they will have to find a way to go about their day without breaking it. It is their responsibility, and theirs alone. If that means that they will have to stay off the road, so be it.

    As an alternative, they could try to get the law changed. After all, we live in a democracy.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Andragogue

      That's right, LinCA.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  8. Blessed Geek

    These people have lost the spirit of Amish traditions. Would they not be bearing louder attention and crime for causing accidents and self-harm?

    September 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  9. bill

    Proof positive religion does not matter in the USA. Only real men stand up to the system and say God first. Good job guys!!!
    Safety my eye. The fact they are alive proves they are not in danger to anyone who is actually controlling a powered vehicle.
    Go back to trying to eradicate what God put on the Earth. All the Kings Men have been at it for decades and the epic fail proves your lunacy.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Andragogue

      You're an idiot, Bill.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      Definitely an idiot. Major fail.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • carla

      If the hwy speed is 55mph and I'm driving that, I am not expecting to see a buggy. If that buggy doesn't have the orange triangle, which by the way, does not only apply to buggies, it's any vehicle going under 25mph, I could smack right into them. Do they have buggy insurance to cover my damages? I would imagine they don't get insurance. Religion is one thing, the safety of the majority on the road is another.

      September 15, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  10. Julie Byler

    it may be for their safety, but if you honestly have been taught it is wrong then they find it hard to go against what they believe and i think they should be releast. ITS AMERICA FREEDOM OF RELIGION!!!!!!!!!REMEMBER?????

    September 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Just a tiny problem with your logic

      That would apply to Warren Jeffs and David Koresh, too.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • LinCA

      Freedom of religion doesn't give you the right to break the law.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      It's about time somebody said, "It's America alright, and that means separation of church and state."

      September 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  11. DARTH VADER

    i had to ride a greyhound bus to pick up a car,and the bus was full fo amish kids

    they smoked swisher sweets and cussed like sailors

    freaked me out

    September 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Julie Byler

      accualy they were probly on rumshring. in other words they are allowed to do stuff "Enlishers" are allowed to do. not all of them are like that.they arent taught that at home.well i wasnt.where do they learn it?????

      September 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • carla

      I don't know what it's called but when they turn 18, they can leave home and check out the secular world to see if that is what they want, if not, they are welcomed back home to stay.

      September 15, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  12. PR

    Don't want to obey the law...keep your freaking buggy off the road. Simple solution for simple people.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  13. Mark from Middle River

    I can see the next Fast and Furious movie being thought up now.

    Vin Diesel and Paul Walker with two horse and buggies racing at the line with the police camped out up the road.

    "You ready Zeke.... "

    "... I was born ready"

    Cue Ludicrous with a Rap Beat. 🙂

    September 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      They actually do race their buggies in real life. lol.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      Ludicrous and Timbaland for the beat that wins

      September 14, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  14. Will

    Waste of tax payers money to put them in jail. Just take the buggies to the impound. No wonders we're broke!

    September 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  15. Joe

    Jail time?
    No, this is inappropriate. The Governor needs to speak with who is in charge, pray with him, show respect, do whatever it takes, get them to agree to reflectors.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  16. Necrofun

    I heard that the Amish prison gangs are one of the most feared prison gangs.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Thompson

      The Menace is loose again, the Hell's Amish, the hundred carat headline, running slow and quiet on the early morning freeway, low in the carriage, nobody smiles, jamming crazy throough the traffic and ninety miles an hour down the center stripe, missing by inches.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  17. w

    What?

    September 14, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  18. Nicole

    They'll see when they have an 80,000 pound tractor trailer barreling down on them! It's all for their own safety!

    September 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • I don't always read comments, but when I do, I want to downvote everything

      Of course, because the one thing that we all know 80,000 pound tractor-trailers are known for, is their incredible speed...smh

      September 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      80k pounds is a lot of momentum. It doesn't stop on a *($(@ dime!

      September 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  19. D

    I'm from an Amish community. For everyone who keeps saying that they don't pay taxes, you are wrong. They don't pay into social security, but that is because they don't receive it either. If all of our other laws have to be changed for other religions, so could this. Let them put on a reflective circle or square. It gets the job done just as well and doesn't offend them.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • SueS

      Now this I heartily agree with. I did discuss this with a couple of Amish friends and their opinion was that it was the color that was the problem. They may have been of a different sect. If this is the case, I apologize for basing my opinions on incorrect information.

      A reflective square or circle of the same size would do the trick just as nicely.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Henry Miller

      They've managed to opt out of Social Security? Cool. That option ought to be available to all of us.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • icky thump

      muslims where the hijab in court and in school this country is ran by godless arabs anything christian is persicuted

      September 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • J.W

      I found these are people who can opt out of social security. Maybe I should try this
      – Federal employees hired before 1984 who elected to continue to participate in the federal retirement program instead of receiving part of their retirement under Social Security coverage.
      -State or local government workers (police officers, firefighters, and teachers) hired before March 31, 1986 and participating in their employers' alternative retirement system.
      -Ministers may choose whether or not they will participate in the Social Security program.
      -Self-employed workers with annual net earnings below $400.
      -Election workers earning $1,000 or less a year.
      -Household workers earning less than $1,500 per year.
      -Minor children with earnings from household work but for whom household work is not their principal occupation.
      -College students working under Federal Work Study programs, graduate students receiving stipends while working as teaching assistants, research assistants, or on fellowships, and most postdoctoral researchers.
      -Individuals who are members of certain religious groups such as the Amish and Mennonites.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Kevin H

      The problem here is that the emblem is not a US invention nor a Kentucky invention. This is an international invention. If we change international symbol standards for one group do we change them for others? Most of Europe uses the same signage standards – uniform – without language. The triangle supports the same construct. I respect the Amish right to view the triangle as they will. But this "Ordenung" is a bit too conservative. I think they need to bend a bit. The rest of North America uses this symbol including Canada, why shouldn't they?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • J.W

      Oh I guess for the religious groups the employer and employee must be a part of the group.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Laura LaVertu

      I don't care about whether they pay taxes or social security. What I do care about is the arrogance and irrationality and sheer plain stupidity of not doing everything in their power to ensure their safety, and the safety of others on the road, over the color of a piece of reflective tape. That is unforgivable. If it was truly about trust in god, then there would be nothing on the buggy at all. When they die in a buggy crash, along with any other innocent people they take with them, I would like to see them stand before their god and explain why it was they could not put orange reflective tape on their carriage. I would like to see a god's face when they say it.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Harvey The Rabbit

      @ Laura – I wonder if God is going to put an orange triangle on their butts as he kicks them into hell for creating a safety hazard and getting people killed?

      September 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • lula

      @ Harvey and @Laura, the article states that they are already voluntarily using reflective tape, red lights, and lanterns–just not the orange triangles. Is an orange triangle truly more visible? Since they are clearly concerned about safety and are willing to take precautions, your vitriol seems unnecessary.

      September 15, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  20. Republican

    The answer to this problem is to lower the taxes on the corporate wealthy.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Joe

      Yes!

      September 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • PulTab

      LOL

      September 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • J.W

      I wonder if there are any Amish republicans.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.