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. Eric

    Not to be confusd with the "Schwartzenegger" Amish.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  2. Guestguy

    I don't know that the use of the orange triangle is against the religious beliefs of all Amish people. Those in Ontario, and the east coast of the USA, for example, seem to have no issues with placing an orange triangle on their buggies. I guess it's a very specific thing with this group.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  3. CDaeda

    The Amish are saving on gas. Maybe cars on the road should slow down to buggy speeds.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • Aim-ish


      September 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • somebody call for a facepalm?

      ……………………………..,< `.._|_,-&"............

      September 15, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Aim-ish


      September 15, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  4. KeninTexas

    "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." ,,, Come on people, why are you so bent on heating up on these folks? It certainly appears that they are doing their best, within the bounds of their religious convictions. From many of the comments, it looks like some people want to punish them because of they have religious convictions.

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

      Since when does anyone get to be a danger to others while breaking the law? This isn't about religion, this is about road safety.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Jedidiah

      Wanna see my "worldly symbol ?"

      September 14, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • John/kc

      Religion is no excuse to break the law. No one is above the law. God is God in heaven, but here on earth, the rule of human law prevails.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  5. ReligiousTolerance

    Let these people live. Mainline Christian majority will get any religious freedom they want. Why not accommodate their request. Design a good symbol which is acceptable for Amish. Advertise it to state drivers. This much one can do for these harmless hardworking believing people. I am not even Christian .... Why kentuky people are so intolerant... I know it is tea party land of paranoid.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Nosuchthing

      They are full of crap. There are triangles in nature, triangles in their buildings, so why aren't they freaked out over those?
      And bright colors are for safety. It has to be visible and visually loud. They are being stupid about this.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • RealityCheck

      Perhaps there's something magical about reflective triangles in their prevention of accidents that reflective circles, squares, hexagons, octagons or other reflective geometric shapes are lacking. And perhaps this special insight into the magical powers of reflective triangles is known only to Kentuckians. I'd expect that next we'll be told that this heretofore undisclosed unique and magical power of reflective triangles reduces the amount of violent crime, or reduces the incidence of cancer, or significantly contributes some other demonstrable benefit to the well being of Kentuckians. After all, Kentuckians, who aren't known for being wasteful, are spending considerable amounts of taxpayers' money to enforce this reflective triangle law.
      And about being 'full of crap,' I recall youngsters saying that when being told by their parents to be home at 7 pm. It is not unexpected from children to verbally strike out to what they don't understand. In doing so, they show their ignorance and lack of vocabulary. It is, however, always disappointing to see public displays of these emblems of immaturity.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      Maybe they gave "backtalk" to the cops. It doesn't take much to get some cops puffed up with self-importance and azzholeness.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • carla

      sigh. We are already in an economic mess and you are suggesting we change all the frickin signage in America to accommodate one Amish sect? Please don't run for office.

      September 15, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  6. jon

    Great use of police resources in a time of increasing barbarity. Put those Amish criminals in jail...they're so dangerous to society.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • jon

      PS, yeah, that was sarcasm.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • ReligiousTolerance

      Like it Jon. Great point. .. Remember it is Kentuky, land of sundown town and tea party paranoia. The paranoia will eventually turn against itself one day. This is the nature of paranoia.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      Lots o hairpin turns in Kentucky...and hillsides. A sudden blockage in the road without proper signage could send someone down a cliff. Instant death, just add Amish idiocy.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Beefburger

      Oh yeah, that dinky lil sign is going to save your sorry butt when you are careening around those hairpin turns at 110mph. Idiot.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:32 am |
  7. Marge

    We have people calling for the jailing of Muslims for wearing certain clothing. And they want it banned and the people jailed. Muslims have to comply even tho they say it is their religion. What makes these Amish believe that they should be exempt from the law. It is for safety, just as Muslim women not being allowed to wear the veils over their faces, when taking driving license pictures is a safety rule. I think regardless of your religious belief you should not be allowed to flaunt the law.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      We also need to make sure the laws are reasonable, too. Usually the law's an azzs, but who expects civil disobedience from the quiet Amish people who make hooting noises at dusk? Not the law-makers, I guess. They should have checked around before coming up with a triangle whoever thought of it. They could've used an X shape and someone would say that is like a cross that fell down so it's bad bad bad. No, at some point we've got to have safety standards, not safety whatever-you-like.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  8. J.W

    I didn't even know Amish went out at night to be honest. I thought they went to bed early.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  9. Andragogue

    Maybe I've been wrong all these years... practically crusading for stronger science and math curricula, when I should have been harping on stronger civics classes! Only about 1 in 4 people posting here even come close to understanding what civil law is all about and almost half have some pretty strange ideas about what their religious beliefs allow them to do under the civil laws of all American jurisdictions.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • Ben W

      Are you a fount of wisdom and knowledge? Then please share with us these mistakes that people are making.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      Yes, you've been wrong all these years. Welcome to the internet.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  10. Lokust

    I can't blame the authorities here. The law exists for valid safety reasons. Intelligent thought went into that law. Saying you shouldn't have to do it because of religion? Ludicrous.

    September 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • tzvikf

      Intelligent thought went into that law huh? It seems that a lot of laws on the books were written by stupid politicians playing games to satisfy their bribing local industries, lawyers out for a buck, or insurance companies. To proclaim that many of our stupid laws had intelligent thoughts behind them is laughable. Welcome to America, land of stupidity and no common sense. BTW – these buggies have highly reflective tape, and lanterns. Sounds fine by me.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Luigi

      Intelligent, maybe. Completely informed, not so sure. What evidence do you have that the legislature considered this situation when debating the law?

      September 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  11. David Johnson

    From the article:

    "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."

    Which brings us to why Christians buy insurance.

    Did Jesus not say: "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" – Mathew 6:25 KJV

    Do you Christians not trust Jesus?

    Why do you spend any money on medical care? You have the promise of god:

    Mark 11:24: Jesus speaking
    Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

    John 14:14: Jesus speaking
    If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

    Mark 16: Jesus speaking
    16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

    James 5:15:
    And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.

    Believers babble on about faith and belief and how the bible is the inerrant word of god.
    Yet, most ignore His word, and buy health and life and fire insurance and seek the knowledge of man.

    They are tweaking the nose of god! How are they not hypocrites? Where is their faith?

    Some, have actually believed what the bible tells them. They prayed for their child, trusting in the word of god, and withheld medical care. The child died. OOOooopsie!
    Not to fret! This was part of god's plan for the young'in.?

    A true believer would never set foot in a doctor's office! Could find no need for life insurance. Even god's own right hand, would protect against a fire! jfieorifhererefsd –> Me, overcome by the Spirit and speaking in tongues!

    But, they do. They seek medical care and buy insurance, because they don't believe the promises of god. They know, that in the real world, prayer rarely works (exception: coincidence / random chance).

    Believers attempt to smooth this over by saying a little prayer, receiving medical treatment and then giving the credit to their god, if they get well... Hmm...

    The bible says: " Sick people are oppressed by the devil. Acts 10:38
    If this is true, then how can medical care be effective? A shot of penicillin would have no effect on demonic oppression. LOL

    Christians do not believe in Christianity because it is true. To them Christianity is true because they believe it.



    September 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Ben W

      Good post!

      September 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • bob

      No one is perfect. We are all sinners. What we should be doing is going to church regularly, pray everyday, always ask for forgiveness of our sins, and love God with all our heart. God will not cast us into hell for buying insurance.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • JesterRadio

      Very well said. I often wonder how believers could ever sin if they really thought god was watching their every move. If I see a white car with a luggage rack in my rear view, I hit the brakes on the off-chance it's a cop. Who would ever commit a sin if they really thought god was watching? Nobody. And what about the rapist priests? I've always said, nobody knows better that there is no god than a priest.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Luigi

      It might be a really good idea to research the other translations or go back to the original language. Let's take Matthew 6:25. If we look at NIV, we get "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" Using this translation, the command is to not worry. The command isn't "don't be prudent." So, we have a problem between KJV and NIV. So, let's peek at the Greek word translated into worry. Merimnate.

      What does Merimnate mean? It means anxious. The command is "don't be anxious."

      I'm not even going to bother with the other citations, at least not until you deal with this.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Gerry

      Excellent comment David. But you put to many complicated questions to these "christian believers". To much logic, to much heavy thought provoking questions. You might cause those folks in Kentucky to even question their own Tparty and it's values. Imagine that...

      September 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Luigi

      JesterRadio – I'm not even sure where to start with that. Either you or I have completely misinterpreted the New Testament. How much of the New Testament have you read? Without looking, can you tell me what John 3:16 means? (You may have noticed the John 3:16 signs at football games.)

      If you truly wonder, please read John 3:16 and Galatians 3. I'm not giving you more because I'd like you to actually read it. It won't take long. Just type John 3 and Galatians 3 into Google and it will point you in the right direction. A translation like NIV is easier to read than KJV. (You'll likely see abbreviations.)

      If you really want to understand in more depth, try Bible study. You don't have to believe to join (at least some) study groups. You don't even have to believe after you finished. But you should at least understand.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Luigi

      Gerry, "too much logic?" Really. When evaluating an argument, we consider if the argument is sound and if it's valid. Sometimes we can't device if the premise is true. But sometimes we can. I pointed out a false premise and you just went right on your merry way, 5 minutes after I posted, and ignored it. Why is that?

      September 14, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • David Johnson


      The King James is the inerrant word of god. If there is a translation error or a copyists error, then the King James is not inerrant. If the King James can contain one error, can it not contain two or a billion? How can we believe any of it?


      September 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  12. Beefburger

    It is the shape and color that is the issue? How about proposing a new vehicle warning sign for the buggies, maybe a red rectangle, circle, etc.? Why does this have to be so difficult?

    How about getting people to drive their cars in a sane manner not driving at 100mph while blahblahblahing on their cellphones? Oh, but that would cut into making profits by Big Oil, Big Cellphone networks, Big Law enforcement fines, Big Insurance premiums, Big Attourney's fees, etc. ad nauseum.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
  13. Julie Byler

    accually the amish forgave the man that killed the girls in the nicklemines school shooting.now that takes strength. try that for a change.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  14. Wes Scott

    If the Swartzentruber Amish do not want to comply with the law, then they should refrain from driving their buggies on public roads that are paid for with taxpayer money. Their religious beliefs should not give them a free pass on refusing to obey the laws that are intended to benefit the greater society equally. This is a case of religion gone stupid.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Ceri

      Or of the law gone stupid. Unfortunately too many commentators on here don't understand the concept of having the courage of your convictions.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Ben W

      Whether they pay taxes or not is irrelevant. They are citizens and should obey the law. If they cannot obey the law they'd better get used to being run over and jailed for being idiots who don't give a rat's ass about other drivers.
      They are a driving hazard with a definite lack of concern for the safety of others that is based on their thick-headed religion.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Maybe try logic

      @Ceri – and many other commenters don't understand the need for public safety. Have all the courage to stand up for convictions that you want. But that doesn't give you the right to endanger my life and the life of my children on roads that I helped pay for.

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

      Maybe try logic, why in your reply to Ceri, did you say "...but that doesn't give you the right...." I have no evidence that Ceri has any intention of breaking that law. Do you? If so, please produce it.

      Ceri is almost certainly not Swartzentruber Amish. They wouldn't use computers. They almost certainly won't see any of these posts.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  15. notalib2012

    Gotta love the libtards hypocritical stances. When the same law benefits them, it's great, when it doesn't then the law is not applied. You want to run these God fearing ask for nothing from you people into jail for using a symbol that is clearly against their religion but want to give citizenship to 11 million ILLEGAL ALIENS. You libtards also have sanctuary cities where these Illegals can live while breaking the Federal law. But lets discriminate against a small minority who believe n God, are US legal citizens, and live a simple way of life. You people are nuts.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Ben W

      You just described a large number of those "illegal aliens" whom you don't know, rarely see, and have no idea about if they are really illegal aliens or have visas. We should send you to go kill those Mexican drug mafia folks. They'd teach you something.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • libtard#1

      I am not following what you are saying at all. I can proudly say I am liberal-as-hell, but I don't think these people should be in jail. I did not read anywhere in this article where it was said that liberal persecuted these Amish people. Sounds like you are making things up, and in doing so- not making any sense.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • JesterRadio

      So, the amish are excempt because they believe in god? You're a moron.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Luigi

      Which Liberals do you mean? Also, do you support Sarah Palin?

      September 15, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  16. I don't always read comments, but when I do, I want to downvote everything

    If they're going to start enforcing this law, they need to start by citing all the drivers in New York, Memphis, and Los Angeles, because I have yet to see a driver go over 30 mph in any of those towns.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  17. TaxesAreStealing

    Hmmmm.....I guess red isn't considered a "loud" color? Well, here's how you solve this issue and make everyone happy. They can use the color red for their reflective signs, and instead of having a triangle, they can use two of them, with the 2nd one inverted under the 1st one, this way, it will be a diamond instead of a triangle.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Ben W

      LOL So you are giving us your "wisdom" O Solomon? We are truly blessed.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • TaxesAreStealing

      As if you have added anything close to an alternative, or even thought provoking. If you are going to be a dingleberry, at least do it right.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Ben W

      Since you seem to have so much experience being a dingleberry, why don't you tell me how it's done? 🙂

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

      Good suggestion. The only problem is that it make sense. The governement cannot do anything that makes sense; but nice try.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  18. Boingywiggly

    Special freedoms only go so far. Religious freedom is fine, until it impedes on my freedom to not be killed running into these people's buggy while I and my family are driving down the road on a dark night. The safety triangle is the universal sign for slow moving vehicle, at least in the U.S. Just because they would comply with a law keeping others alive, doesn't mean there would be a huge stack of new laws to erode their beliefs system. Will be interesting (and sad) to see the aftermath if these men caused a huge wreck with injuries or fatalities at some point. And BTW, they need to pay for the special uniforms and court costs. We don't need to waste public money on things like this.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • anonymous

      Yes, because your vehicle coming around the curve at 60 miles per hour, and hitting a slow moving HORSE AND BUGGY would definitely cause you and your family to be killed, while their kryptonian mode of transportation goes unharmed. Really?

      September 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Ceri

      So if you see their high quality reflective tape but it is not in the shape of a triangle, you'll just ram it up the rear end? More fool you.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      Kryptonian? Really?

      September 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • maire

      well, if it's only US law, then it's not universal, is it?

      September 14, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Luigi

      You went right along supporting the law until you got to the last sentence when you "slapped the law in the face." What gives?

      September 15, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Beefburger

      Maybe you should drive at a sane speed and not be distracted. It is your responsibility for an 1500Lb killing machine when you put the key in the ignition. More people are killed by idiot drivers everyday than all of the people with guns.

      September 15, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  19. taskmaster

    What does their religion say about putting other lives at risk?They prove to the world that they have no respect for other peoples lives.Maybe thats why there are so few of these morons.I have come close to being involved in accidents several times in Pa.because of these "religious "nuts.They care nothing for their families or anyone elses.If they have children with them they should be charged with reckless child endangerment.

    September 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Taskmaster, your state gave you a driver's license? I guess if you have enough money.


      September 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Julie Byler

      well if you would slow down a little no problem.

      September 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Ceri

      If slow-moving vehicles are a reality in your part of the world, it is down to you to drive responsibly. In other words, if there is a bend you cannot see around, SLOW DOWN. If it is dark, SLOW DOWN so that you can stop within the length of your beams.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • mythoughtis

      It doesn't matter how slow you go, in a meeting of buggy vs car, the buggy loses. I would feel terrible if I hit a buggy at night, even if it was because I couldn't see it or I didn't recognize the reflective tape. We hear of buggy accidenta a lot.... if they don't want to use the required safety equipment, then they can leave the buggy home.... and do what a lot of them do anyway.. use taxi service. They are allowed to be in vehicles, just not to own them. Stupid distinction in my book

      September 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Rod C. Venger

      They have faith in God. You have faith in nothing, not even yourself.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Maybe try logic

      Their faith in god isn't going to help them in a rear end collision

      September 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  20. George Washington Carver

    Have these brethrens considered a righteous yet efficacious system of lanterns on their buggies, powered by the wholesome oil of the humble yet miraculous peanut?

    September 14, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • News Flash

      The asphalt they drive on is made out of oil. If it's ok to drive on that, what's wrong with cars ? It's ALL BS, artificial barriers that have no real meanings.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Aim-ish

      Excuse me, sir. I believe I have shat in my pantaloons.

      September 14, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
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About this blog

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.