A Wisconsin Amish family faces eviction from their home because they are unwilling to comply with building codes that mean violating their religious beliefs. The Washington Times reports Amos and Vera Borntreger’s case is just one in a series of run-ins Amish families have had with the law in rural Eau Claire County in the northwest region of the Badger State.
Circuit Court Judge Kristina Bourget ruled Monday that the couple was in contempt of court for failure to obtain the required sanitary and building permits. By the ruling of the court, the couple, along with their four children under the age of six, must vacate their home or face further legal action. The Borntregers would be willing to pay fines rather than comply with the order, but the $42,700 levied by local officials is beyond their means.
The stand-off between Eau Claire County officials and the Amish first emerged when Wisconsin’s Uniform Dwelling Code requirements changed in 2005, putting Amish religious beliefs concerning no electricity in the home at odds with the law. The Amish are known for their sturdy craftsmanship, but the Borntregers were not willing to comply, for religious reasons, with the requirements to install electric smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their home.
Advertisement – story continues below
Wisconsin State Representative Kathleen Bernier has come to the Amish community’s defense and plans to insert a religious exemption for “longheld religious beliefs” into the Uniform Dwelling Code. Bernier says she has Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s assurance that he will support the measure. She stated:
It’s just plain wrong. I don’t understand why a judge, even though she may disagree with the Amish not obtaining and signing their building permit, would do this. You know, throw them in jail for three days. They would probably accept that. But to evict them from their homes because they didn’t have a permit — I don’t know.
David Mortimer, a Eau Claire County resident and member of the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom, said local residents have rallied to the Borntregers’ religious liberty cause. Supporters started a Facebook page, Stand With Eau Claire County Amish Families, to keep the community updated regarding developments in the case.
Before about 2005, it was not a problem. The Amish were paying their fees, pulling their permits and successfully having inspections…It’s only with the new Uniform Dwelling Code where the bar is much higher — the sanitary permit, they can’t have outhouses anymore — it’s just a lot of things.
The Amish have been in the county since 1909 and have had no instances of Amish dying in a home fire in 40 years.
The Borntreger’s attorney has appealed the Circuit Court’s ruling and is requesting a stay of execution on the order pending the outcome of the appeal.
Advertisement - story continues below
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.