Two Amish men have filed suit against the city of Auburn, in an attempt to overturn the town’s animal ordinance which requires large animals, such as horses, to have a collection device for feces if they use the city streets.
The suit was filed by Dan Mast and Emanuel Miller last week in Logan District Court. The attorneys working on behalf of Mast and Miller are Travis Lock of Bowling Green, who has represented several members of the Amish community in court in recent months over violations of the ordinance and Daniel J. Canon of Louisville.
Auburn mayor Mike Hughes and police chief Larry Jones are also named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.
Mast was prosecuted and found guilty of violating the ordinance in 2015 and was ordered to spend 10 days in jail when he refused to pay the fine associated with the ordinance. According to the lawsuit, Miller has not yet been found in violation of the law, but regularly drives a horse and buggy within the city limits of Auburn and can reasonably expect that he will be cited and prosecuted under the ordinance like Mast.
The suit says that both Mast and Miller have “sincerely held religious beliefs, as set forth in the Amish community’s Ordnung” that would prohibit using a collection device while traveling through Auburn.
The Ordnung is a set of rules for the Amish. Ordnung is the German word for order, discipline, rule, arrangement, organization or system. Because the Amish have no central church government, each assembly is autonomous and is its own governing authority. So, every local church maintains an individual set of rules, adhering to its own Ordnung, which may vary from district to district as each community administers its own guidelines.
Mast and Miller belong to the Swartzentruber Amish community, which “is widely regarded as the most conservative Amish order in existence,” according to the lawsuit.
The Swartzentruber Amish began to settle in Logan County in 2005-06, and not long after former Auburn mayor Dewey Roche presented members of the Amish community with equine diapers and asked them to use them because the city of Auburn had a problem with the animal waste being left behind on city streets.
The suits says that the Amish refused to use the diapers, citing their religious beliefs.
Auburn passed an ordinance requiring collecting devices in 2014 after years of trying to work with the Amish community and asking them to clean up after their horses. The ordinance carries a $50 fine.
The lawsuit spells out the beliefs of the Amish, which “admonishes them to shun things that are ‘of the world.’” The suit references Romans 12:2 as the basis for this belief. That verse says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Because the collection devices are prohibited by the Ordnung, Mast and Miller are bound to follow it as a matter of religious faith, the suit claims.
The suit also claims that the city, Hughes and Jones have “made a cottage industry out of citing the Amish” for violating the ordinance. According to the lawsuit, at the end of October, 2016, there were approximately 27 active cased pending before the Logan District Court involving Amish men who have violated the ordinance. “This number is continuously increasing, as Chief Jones continues to write citations at every opportunity,” the suit says.
Because of this, Mast and Miller are asking the court to strike down the ordinance under both the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as well as several sections of the Kentucky Constitution. The lawsuit claims that the Auburn ordinance both violates Mast’s and Miller’s freedom of religion and their equal protection under the law.
To contact OJ Stapleton, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.