Skip to comments.Morristown seeks help in Amish permits case
Posted on 03/25/2008 7:56:27 AM PDT by Between the Lines
MORRISTOWN, NY — The town is making a statewide appeal for help in prosecuting Amish men for building homes without permits.
Ten members of the conservative religious group have been charged in the clash between building codes and religious tenets that shun modernization. Town councilors sent a letter Saturday to newspapers to pressure legislators and the state Department of State to provide financial and technical help in dealing with the pending trials.
"Everyone is watching, but that's all they're doing is watching," said W. Howard Warren, deputy supervisor. "It seems to be our personal battle and no one wants to say anything or advise."
The ordeal began in July 2006, when Andy Miller, Dumont Road, was charged with building a house without a permit. His case was repeatedly delayed because he did not have an attorney, and an agreement to issue a permit was reached in January 2007. The town eventually declined, however, because Mr. Miller would not allow code enforcement officer L. Kay Davis to inspect his home, as agreed upon.
His case restarted in the summer, by which time five others from the conservative Swartzentruber sect of the simple agricultural religion were charged.
Their cases were delayed four months while the court searched for someone who could translate legal documents into Pennsylvania Dutch, the antiquated form of German used by the men. That task was taxing because town Judge James T. Phillips Jr. and court staff had to lead the search after the state Office of Court Administration did not have anyone available.
Judge Phillips is reviewing motions by a court-appointed attorney to dismiss the charges based on religious persecution and technicalities.
"We feel the state is sitting back and watching our situation as a test case on this issue, which will have statewide ramifications," the letter says.
Building codes are established by state laws and enforced on the town, village or city level.
"It's our town that's incurring all the legal costs to enforce a state law," Supervisor Frank L. Putman said.
Town officials could not determine Monday how much the proceedings have cost. Town Clerk David J. Murray recalled seeing a $4,000 voucher for January legal fees. Councilors budgeted $8,000 for town attorney Andrew W. Silver's services this year.
"We can't blink," Mr. Putman said. "There's a lot of contractors in this town and other towns watching and saying, 'If an exception is made here, are we going to follow building codes?'"
I guess Morristown has no other crimes to fight, if they are left to prosecute the Amish for building their excellently crafted homes.
It’s not about how well built the homes are, it’s about the permit (fee$). In the wise words of the Maharushie “Follow the money.”
It’s about the money. The Amish should be left alone.
Sorry, I didn't think you went far enough.
The whole religious freedom issue aside, as long as the Amish are building for their own use and occupancy I see no reason to require a building permit. I could see making sure the home was not built in the wrong landuse area, but I doubt that would be an issue. The Amish are not going to build their houses in an industrial/ manufacturing zone.
The purpose of the building code is to protect the health, safety and life of the public. Even municipalities which have adopted the building codes will make exceptions for owner/builders provided the house will be occupied for a minimum amount of time by the owner/builder. Some still require permits but others do waive permitting requirements all together. So just who it the town of Morisstown protecting? The Amish, nope, the public, nope, the bloated town beauracracy(sp) Bingo!
The simple solution would be to write an exemption into State law for such construction. But this takes time. Meanwhile Morristown should just be honest and tell the Amish what they really want is the permit fees. Cause this sure as hell is about the money and not about public safety.
We have exemptions from military service for those whose religions forbid it. Why not the same thing here? Looks like a money grab on the part of the city AND the contractors who are not Amish. Ah, New York! If it ain’t the governor slopping his disgusting life all over the papers, it is the money grubbers in some jerkwater town in the hinterlands persecuting the Amish.
These men are willing to purchase building permits, but contend the requirements of the codes - such as having smoke detectors, submitting engineering plans and allowing inspections - violate their religious beliefs. If it were about money the city could easily take their money and grant them an exception to the codes.
Morristown updated its 22-year-old building codes in 2006 based on a model law provided by the state. The code requires new and existing structures "to keep pace with advances in technology in fire protection and building construction."
The Swartzentruber sect doesn't conform to new technology, so if you have a law that says you have to keep pace with technology, that’s the same as having a law that says no Swartzentruber Amish allowed.
So where’s the ACLU? Oh, that’s right, they’re too busy defending the rights of muslim terrorists to be bothered defending the rights of Christians.
You’re right, I stand properly corrected.
One particularly glaring example of how uncompelling the Town's interests are here is the Town's smoke detector requirement. The Amish refuse to purchase and install smoke detectors because their faith does not allow them to use electricity. The Town's response has been that the Amish must have smoke detectors, but only during the inspection. According to the Town, the Amish could remove the smoke detectors without penalty once the inspections are completed. This sort of evasion of the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, is no help to the Amish, who consider such behavior fraudulent and deceptive. More importantly, it is also no help to the Town, which cannot possibly have a compelling safety interest in requiring smoke detectors if it allows them to be removed immediately after inspection.
Typical liberal hypocrisy - they don’t even intend to obey their own laws that they enforce on others.
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