FW: amish vs building codes
VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Tue Mar 18 15:44:55 PDT 2008
MORRISTOWN, N.Y. (AP) _ The religious rights of 10 Old Order Amish men
are being violated by an upstate New York town that is selectively
prosecuting them for building homes without permits, a national public
interest group charged Tuesday....
The fight began in July 2006 when a member of the conservative
Swartzentruber sect was charged with building a house without a permit.
Since then, nine other Amish men have been cited for failing to adhere
to the town's building code.
Building codes are established by the state and enforced by towns,
villages and cities. 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 basis of the Old Order Amish faith is that they don't conform to
new technology," said Steve Ballan, the St. Lawrence County assistant
public defender who is representing the Amish men. "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 Amish allowed."
The men do not deny building houses without permits. They 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, Ballan said....
[Becket Fund lawyer Lori] Windham said there have been no building
collapses, fires, or other public emergencies that would provide the
town with a compelling interest to enforce the building code on the
Amish, who follow their own stringent building codes, which are part of
the Ordnung, Amish rules for living passed down orally from one
generation to the next.
"The lack of any demonstrated public safety threat, combined with the
sudden spike in prosecutions of a discrete religious minority, leads to
an inference of selective code enforcement against that minority group,"
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