8 Amish Jailed, Refused to Put Orange Triangles on Buggies

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 04, 2011 6:42 AM

Eight men were jailed in Kentucky for the nefarious crime of refusing to affix safety triangles onto their Amish buggies.

The men belong to the Old Order Swartzentruber Amish group.

Their religion has a strict code of conduct that regulates nearly everything from transportation to education.

They claim that the bright orange safety triangle is in violation of their beliefs. Their religion bars them from wearing or displaying bright colors. But Kentucky law requires the posting of safety triangles on slow-moving vehicles like horse-drawn buggies.

Since they refused to affix the triangles, they were jailed. Each man served sentences of between 3 to 10 days.

Photo Credit: The Smoking Gun

It's likely that the men will continue to protest the law. They already use reflective tape on their buggies. They also attach red reflector lights and lanterns. Is a bright orange safety triangle going to make that much of a difference with all these other precautions? Especially when the regulation interferes with their religious beliefs?

Freedom of religious expression is constitutionally guaranteed to all Americans under the First Amendment.

The U.S. government is prohibited from enacting laws that single out a specific religious practice.

But did Kentucky enact this orange safety triangle requirement specifically to target the Amish? Probably not.

Instead, the Kentucky law is just one of those laws that are neutral in nature but unintentionally impact a particular religious group's practices or beliefs.

Oops. So how does the Constitution protect the Amish here? Is a statute mandating the safety triangle on Amish buggies unconstitutional if it's just "accidentally" hindering their religious practices? Unfortunately, the law isn't clear on this issue.

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