In a story that perfectly illustrates the potential clash between religious adherence and government policy, nine Amish men who refused to display an orange reflective triangle on their horse-drawn buggies have been ordered to jail for not paying court-imposed fines.
The men belong to the ultraconservative Old Order Swartzentruber Amish sect in western Kentucky. While other Amish sects in the area do comply with the regulation, the especially-strict order objects to the triangles because the bright color violates their modesty code.
The Courier-Journal reports that the men say paying the fines would amount to complying with a law they believe violates their religious strictures. Levi Zook, one of the individuals who was sentenced, explained to the court his views on the matter.
“I don’t think it’s right to put somebody in jail for practicing their religious beliefs,” he said. “But that’s what we’ll do if that’s what it takes to abide by the biblical laws.”
In the end, a friend paid Zook’s fine so that he would be able to take care of his son, who has cerebral palsy. As a result, Zook is exempt from heading to jail, but the other eight men were forced to report on Monday evening.
The ruling came after three years of arguments between the two parties, with Graves County District Judge Deborah Hawkins Crooks sentencing the men to between three and 10 days in jail. Their sentences varied depending on the amount of their fines and court costs, with the range extending from $148 to $600.
The bright orange color of their prison outfits stirred problems as well. According to Mail Online, special, dark-colored jumpsuits were ordered to comply with the men’s religious beliefs. WPSD-TV provides more on their first day in jail:
The Kentucky Court of Appeals in June denied the defendants’ appeal on the misdemeanor convictions. But the men are undeterred, as they plan to continue the fight. They have appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, where they hope to have greater success in fighting the mandate.
The Kentucky branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has come to the group’s defense.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.