Pennsylvania Amish farmer jailed for outhouse violations

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Amish man from Cambria County, Pennsylvania has been sentenced to 90 days in jail after claiming his religious beliefs prevent him from bringing two school outhouses into compliance with state sewage regulations.

Andy Swartzentruber, of Barr Township, was jailed and fined US$1,000 on a contempt of court charge for violating a previous court order. County officials said waste was collected in buckets and dumped outside.

Judge Norman Krumenacker also ordered the Amish school and outhouse on Swartzentruber's property to be locked up until the violations are addressed. The judge said Swartzentruber could be released early if the sewage issues are resolved.

The ruling shocked about a dozen men and women in the courtroom, including his wife Frances, with whom Swartzentruber has 16 children. But he said he would rather accept jail-time than violate his religious convictions.

"I stand by my religion. If I don't, (it) could destroy the whole church group," he said.

Pennsylvania Department of Education officials said the local school district is responsible for educating the school's 18 children, or the parents could seek home-schooling or private schools.

Media reports did not specify exactly what needs to be done to resolve the sewage issue.