Threat To Remove Amish Homes Is An Unnecessary Blow To The 1st Amendment

Toledo, December 20, 2019 – The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) are concerned about the recent legal issues involving 14 Amish households in Lenawee County Michigan.

We do believe that laws that have a genuine secular purpose, such as health regulations, should apply equally to all people without regard to religious beliefs.

We also believe that when government agencies engage with religious groups like the Amish, that engagement should be done in a positive and helpful manner. Where strict religious beliefs conflict with practical regulations we would like to see an effort to accommodate the religious group while still getting the group to comply with the health laws in question.

The aggressive and antagonistic behavior of the Lenawee County Health Department is not the positive and helpful effort we want to see.

The Amish community has a long history in Ohio and we would think the people at the Lenawee County Health Department might look to see how Ohio health officials interact with the Amish here.

SHoWLE also agrees with Mike Ferner, founder and coordinator of the Toledo-based Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the Lenawee county pose more of a threat to the children than 14 outhouses in the Amish community.

Condemnation and removal of the houses seems like overkill and we feel the Lenawee County Health Department is wrong to use the threat over a small group of people who refuse to use technology and electricity.

We feel there is a better way to resolve the issue.

About Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie

The mission of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie is to provide a supportive local community for humanists and other nontheists, while promoting an ethical, reasonable, and secular approach to life through education, community service, outreach, activism, and social events.

We envision a Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan where secular people are respected and integrated in broader society, live values of reason and compassion, and enjoy a friendly humanist community.

Media Contacts

Douglas Berger – President
419-356-8568

Shawn Meagley
419-266-7945

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For further background: Lenawee County sued over treatment of Amish residents

Pastor Protection Act Not Needed And Wrong For Ohio

Testimony given to Ohio Senate committee

TOLEDO, November 28, 2018 – Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) submitted written testimony opposing Ohio House Bill 36, also known as the “Pastor Protection Act”. The bill would repeat 1st amendment protection given to faith practitioners but would also allow religious groups to avoid public accommodation laws even if a property is used for commercial purposes.

This is a very dangerous change in our civil rights,” SHoWLE President Douglas Berger stated in written testimony submitted to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee today. “This bill would allow religious groups to discriminate against ANYONE that they feel doesn’t conform to their religious beliefs. Do we want to see a church food pantry turning away a needy family because they are Mormon, since this particular church doesn’t believe Mormons are Christians?

Churches and property owned by religious groups aren’t normally required to follow state or federal public accommodation laws when used explicitly for religious purposes. House Bill 36 doesn’t make such a distinction. The bill as written also wouldn’t just affect same-sex couples. A pastor performing weddings at the court house for a fee could decide not to solemnize a marriage because the couple in question are members of the military or a church fellowship hall might require renters to only allow straight people to attend the event.

Religious freedom should be a shield to protect people from persecution and not a sword to give special rights to a favored group that ends up persecuting people not in that favored group, ” Berger wrote.

This bill is a waste of time and taxpayer money for a problem that doesn’t and will never exist. Instead we would like to see the legislature work to make performing marriages more accessible by considering and passing Senate Bill 52 that also amends 3101.08 to allow anyone who registers with the state to solemnize a marriage.

A pastor or priest will never be forced to perform a ceremony that doesn’t conform to their deeply held religious beliefs but HB 36 is being used to discriminate against those who don’t conform to the favored religion – namely LGBTQ people but the vagueness of the law will allow all kinds of discrimination – with the force of the state.

The Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting this week and the hearing for opponents of the bill is Thursday with a possible committee vote following.

It’s saying something when the majority party is rushing to protect pastors and priests from something that will never happen while they continue to ignore helping the victims of clergy abuse,” Berger said.

While SHoWLE doesn’t believe a pastor or priest should be forced to do something that violates the 1st amendment, religious groups shouldn’t be allowed to arbitrarily discriminate in the use of property it owns not being used for strictly religious purposes.

Link to the  full written testimony

About SHoWLE

The mission of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie is to provide a supportive local community for humanists and other nontheists, while promoting an ethical, reasonable, and secular approach to life through education, community service, outreach, activism, and social events.

SHoWLE meets on the 2nd Saturday of each month and all general meetings are free and open to the public. The website is humanistswle.org

Media Contacts

Douglas Berger – President
567-302-0209

Shawn Meagley – co-Founder
419-266-7945

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