View Full Version : Church, State, & Building Codes

December 15th, 2008, 12:12 AM
Amish homeowners: Religion trumps building codes

http://d.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/ap/20081213/capt.baf69be26fea490096e6b984c2943d2d.amish_buildi ng_codes_witr201.jpg?x=400&y=206&q=85&sig=Co1Z9cHUsUCWRsM0WvjW4A--
Two homes built by Amish farmer Samuel Stoltzfus are seen Nov. 24, 2008,
outside Black River Falls, Wis. A judge fined Stoltzfus $9,450 for building a
house and driveway without permits.
(AP Photo /Todd Richmond)

By TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press Writer Sat Dec 13, 1:25 pm ET (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081213/ap_on_re_us/amish_building_codes)

TOWN OF FRANKLIN, Wis. Daniel Borntreger's home looks like hundreds of other Wisconsin farmhouses: two-story A-frame, porch, clothes on the line.

But his home could cost him thousands of dollars in fines. Borntreger, an Amish farmer, built the house himself according to Amish tradition but without a building permit.

His case is among at least 18 legal actions brought against Amish residents in Wisconsin and New York in the past year and a half for building without proper permits, according to court records, attorneys and advocates for the Amish.

The cases have sparked local debates about where religion ends and government begins. Amish advocates the Amish religion precludes them from defending themselves physically or legally argue the Amish belief that they must live apart from the world trumps local regulations.

"The permit itself might not be so bad, but to change your lifestyle to have to get one, that's against our convictions," Borntreger said as he sat in his kitchen with his wife, Ruth.

But local authorities say the Amish must obey the law.

"They just go ahead and don't listen to any of the laws that are affecting anybody else. It's quite a problem when you got people next door required to get permits and the Amish don't have to get them," said Gary Olson, a county supervisor in central Wisconsin's Jackson County, where Borntreger lives.

The Amish emigrated from central Europe to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. Also known as the "Plain People," the Amish believe they must live a simple, nonviolent life. Many reject electricity, indoor plumbing and cars.

In Pennsylvania, home to a large Amish population, more liberal-leaning congregations have lobbied successfully for exemptions in the state building code, including permission to forego electricity and quality-graded lumber, said Frank Howe, chairman of the board of supervisors in Leacok township in Lancaster County.

Officials try to keep the Amish informed about what they can and can't do, and most conform, Howe said. He didn't believe his board had ever taken an Amish resident to court over building violations.

"You try to work with both sides," Howe said. "(We tell them) this is what we need you to do so everyone can go home and relax."

The Amish population has nearly doubled in the U.S. over the last 15 years, growing to 227,000 this year, according to estimates from Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. As the Amish look for new farmland, conservative congregations have migrated into states that haven't seen them before, said Karen Johnson-Weiner, an Amish expert at the State University of New York at Potsdam.

That sets up conflict between building officials with little experience dealing with their beliefs and conservative Amish who aren't familiar with the codes or don't want to compromise, Johnson-Weiner said.

Municipal attorneys in Hammond, a town of about 300 people in upstate New York, cited Joseph Swartzentruber and Henry Mast in August for building houses without a permit. That case is pending. Hammond attorney Fred Paddock declined to comment.

In Morristown, a town of about 450 people just north of Hammond, town attorney Andrew Silver has brought 13 actions against the Amish for not abiding by building codes. They're pending, too.

Silver declined comment except to say the town is treating the Amish as it would any homeowner who violates building codes.

In Wisconsin, authorities in Black River Falls, a city of 3,600 people about 130 miles northwest of Madison, have filed at least four cases against area Amish involving permit violations.

One action ended in April when a judge fined Samuel S. Stoltzfus $9,450 for building a house and driveway without permits. In July the same judge levied a $10,600 fine against Daniel Borntreger. Another pending action accuses Samuel F. Stolzfus of building two houses without permits.

Stoltzfus believed signing a permit would amount to lying because he wouldn't follow parts of the code that violate his religion, said Robert Greene, an attorney with the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom, which has intervened in his case.

Custom-built homes are allowed in Wisconsin as long as the plans meet code standards, but apparently the Amish don't understand that, said Paul Millis, the attorney suing the Amish in Jackson County. The Town of Albion, where Samuel F. Stolzfus lives, waived a requirement that permits be signed so the Amish could avoid violating their religious beliefs, but they still won't comply, he said.

Attorneys acting on behalf of the Amish argue they have a constitutional right to religious freedom. They don't have to conform to building regulations that require them to use architectural drawings, smoke detectors, quality-graded lumber and inspections, Steve Ballan, an assistant public defender assigned to the Amish in Morristown wrote in court documents.

"They should be allowed to practice their religion and their religious traditions without interference from the government," he said in an interview.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has taken up the Amish's cause in Hammond, plans to file a federal lawsuit in New York in the next few weeks arguing that.

The Amish advocates have a strong argument, said University of Michigan law professor Douglas Laycock.

The government must show a strong reason why regulations outweigh religious freedoms, he said. Building officials argue permits and codes ensure structural safety, but Amish homes aren't falling down, he said.

"People aren't getting hurt," he said.

December 15th, 2008, 06:51 AM
^ Speaking as an architect, the great majority of building code provisions are arbitrary and unnecessary as stated. The code could be reduced to a thin pamphlet (which it was, not so long ago) without any compromise of safety.

December 16th, 2008, 11:30 AM
Most code is set up for the protection of people.

Some variants need to be set up to make sure that the people that build these houses do follow some safety regulations and that anything that may effect their neighbors is also accounted for.

Also, ignorance of the law is no excuse. There is no statute forbidding the reading of the law, as far as I know, in Amish doctrine.

That being said, the hard thing is deciding on whether or not this enforcement is really needed. Alhough their own backwards beliefs forbidding things like indoor plumbing are just plain silly, they can do what they want with them.

But what happens when there is a fire? Are the municipal fire departments ane firemen responsible for rescuing them? That being the case, the building should have SOME form of regulation in regards to safety for fire and other incidents.

You don't let the first pig build a house of straw in Florida, but you don't require him to put in a sprinkler system either.

February 2nd, 2009, 02:20 PM
Church Faces Eviction Because Of Members It Serves

Congregation Makes Rent, But Zoning Is New Challenge

POSTED: 7:01 am EST February 2, 2009
UPDATED: 10:04 am EST February 2, 2009 (http://www.theindychannel.com/news/18619106/detail.html#-)

Video: Church Faces Eviction Because Of Members It Serves (http://www.theindychannel.com/news/18619106/detail.html#)

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- Economic problems first put a Columbus church in danger of closing, but now the people it serves are the main issue.

Living Hope Tabernacle leaders decided to change the church's mission to include housing the homeless, but the church didn't follow zoning rules and the landlord didn't approve the change, 6News' Rick Hightower reported.

Some of the poorest of the poor find sanctuary inside the church's tiny storefront, but the church's pastor, Christopher Rutan, said he has until Feb. 19 to shut it down.

The economy caused the congregation's leaders to fall behind on rent, but even after someone stepped forward to pay it, the property owner said the church has to go because of the minister's decision to let homeless people start sleeping in the pews.

6News attempted to reach the landlord for comment, but he didn't respond. Columbus city officials would have to alter zoning regulations to allow the church/homeless shelter to stay where it is.

Rutan said he had no intention of starting a homeless shelter, but when temperatures dipped well below zero a few weeks back, he said he couldn't help but open the door and let people in out of the cold.

"The reason we did it is because we had one man freeze to death here in Bartholomew County on Christmas," Rutan said.

More than a dozen people stay in the church at night, including Sherrie Perdue.

"It was kind of depressing when we found out we were going to lose this place," she said. "I don't know where I'll go when we leave this place."

Rutan said he has looked for other places to set up the church without success and time is running out, so he's turning to the public for help.

"I wouldn't even care if I had to sleep out on the street to give my bed to somebody else," Rutan said. "I do not want to see anybody else out on the street."

Rutan said he'd like to find a building big enough to house 100 homeless.

May 30th, 2009, 02:45 PM
Couple Ordered to Stop Holding Bible Study at Home Without Permit

Pastor David Jones and his wife Mary have been told that they cannot invite friends to their San Diego, Calif. home for a Bible study — unless they are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to San Diego County.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0%2C2933%2C522637%2C00.html)

"On Good Friday we had an employee from San Diego County come to our house, and inform us that the Bible study that we were having was a religious assembly, and in violation of the code in the county." David Jones told FOX News.

"We told them this is not really a religious assembly — this is just a Bible study with friends. We have a meal, we pray, that was all," Jones said.

A few days later, the couple received a written warning that cited "unlawful use of land," ordering them to either "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit," the couple's attorney Dean Broyles told San Diego news station 10News.

But the major use permit could cost the Jones' thousands of dollars just to have a few friends over.

For David and Mary Jones, it's about more than a question of money.

"The government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion," Broyles told FOX News. "I believe that our Founding Fathers would roll over in their grave if they saw that here in the year 2009, a pastor and his wife are being told that they cannot hold a simple Bible study in their own home."

"The implications are great because it’s not only us that’s involved," Mary Jones said. "There are thousands and thousands of Bible studies that are held all across the country. What we’re interested in is setting a precedent here — before it goes any further — and that we have it settled for the future."

The couple is planning to dispute the county's order this week.

If San Diego County refuses to allow the pastor and his wife to continue gathering without acquiring a permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court.

Click here to watch the full FOX News interview. (http://www.foxnews.com/video2/video08.html?maven_referralObject=5388468&maven_referralPlaylistId=&sRevUrl=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,522637,00.html#)

Click here to read the full 10News report. (http://www.10news.com/news/19562217/detail.html)

May 30th, 2009, 02:58 PM
^ Hogwash and nonsense.

May 30th, 2009, 10:34 PM
It would depend upon the number of folks studying up on the Bible. If it's 10 or 50 then the City of San Diego should butt out.

But if it's more than that, bringing cars & congestion to an otherwise residential area on a regular basis, then fellow citizens should have a say.

May 31st, 2009, 01:41 AM
Why treat religiously themed dinner parties differently?

Are all book clubs subject to restriction?

All friendly gatherings on private property need government permission?

May 31st, 2009, 09:29 AM
San Diego is no bastion of Liberals, particulary rural SD County.

Even so, the County officials have now stepped back (http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/may/30/1n30bible00100-county-wont-force-permit-bible-stud/?metro&zIndex=108046) from enforcement of the statute in question.

But it appears that this all stemmed from an incident where a car was damaged by one of Pastor Jones' guests, which led to an old-fashioned American neighborhood pissing match ...

... (Pastor) Jones and his wife, Mary, hold a weekly Bible study at their home that sometimes attracts more than 20 people, with occasional parking issues. Once, a car belonging to a neighbor's visitor got dinged ...

Chandra Wallar, the county's general manager of land use and environment, said the county has re-examined the situation and decided that the Joneses don't need a permit after all.

Religious assembly, under the county land-use code, is defined as “religious services involving public assembly such as customarily occurs in synagogues, temples, and churches.”

Wallar said that definition, which doesn't spell out specific thresholds on when a religious gathering becomes a religious assembly, probably needs to be clarified and that more training may be warranted for code enforcement officers.

She said the county was not targeting the Joneses because they were exercising their religion, but rather it was trying to address parking and traffic issues.

“We've advised the pastor he has the authority to continue to hold his meetings just as he's held them,” Wallar said. “My hope is we will be able to resolve the traffic concerns.”

June 17th, 2009, 12:25 PM
(via Universal Hub (http://www.universalhub.com/node/25875))

Church and state: How Grendel's Den got its liquor license
By adamg - Wed, 06/17/2009 - 11:09am.

Back in the day, Massachusetts churches were allowed to veto nearby bars. In this video (http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2009/06/video-jay-wexler-on-the-holy-hullabaloo-over-grendels-den.html), a BU law professor explains how Grendel's Den (http://www.grendelsden.com/) [Harvard Sq] challenged the law - and won in a Supreme Court decision. The church was eventually torn down and turned into a Peet's.

January 14th, 2012, 03:04 AM
Would that we could hope to see complete separation of church and state and church and education.

Missouri, The 'Stupefy Me' State?

by Shawn Lawrence Otto

Six Missouri republicans -- "the stupefy me six," let's call them -- are hard at work trying to make Missouri kids stupid. House Bill 1227, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 10, will, if enacted, require "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design," according to the bill's language.

In other words, the bill will require the equal treatment of religious opinion and science, depriving Missouri kids of the knowledge they need to compete in the knowledge economy, and robbing them of a clear understanding of how to tell the difference between real knowledge and someone's truthy opinion.

Freshman representative Rick Brattin (R-District 124) is the sponsor of the bill; its cosponsors are John McCaherty (R-District 90), Charlie Davis (R-District 128), Andrew Koenig (R-District 88), Sue Allen (R-District 92), and Darrell Pollock (R-District 146). It is the fourth antievolution bill of 2012, joining Indiana's Senate Bill 89 and New Hampshire's House Bills 1148 and 1157.

There is so much that is wrong with -- and uncaring about -- this antiscience legislation that it's hard to know where to begin.

First, let's call a spade a spade. It's unAmerican. America was founded, in no small part, on the principles of freedom of and from religion. Our puritan predecessors fled to America to escape a religiously dominated government that was imposing its religious views on them. Now, these Missouri republicans are trying to impose their religious beliefs on all Missouri kids, by teaching intelligent design -- proven to be religion in the famous Kitzmiller v. Dover case -- in science class. Hey, Missouri Republicans: if you want to teach your kids that God created man six thousand years ago just like it says in the Bible, go right ahead. But let's do it in church. That's what we have churches for. We don't require scientists to teach evolution in church, so let's not force science teachers to teach religion in science class.

Second, it's communist-style freedom killing. Our kids deserve intellectual freedom, but the "equal treatment" provision would force public schools and "any introductory science course taught at any public institution of higher education" throughout Missouri to use put ideology ahead of knowledge. "If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught," the bill mandates. That is mandating ideological indoctrination, just what communist governments used to do.

Third, it's economically stupefying. The United States is now in a knowledge-driven global economy. Science is everywhere. American kids have to compete. We can't afford to dumb down our science for ideological reasons. Anything that has to do with biotech, genetics, medicine, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, biology, vaccines, ecology, environmental science, public health, biosecurity, agricultural science, pesticide development, even economics and airport computer software, are based on the theory of evolution, which, by the way, has been confirmed by hundreds of thousands of observations over a hundred and fifty years. If you want your kids to make money beyond working for a fast food joint or in hotel services waiting on wealthy foreigners, don't deprive them of the knowledge tools that millions of hungrier kids are learning elsewhere.

Fourth, it's morally stupefying. "If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a textbook," the bill says, "the textbook shall give equal treatment to biological evolution and biological intelligent design." Who are we to force our value systems on every student in the state, no matter their faith or age, to the extent of making sure ideologically motivated propaganda is inescapable, in every textbook, at the expense of students learning the truth? If we love and care for our children, shouldn't we give them every possible advantage we can? Shouldn't we give them every possible freedom? What are we afraid of? Is our faith so weak that it has to be mandated by law?

Fifth, it's thought stupefying. There's a guy that conservatives have been talking about lately named John Locke. But Locke is most famous for developing a system of knowledge that underlies modern science, called empiricism. Locke saw how various religions argued incessantly over who was closer to God, which beliefs were the real faith, and so on. He reasoned that this sort of argument could go on forever. There had to be some way of figuring out who was right. And so he defined what knowledge is, and showed how it is different from - and superior to -- "but faith or opinion." Evolution is knowledge. Intelligent design is "but faith, or opinion, but not knowledge" according to Locke's definitions. Science creates knowledge of the real world that is independent of our opinions and beliefs by making observations, using them to make predictions, testing the predictions, and submitting the results for peer review. The theory of evolution stands up to this test. Intelligent design does not. It is not knowledge. It is "but faith, or opinion." As Isaac Newton said, "A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true." In science class, we should teach our kids how to understand the way things work, not confuse them by teaching faith and calling it science.

Finally, its problem-solving stupefying. This is critically important. The United States has gotten as far as it has in terms of technology and dominance because of science. Because of our understanding that even if you haven't figured something out, you can just keep plugging away, looking for those natural causes and sooner or later you'll find them. Teaching intelligent design in school science classes is teaching a habit of mind that is toxic to that problem-solving method. It teaches you to just throw up your hands and declare that the problem is unsolvable, particularly if that problem is tough or might have consequences for a particular religious belief. It teaches you to value not diversity of ideas, but conformity. If you do that, you're basically giving up on science and on the probability of finding those answers. That is not going to take America where we need to go.

Missouri, your proud heritage and your bright children deserve better than to be forcibly dumbed down. Let's not give up on the future. Let's show them the way things work instead of stupefying them with conformist ideology.


January 14th, 2012, 10:36 AM
These wizards need to study up on the term "theory" as it applies to science v. religion.

January 17th, 2012, 10:38 AM
I wonder how manipulating the leaders proposing these bills are, or how genuinely ignorant.