Kentucky, USA - The unusual mugshots of eight Amish men jailed for refusing to display a brightly-coloured orange triangle on their horse-drawn buggies helped cast the spotlight on a secretive community.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union is taking up their case in Mayfield, Kentucky, claiming the Christian community is being persecuted because the bright colour shuns their modesty code.
The Amish men were arrested for refusing to put go-slow triangular safety signs on their buggies, despite a Kentucky state law that requires all slow-moving vehicles to display the orange badges.
‘This is an infringement on their religion,’ local ACLU spokesman Bill Sharp fumed on Fox News.
Mr Sharp added that the Amish literally take a Biblical warning in the book of Romans of ‘to be not conformed to this world’ and therefore do not wish to display the orange triangle on buggies.
But local resident Richard Knolton has been running a letter campaign against the Swartzentruber sect. ‘They go too slow and you can’t see them,’ he told Fox News. ‘They’re dangerous. ‘
Kentucky Representative Fred Nessler added that he understands the Amish community’s concerns but this is a safety issue on the ‘hundreds of miles of narrow roads’ on which they travel.
However Mr Sharp said the Swartzentruber sect are trying to come to a compromise with police by getting special permission to use a grey reflective tape that will conform to their beliefs.
‘Our clients are very committed to roadway safety,’ he told Fox News. ‘They are willing to use and in fact do use reasonable alternative safety measures on their buggies to improve their visibility.’
But Representative Nessler does not think this tape will be good enough as safety device. The Kentucky Supreme Court is expected to hear the case later this year, reported Fox News.
In total, nine Amish men were caught failing to comply with Kentucky state law requiring the signs on slow-moving vehicles in a series of cases dating back three years.
After refusing to pay fines of up to $600 because they said the law was against their religious beliefs, the defendants received prison sentences in September.of between three and ten days.
Dozens more Amish men are expected to face similar punishment after defying the safety law. But despite being locked up with thieves and murderers, the defendants were courteous to officials.
‘They were very nice,’ Graves County jail warden Randy Haley said. ‘They did anything we asked them to do - we had no problems.’
Not all Amish groups refuse to use the reflective signs on their carts. But the Swartzentruber community is refusing to put its trust in man-made symbols for their safety.
‘I don’t think it’s right to put somebody in jail for practising their religious beliefs,’ said Amish father-of-seven Levi Zook. ‘But that’s what we’ll do if that’s what it takes to abide by the Biblical laws.’
The men did win one battle during their time in jail - being given sombre blue prison uniforms instead of the regulation bright orange jumpsuits.