Amish to be let out of jury duty

Members of the Amish religious sect who had grappled with the conflict between their beliefs and the call to jury duty don't have to worry any more.

Under Ohio Senate Bill 71, which awaits the governor's approval, judges have to exempt Amish from serving on the jury if they request.

"It's their belief not to judge others," said state Rep. Tim Grendell, R-Chester Township, who introduced the bill.

Grendell said the issue came up during his visits with members of the Amish community.

Jury duty is "an impediment to their religious beliefs," Grendell said.

Currently, it is up to individual judges whether to exempt the Amish from jury duty.

The proposed law wouldn't provide any leeway for judges and would require them to comply with an Amish person's request.

Without such a request, an Amish person would have to serve on a jury, according to Grendell.

There are about 40,000 Amish people in Ohio, including 1,850 Amish households in Geauga County.

David Byler, owner of Woodworking Shop in Middlefield, is pleased with the bill.

"But I have a problem with the bill," Byler said. "It was passed just for the Amish people."

Byler said the bill should be applicable to everyone who doesn't want to sit on the jury because of his or her faith.

"This bill applies just for one group," Byler said.

In January 2004, Byler was notified to serve on a grand jury. He wrote a letter requesting a waiver, citing his religious beliefs. He was exempted.

H.F. Inderlied, who served as Geauga County Common Pleas Court judge before retiring on Dec. 31, said he exempted Amish from serving on the jury even though there was no formal policy.

On average, about 10 to 12 Amish people were called for jury duty per year, and all of their waiver requests were granted, Inderlied said.

During his 29 years as a municipal and common pleas judge, Inderlied said he respected their wishes.

The Amish participate in elections, and hence their names are among those randomly selected for jury duty.

In a year, the county selects 3,000 to 4,000 people from the voter registration list, so it's inevitable that Amish people are on the list of prospective jurors, Inderlied said.