Amish get politically active to defend wood shops - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
November 5, 2005

Amish get politically active to defend wood shops

-05/11/05

Some Amish citizens in rural Geauga County, located near Cleveland, USA, have taken the unusual step of entering public politics in local elections, even though their faith normally means that they avoid direct engagement with outside society and modern life.

At issue is a zoning restriction which prevents home-based businesses greater than 1,000-square feet (92.9 square metres) in size.

Arguing that Huntsburg Township's zoning laws are preventing them from opening woodworking shops on their farms at a time when agriculture is losing its profitability, some Amish are campaigning to end all zoning restrictions in the settlement in the US state of Ohio by taking part in an 8 November 2005 local election.

The Amish are a strict denomination of Anabaptists, often called ëthe plain peopleí. They eschew many elements of modern technology and are typically distinguished by simple clothes, horse and buggy transportation and the avoidance of electricity and telephones.

They moved to Geauga County in the 1880s, and the region now is home to the world's fourth largest Amish community with more than 10,000 residents.

Each of Geauga County's 16 townships determines its own zoning laws and all but one have laws in place.

"There's never been a campaign like this before amongst our people," Nathaniel Byler told The Associated Press news agency. He was among those who circulated a petition to put the zoning issue on the ballot. Two years ago, his son applied to build a cabinet-making shop on his property but the township inspector and board of appeals denied him this. Eventually he won the right to build.

Amish families are said to want easier access to expand home-based businesses so they can work side by side with their children, a basic Amish tenet.

County Commissioner William Young told Ecumenical News International the challenge is in balancing the individual's right to expand a business with the need for some control over the appearance and environment of the township itself.

"The Amish way of life and their furniture could be especially important in attracting tourists to this region, as it does in other parts of Ohio," said Young. "That could have a great benefit for this county."

Founded in Switzerland, the Amish are part of a Christian tradition dating back to the Reformation. They exist within a strongly rural community, typically as farmers, cabinet-makers, craftsmen or the producers of farm products like cheese and bread.

Religiously, they believe in adult baptism, separation of church and state, pacifism, biblical lifestyle and nonconformity. The largest population of Amish and Mennonites (from whom they broke away) live in North America.

There are about 500 registered Amish voters in the Huntsburg township of 3,000 residents. They plan to hire four or five taxis to take them to the polls on election day.

[With grateful acknowledgement to Cheryl Heckler and ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

Amish get politically active to defend wood shops

-05/11/05

Some Amish citizens in rural Geauga County, located near Cleveland, USA, have taken the unusual step of entering public politics in local elections, even though their faith normally means that they avoid direct engagement with outside society and modern life.

At issue is a zoning restriction which prevents home-based businesses greater than 1,000-square feet (92.9 square metres) in size.

Arguing that Huntsburg Township's zoning laws are preventing them from opening woodworking shops on their farms at a time when agriculture is losing its profitability, some Amish are campaigning to end all zoning restrictions in the settlement in the US state of Ohio by taking part in an 8 November 2005 local election.

The Amish are a strict denomination of Anabaptists, often called ëthe plain people'. They eschew many elements of modern technology and are typically distinguished by simple clothes, horse and buggy transportation and the avoidance of electricity and telephones.

They moved to Geauga County in the 1880s, and the region now is home to the world's fourth largest Amish community with more than 10,000 residents.

Each of Geauga County's 16 townships determines its own zoning laws and all but one have laws in place.

"There's never been a campaign like this before amongst our people," Nathaniel Byler told The Associated Press news agency. He was among those who circulated a petition to put the zoning issue on the ballot. Two years ago, his son applied to build a cabinet-making shop on his property but the township inspector and board of appeals denied him this. Eventually he won the right to build.

Amish families are said to want easier access to expand home-based businesses so they can work side by side with their children, a basic Amish tenet.

County Commissioner William Young told Ecumenical News International the challenge is in balancing the individual's right to expand a business with the need for some control over the appearance and environment of the township itself.

"The Amish way of life and their furniture could be especially important in attracting tourists to this region, as it does in other parts of Ohio," said Young. "That could have a great benefit for this county."

Founded in Switzerland, the Amish are part of a Christian tradition dating back to the Reformation. They exist within a strongly rural community, typically as farmers, cabinet-makers, craftsmen or the producers of farm products like cheese and bread.

Religiously, they believe in adult baptism, separation of church and state, pacifism, biblical lifestyle and nonconformity. The largest population of Amish and Mennonites (from whom they broke away) live in North America.

There are about 500 registered Amish voters in the Huntsburg township of 3,000 residents. They plan to hire four or five taxis to take them to the polls on election day.

[With grateful acknowledgement to Cheryl Heckler and ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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