by The Chicago Times Staff

July 3, 2021

FILLMORE COUNTY, MN — On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Minnesota Amish community that was fighting a county requirement that they install a septic system to treat wastewater from their homes.

Members of the Swartzentruber community, who oppose the use of contemporary technology owing to their religious beliefs, protested Fillmore County’s 2013 demand.  Gray water, which is left over from bathing, cooking, and laundry, would be filtered and treated by the septic system.

The Supreme Court ruled the requirement violated the religious freedom of the Amish community and overturned a lower court’s ruling requiring them to comply.

In the majority opinion, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “County officials have subjected the Amish to threats of reprisals and inspections of their homes and farms…They have questioned the Amish faith’s sincerity…Neither the Amish nor anyone else in this country should have to choose between their farms and their faith.”

Before the lawsuit, the community proposed installing less sophisticated treatment systems that filter gray water using woodchip-filled basins.  The county flatly refused, threatening to declare their homes uninhabitable.