ASHLAND — Eleven Ashland-area Amish men were fined for violating Ohio’s new buggy law over the past two weeks, with the vast majority pleading “no contest” and leaving their fines unpaid.
Eli Swartzentruber, Emanuel Hostetler, Harvey Hostetler, Jacob Hershberger, Ezra Hershberger, Andy Miller, Andy Hershberger, Levi Hershberger, and Andy Zook all appeared in the Ashland Municipal Court recently to plead “no contest” to their charges stemming from a new Ohio law that Gov. Mike DeWine signed in June.
The new law requires Amish horse-drawn buggies and other animal-drawn vehicles to display a yellow flashing light while driving on public streets. A violation of this law is a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150.
By pleading “no contest,” the nine Amish men waived their right to a trial and were found guilty. All of them except for Andy Zook were fined $50 plus court costs; Zook was fined $100. None of them have paid their fines yet.
Two other Amish men, Menno Swartzentruber and John Yoder, pled guilty to the same violation and paid their fines.
On Oct. 28, Magistrate Fred Oxley read a letter submitted by one of the defendants, Harvey Hostetler, who said that having a battery operated light would go against his forefathers, his faith, his religion, and his conscience.
“We should have faith in God and trust that he protects us if it is his will. I am afraid if I start using the flashing light on my buggy it would do me harm spiritually, as I could end up having more trust in the flashing light to protect me then God,” Hostetler wrote.
“While some people may think it is only a tradition that we don’t use battery operated lights on our buggy. This may well be the case with some groups, but as for me, my religion doesn’t allow me any battery operated lights on my buggy.”
Magistrate Oxley, who said he is surrounded by Amish neighbors, later pointed out that the Amish he knows have all complied with the new law and installed flashing lights.
Five Amish men also plead no contest to the same violation earlier in October and refused to pay their fines.