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by Tim Beissmann

Nine Amish men in Kentucky are fighting a law that forces them to display bright safety signs on their horse-drawn buggies, saying that the law contradicts their constitutional right to religious liberty.

According to the Courier Journal, the men from the Old Order Swartzentruber sect were convicted for failing to display bright orange safety triangles on their buggies, which were travelling well below the 25mph (40km/h) lower limit for slow-moving vehicles, albeit on mainly rural roads.

The men’s lawyer, William Sharp, argued that the flashy displays violated their modesty clause and forced them to place their trust in a man-made symbol rather than in God.

The Amish are a division of the Christian faith best known for their modest lifestyles and isolated communities. There are around 7750 Amish people in Kentucky. Many of them have agreed to display the safety triangles.

Assistant state Attorney General, Christian Miller, said it was a simple matter of safety that everyone had to abide by.

“Some of these highways are 55mph (90km/h) highways,” Mr Miller said.

“The buggies are capable of … at most 10 mph (16km/h). There are accidents aplenty in the record.”

Justice on the Kentucky Board of Appeals, Judge Kelly Thompson, shared Mr Miller’s views.

“We want to restrict governmental intrusion into our lives, but (not) when you start endangering other people,” Judge Thompson said.

“There might be a baby in the car that hits that buggy. How do you justify putting that baby in danger to express your religious beliefs?”

Mr Miller argued that the court should follow the First Amendment from federal case law, which states that as long as a specific religious group isn’t deliberately targeted, it remains constitutional even if a religious group’s beliefs are compromised.

The men’s lawyer said they would agree to use lanterns and grey reflective tape, but those opposed argued that these would only aid visibility at night and do nothing during the day.

The panel is currently deciding on a verdict, which will be announced at a later date.




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