KENTON, Ohio - Amish from northwest Ohio are promising to turn out in force this week for a meeting of a county health board seeking to evict two families from new homes that lack the required modern wells and septic systems.
Last summer, the Kenton-Hardin County Health Board said it would start enforcing rules that any new home must have a proper well and septic system -- something the simple-living, outhouse-using Amish have never had to do. Health inspectors have not forced existing Amish homes to change.
Two members of the order have built new homes the county says don't comply. In January, the health board gave the owners 30 days to bring the properties into compliance or leave.
The health board will hear an appeal Tuesday of its orders condemning the new Amish homes and evicting the families who live in them.
Joni Hershberger, who moved his wife and their nine children back home to Hardin County from Circleville last summer, lives in one of the houses. Henry Yoder owns the other home, where Emory Gingerich lives with his family.
"They think they're fighting three of us, but they aren't," Hershberger told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Monday. "We stand as one community."
The Amish turn their backs on modern technology, including septic systems with electric pumps or even pressure-powered ones. They currently empty their own outhouses and spread the waste on the land. But health rules say they must hire an approved contractor to build a concrete, watertight pit under the outhouse and have the waste hauled away.
The Amish say they seek a compromise that allows them to keep their plain and simple lifestyle. But Hardin County Prosecutor Brad Bailey says it's about protecting the environment and personal health.
"The health board has bent over backward for these people," Bailey said. "We're not looking for trouble. We're looking for everyone to follow the regulations on the books."
Hershberger said he doesn't want the meeting to be confrontational.
"Seems to me, there ought to be some kind of compromise," he said. "We'll let them give their sixpence, and then we'll see where we stand. But I can tell you this: I'm not moving."
An estimated 200 Amish families in Hardin County, about 65 miles northwest of Columbus.
All other Ohio counties with an Amish population have long ago settled similar disputes. Logan County, for example, agreed to let the Amish build their own pits as a compromise. Holmes County, with the state's largest Amish population, says the Amish follow the rules.
Ohio Amish garnered national headlines this year when 16 members of an eastern Ohio order were convicted and sent to prison for beard-cutting attacks on fellow Amish. The attacks came in apparent retaliation against Amish who had defied or denounced a bishop's authoritarian style in the insular community, which shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com