Judge finds Amish guilty

By Dan Lewerenz, The Associated Press
Friday June 07, 2002

EBENSBURG, Pa. – A judge fined 20 members of an Amish sect Thursday for refusing to put bright orange reflective triangles on their horse-drawn buggies, saying public safety overrides any religious objections. 

The plain-dressing Swartzentruber Amish had complained that the garish symbols violate their beliefs. 

Twenty members of the sect were hit with 27 fines of $95 each for failing to use slow-moving vehicle symbol. 

Their lawyer, Donna Doblick, said she will appeal. The Amish, who live near Nicktown, about 65 miles from Pittsburgh, have said they will leave Pennsylvania if they lose. 

Instead of the triangles, the Swartzentruber use a gray reflective tape and a lantern on the rear of their buggies. The gray tape is legal in nine states for use on slow-moving vehicles, including Ohio, where the sect lived until two years ago. 

But Judge Timothy Creany ruled that the state has a “compelling interest” in requiring the orange triangles — namely, keeping the Amish and other travelers safe on the road. 

Creany relied on testimony by state transportation experts who said the triangles are more visible than the tape during the day, when 61 percent of all vehicle-buggy accidents happen.