Are the Amish Planning a Mass Exodus From New York?
A family member who lives in an Upstate New York community where there are several Amish families recently asked me if I knew that many of the Amish in New York are planning a mass exodus as soon as this spring.
When I asked why the Amish wanted to leave the state and where they wanted to go, she told me that through conversation with her Amish neighbors, she learned that many are planning to move into Pennsylvania and Ohio and that the decision has to do with feeling like they're facing religious persecution from the state government in New York.
The Morning Journal News in Lisbon, Ohio reports that many Amish have moved there from New York due to the stricter New York building codes. New York has regulations for building and residential structures and many Amish have been fined because they’ve not obtained state-mandated building permits. Many also have also been fined for not installing smoke detectors in their homes.
While the idea of obtaining proper building codes and installing smoke detectors may not seem like a big deal to the average person, the Amish believe they abide by God’s laws, not the laws of man.
The Amish fighting back against building permits is nothing new. In 2009, the Syracuse Post-Standard shared the story of eleven Amish families in Watertown who filed a lawsuit concerning building codes claiming religious discrimination.
The Amish are also against New York’s overturn of the law banning religious exemptions to vaccinations for students.
In 2019, a lawsuit was filed in Rochester by an Amish family in which three of the family’s children attend a private Amish-run school. The overturn of the religious exemption means that the law required all students to be fully vaccinated in order to attend school and outside-the-house childcare.
In the lawsuit, the Amish family claimed the Amish fled Europe in the 18th century to escape religious persecution and now, they’re facing it again. The Amish are adamantly against vaccinations.
In the case of the Rochester Amish family, a New York court rejected the lawsuit challenging the state's vaccination law. Justice Daniel Doyle of the New York Supreme Court said that “a parent may not assert free exercise [of religion] as a grounds for refusing to obtain medical attention for a child.”
A third issue the Amish are facing is a proposal by the New York State Education Department in which nonpublic schools would have to prove they are offering students the equivalent education that they would receive in public schools.
Under the new proposal, a nonpublic school would be required to prove its equivalency in one of the following ways: that it is accredited, that it is an approved Private Special Education School or State-Supported School, it is a high school registered by the Board of Regents, it participates in an international baccalaureate program, it delivers instruction approved by the United States government or it regularly uses assessments approved by the Department.
Whether or not the Amish pack up their homes in New York and move elsewhere remains to be seen but the logistics of doing so is a discussion being had in hundreds of Amish homes across the state. All of this is interesting because, in 2011, the Associated Press reported that Amish were leaving Pennsylvania and Ohio for New York in huge numbers.
Apparently, the saying about the grass not always being greener on the other side holds some truth.