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Amish Men Sue City Of Auburn, Kentucky, Over Equine Diaper Law

Laura Ellis

Two Amish men are suing the city of Auburn, Kentucky, in Logan County, saying a city ordinance is placing a substantial burden on their freedom of religion.

The ordinance, passed in 2014, requires all horses within the city of Auburn to be outfitted with equine diapers to catch their waste.

The plaintiffs are members of the Old Order Swartzentruber Amish religion, widely considered the most conservative Amish order, and affixing diapers to their horses is not permitted by the Swartzentruber church.

Plaintiffs Dan Mast and Emanuel Miller say they and other Amish Auburn residents carry shovels with them and clean up any waste their horses leave behind.

Church law also forbids them from paying fines they see as unjust, so some Amish men have gone to trial and served jail time over the violations.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Dan Canon says the underpinnings of the religious doctrine have to do with the use of modern conveniences.

“The community as a whole has said, as a matter of religious principle, 'we’re not allowed to put these bags on our horses,'” Canon says.

He says the plaintiffs, who are 26 and 27, don't have the standing to change or challenge church doctrine.

"My clients don't have the ability to say to the entire community, and to say to their elders, 'no, we don't think that's right,'" Canon says. "That's just simply not the way the Amish community works."

Auburn officials say the ordinance is needed to protect public health and maintain clean streets.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.