Civil Liberties

Zoned Out

Taking the Amish to court.


As family farming loses its allure both socially and economically, the Amish of Huntsburg Township, Ohio, have turned to their woodworking skills to generate income. It's work that allows entire families to share in the enterprise and still maintain their core low-tech beliefs.

Enter Huntsburg's zoning laws. Township rules say home-based woodworking shops cannot exceed 1,000 square feet of floor space. The Amish quickly realized this was not big enough for a full-time woodworking business and tried to get exemptions for shops of 4,000 square feet.

Local planners would have none of it, though no residents of the town actually objected to the larger shops. Officials have hid behind legalese, and so the Amish have reluctantly turned to petition drives and court challenges–just the kind of engagement with the modern world they were trying to avoid by seeking traditional work.

"That's not the Amish way of life," Nathaniel Byler, one of the leaders of the anti-zoning Amish, told the Associated Press. "There's three words that I don't like: court, suing, judge. It's not scriptural to sue someone."?