- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Amish family faces eviction from their home after being found in contempt of court for refusing to comply with building codes on the grounds that doing so would violate the religious community’s ban on modern technology.

At a Monday hearing, a Circuit Court judge ordered the Eau Claire County sheriff’s office to evict Amos and Vera Borntreger, a farming couple with four children under the age of six, from their home in the Old Order Amish community of Fairchild, Wisconsin.

The order comes as the latest development in a five-year battle with the Borntregers, who like other Wisconsin Amish families say they cannot even sign Uniform Dwelling Code permits without violating their faith.

“The Amish object to the new UDC requirements that require modern technology such as smoke alarms—a modern convenience expressly prohibited by their religion,” said the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom, Eau Claire Chapter, in a Monday statement.

“The Amish are willing to pay the fees, but claim that even signing the permit violates their religious beliefs because the form states they would be ‘subject to’ regulations that require modern electricity and plumbing,” the statement said.

Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said the judge’s order leaves his office with little wiggle room, although he did not tell reporters when the eviction would occur.

“It’s one of those things where the judge was emphatic that this doesn’t go against their religion, it’s about getting permits,” Mr. Cramer told WEAU-TV in Wisconsin. “So, it’s pretty much in stone and we’ll move forward on it.”

The Borntregers are one of about a dozen families that has been charged in recent years with violations of UDC codes requiring a building permit and a sanitary permit.

Defense attorney Matthew Krische said the Assistant Corporation Counsel levied a fine of $42,700 against the family, which he called “unconscionable,” according to the NCARF press release.

“The amount of the fine is unconscionable. This is not a criminal case,” Mr. Krische said in the statement.

Under the eviction order, the sheriff would remove the family, post an eviction placard on the door and padlock the entrance. The family had been ordered to sign the permits or vacate the premises by March 1.

County corporation counsel Heather Wolske said the rules are intended to ensure the dwelling’s safety.

“What we’re requiring the defendants to do is file an application, and drawings, and permit fees to obtain a building permit so that a building inspector can go in the home and inspect it,” Ms. Wolske told WEAU-TV.

At least 13 Amish families in the community have gone to court since 2005 over the UDC permits, which observers say could ultimately result in the Amish leaving the Wisconsin community. Amish families began settling in Wisconsin in 1909.

“A day may soon come when there are no more Amish in our county because they are beginning to wonder if it would be better to move to another state,” said David Mortimer, an NCARF member who testified as an expert witness in an Amish trial last year, in a statement. “Sand frac mines have already made generous offers on some Amish farms.”

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