- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2015

Law-enforcement officers strung yellow police tape across the door of a Wisconsin Amish home and declared it unfit for habitation Thursday in a dispute over the family’s refusal to comply with county rules on modern appliances such as smoke alarms.

Supporters said Amos and Vera Borntreger and their four children were not removed from their home in Fairchild, Wisconsin, but that they were told to leave by the Eau Claire County sheriff and a deputy. The officers also said that they would return in a week.

“Thankfully, they did not physically put them out,” said David Mortimer, a local advocate for the Amish.

A county judge found the Borntregers in contempt of court Monday after they refused to sign required building and sanitary permits for their home. The family belongs to the Old Order Amish, who do not use electrical appliances and other modern conveniences for religious reasons.

Attorney Matthew Krische, who represents the family, said he would file appeals this week in county and state court to allow the Borntregers to remain in their home, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported.

The sheriff stapled a placard to the front door saying that the home “could not be used for human habitation, occupancy or use,” along with the “Do Not Cross” police tape. So far the family has not left, Mr. Mortimer said.

Local residents say the county began cracking down on Amish families several years ago after adopting the state’s Uniform Dwelling Code, which has tougher requirements on items such as smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and indoor plumbing.

“They’re good people and Eau Claire County is treating them with disrespect,” said Erick Woods, a non-Amish neighbor.

Republican state Rep. Kathleen Bernier says she will attempt to amend the state budget bill to include a religious exemption from certain UDC rules for the Amish, who do not have churches and use their homes for community worship.

Those in support of the permitting rules, including the Wisconsin Building Association, argue that Amish homes without smoke alarms present a fire and safety danger.

Mr. Mortimer said the sheriff’s office was more deferential to the Borntregers than to another Amish couple, Henry and Sarah Mast, who were “placard-evicted” in 2012 as part of a building-code dispute.

“The last Amish placarding-eviction, the sheriff gave them two hours’ notice to gather their things, then physically walked them out of their house (putting his hand on Henry’s shoulder) and padlocked the door,” Mr. Mortimer said in an email.

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