By Associated Press - Wednesday, December 18, 2019

MORENCI, Mich. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union is defending 14 Amish families in southern Michigan in a dispute with a county health department over outhouses and plumbing.

The Lenawee County Health Department has filed lawsuits, asking a judge to order property owners to comply with county waste disposal rules or face demolition.

In response Wednesday, lawyers for the families said their way of living is not a threat, and they accused the county of violating religious freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

“The county is persecuting this Amish community because of their deeply held religious beliefs that have safely guided their way of life for generations,” said Phil Mayor, an ACLU attorney. “Lenawee County residents should be outraged” by the actions of local officials.

A message seeking comment was left with the health department.

In counterclaims against the county, lawyers for the families said they adhere to “simple living” and avoid modern technology.

“This community’s commitment to live according to their religion harms no one,” said attorney Richard Schulte, who is part of the legal team.

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