MAYFIELD, Ky. - A group of Amish men were sent to jail in western Kentucky yesterday for refusing to pay fines for breaking a state highway law that requires their horse-drawn buggies to be marked with orange reflective triangles.
The men have a religious objection to the bright orange signs, which they say are flashy and conflict with their pledge to live low-key and religious lives.
Ananias Byler, the first of 10 Amish men who appeared in Graves County District Court yesterday, was sentenced to 10 days in jail. The men were jailed after being found in contempt of court for refusing to pay fines. Byler told Judge Deborah Crooks that he would not pay the $489 he owes.
“I totally understand your objection,’’ the judge told Byler. “But you’re in violation, and it’s not up to me to change the law.’’
The men belong to a conservative breakaway group of Amish known as Swartzentruber. They live simply, with no electricity, plumbing, or appliances. But in recent years they have been running afoul of the law here for refusing to use the triangles on their buggies.
Jacob Gingerich said he and the other men will continue to refuse to pay the fines. Gingerich owed more than $600 and was sentenced to 13 days in jail.
Their sentences ranged from three to 13 days for fines ranging from $153 to $627. Serving the jail time will clear their fines off the books.
County Jailer Randy Haley said the men were staying together yesterday in a large holding cell. They will wear special dyed jail uniforms because they object to the orange jumpsuits.
The issue over the orange triangles has come up in other states with Amish populations. Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania have allowed exemptions for the Swartzentrubers.
But police and prosecutors in Kentucky say the orange triangles are the law because they help motorists see the buggies and avoid collisions.