Amish Man Suing Federal Government

In my home community in Ohio, I was taught that you are either Amish or not — there simply is no in between. One could not pick and choose which of the rules or traditions to follow and which ones to ignore.

Amish have a long memory for the martyrdom that their ancestors endured in the Old Country. We were taught, in the ways of our ancestors, to turn the other cheek when someone smites us — literally and figuratively. Lawsuits were out of the question, for any real or perceived wrongs committed against us, and the message of not using force to defend ourselves was internalized from a young age.

So when I read a report about an Amish man who is suing the federal government when he was prohibited from buying a gun for self-defense purposes because he refused to present photo identification, I was flabbergasted. Andrew Hertzler from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, claims the photo I.D. requirement violates his religious freedom and his constitutional right to possess a firearm.

Why is Andrew Hertzler willing to ignore two important tenets of the Amish faith that teach against suing and against self-defense with a firearm — to defend a minor tenet — that of not posing for photographs? Apparently he believes that rebelling against the government is easier than rebelling against the Amish rule that forbids posing for photographs. There is actually a much easier solution that doesn’t involve other people — he could leave the community that forbids the photo ID and buy a gun. Everyone has to make choices in life, and sometimes one choice precludes another.

I wonder if Hertzler has considered the ramifications of winning this lawsuit. The Amish in Lancaster are very attuned to public perception because so many of them are thriving on the tourist business. The mostly-positive perception of the Amish in the mainstream culture can change and I would assert will change if they squander the public goodwill by asking for exemptions that would give them special rights because it will breed resentment in those who are excluded.

If Amish people continue to ask for exemptions, I hope they do so for reasons far more important than owning a firearm. I have no way of knowing whether Hertzler’s lawsuit is the prevailing attitude among Amish men (which would signify that the Amish are assimilating by adopting the ideals of individual rights of mainstream society), or if he is acting on his own.

I have long asserted that the Amish Mafia is absurd, with hardly a shred of truth in this so-called “reality” television show. However, if Amish men are allowed to buy firearms without showing a photo ID, it will be harder to make such an assertion. I know how wrong-doing is often covered up in this insular culture, and that mental illness and sociopaths are just as prevalent in Amish society as in the mainstream culture. Such an exemption would not be a good thing for the people in the culture because they have no way of dealing with deviant behavior.

The values that the Amish have practiced for centuries serve as a societal conscience that cause others to examine their own values. It’s true that Amish individuals often fall short of the goodness many people perceive them to have. However, if the Amish were to assimilate into the mainstream culture, we would lose an important link to our past — a vestige of a time when community values were more important than individual desires. It is an antidote to the hyper-individualistic culture that most people experience daily.

I’m hoping Hertzler’s bishop did not know he was filing this suit. If his community works the way it used to in my original community, he will have Hertzler quietly withdraw the lawsuit and the public will hear no more about it.

Andrew Hertzler needs to decide if he is Amish or not. If he truly values the Amish ways, he will not sue, nor will he buy a gun for self-defense. The photo ID becomes a moot point.

Photo by Saloma Furlong, near Cashton, Wisconsin

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19 thoughts on “Amish Man Suing Federal Government”

  1. Well written perspective of this situation. I read about it several weeks ago and thought the same thing. He could have very easily got himself a photo ID and no one would have been the wiser if he had not told them. However, the media can distort what they tell us, so I question if he is truly Amish. Also, they mention ‘self-defense; which we immediately think of defending against another human. However, a person hunting bear during archery season generally carries a fire arm of some sort, and it might be a concealed weapon. Just my thots . . .

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Leanna. I, too, wondered if the real reason he is wanting to buy the gun is for hunting. I suppose claiming the gun is for self-defense might sound more important than claiming it is for hunting. But this is not a typical Amish perspective. I don’t think the media is distorting whether he is Amish… though he may claim to be Amish when he is not.

  2. I thought the church would put Hertzler in the bann for filing the lawsuit. Makes me wonder if Hertzler is real Amish.

  3. but if he had a photo ID,then he has to hide the gun anyway. Maybe there is more going on. If you live save in the community, you would say he doesn’t need it.
    And he has to obey Gods Word too, so that is also the government.

    1. Many Amish men do own guns because many of them hunt, so he wouldn’t need to hide the gun. And, yes, the Amish teach that one needs to obey the laws of the land, so long as they don’t interfere with their way of life. It doesn’t seem like a hardship to have no gun… many families don’t own one… Amish or not.

      1. The article states that Mr. Hertzler wishes to purchase the gun for “personnel protection”. This is the contradiction with being Amish as I see it. As you point out Saloma many Amish men own firearms for various hunting reasons and there are ways to obtain firearms legally without the need for photo ID. PA law says: Transfers of all firearms (handguns, rifles and shotguns) by a licensed dealer are subject to an instant records check of the purchaser. This might be the rub because you must provide ID proving you are who you are. Typically that means Photo ID.

        This said, PA law also allows: Rifles and shotguns may be openly transferred between unlicensed individuals. Antique firearms are exempt from the requirements regarding transfer of firearms through dealers.

        So, he has options.

        1. Thank you for this information. This is certainly a lot more than I knew. I thought that Amish men must be obtaining them somehow. Which really deepens the mystery of why Hertzler is suing the government. Perhaps someone is working through him???

  4. So have all the Amish who buy or sell guns in the states that require FOID cards been exempt from the picture-taking requirement?

  5. Pingback: Amish Man Suing Federal Government | Former Amish News

  6. What about buying guns for hunting? Wouldn’t you need a license to purchase a hunting gun also? I know many of the Amish men hunt wildlife.

    1. As I mentioned earlier, I am going to see if I can find out how Amish men have been obtaining their guns since the photo ID law went into effect. It is my understanding that you need a photo ID for buying a gun, no matter what you will use it for.

  7. Hello Saloma, When I read this I really had to think of my mother who would make a deep sigh and say “What is this world coming to”. This makes me feel very sad. We just celebrated communion in our church and I told the lady beside me how we would have to have made things right between ourselves and our church fellowship and whoever we had an issue with or we couldn’t partake in the communion. Whoever didn’t take communion would set tongues wagging of course. I am sure that not everyone was completely honest in taking care of things in a proper way but it did help to keep the church a bit more aware of how important it is not to let things slide so much that the truth couldn’t be found anymore.
    Thanks for sharing this and giving us your thots on the subject.
    Mary M.

    1. Mary, it sounds like your mother and mine could have been sisters… my mother used to do the same thing. Except in this case, I have to ask, “What are the Amish coming to?” Of course, Andrew Hertzler may not be in good standing, and has “nothing to lose.” But I hope he would have more of a “shemma” than to drag the whole Amish community with him in this law suit.

  8. One of the things I like best about your blog is that you touch on a subject at so many levels that it really makes us think. I love that, thank you!!
    When we pass people on the street we don’t think, ahhh, there goes a Baptist, a Catholic, a Lutheran, ect. We wear no outward sign of our beliefs, except perhaps a cross around our necks, but even that can be deceiving depending on who is wearing it and why.The Amish do and so the rest of us find them intriguing. We put them on a pedestal for who and what they are and we rake them through the coals for who and what they are.
    When all is said and done they are human just like the rest of us.I think many of us “English” see the Amish as the last tie to our past when life was a bit slower, God came first and community mattered.
    However, articles like this are a wake up call for us all, both English and Amish. The Bible says, “A house divided can not stand”. It seems to me that this man needs to choose which laws he is going to follow and stop putting one foot on either side of the fence before he does irreversible damage to his “house”.

    1. Pamela, thank you for your compliments about my blog. It is really gratifying to have readers like you, believe me. You, and readers like you, are the reason why I continue.

      Well said about the man suing the federal government. The whole thing is such an antitheses to Amish values.

  9. As an interesting side note I went to the NRA’s convention in 2014 when it was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was amazed at how many Amish couples I saw in the convention hall where all the various gun manufacturers had their displays. There were young as well as older folks.

    It was something I didn’t expect to see.

    1. Derek, that does not surprise me one bit. This is another example of how people have a certain idea of who the Amish are, when in fact many of these ideas are myths. Another one is that they eat only healthy and organic foods…

      Thank you for your perspective.

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