Happy Independence Day? For whom? Women, LGBTQIA+, and children still have no rights in the practicing Amish population (~450,000 in the US). They’re denied a long list of their Constitutional rights in the name of extreme religious freedom by the unconstitutional US Supreme Court case Wisconsin v. Yoder. The Amish religion is 100% controlled by males. No female is allowed to be a member of the clergy and meaningfully participate in the decision-making process about the rules/laws of the Church. Baptized women and girls are threatened with shunning and excommunication if they report, or want to report, crimes (e.g., rape, child molesters, abuse of any kind) to outside law enforcement.
Amish children are prohibited from attending school past the 8th grade. 99% of children go to Amish-only parochial schools where they’re forbidden from learning STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), civics, law, fine arts, and sex education, etc. The purpose of school is for learning arithmetic and basic reading and writing in English. Some Amish communities don’t even allow history or geography.
Depending on the community, Amish children grow into young adults who don’t know where Canada is––even if their state of residence borders Canada––and whether they’re an American citizen, if they even know what the word citizen means and understand the question. Our Amish society teaches us that we’re Amish; we don’t identify as American. Amish teachers aren’t state-certified and they don’t have an education past the 8th grade themselves. The average Amish adult has a 5th grade literacy level and 3rd/4th grade numeracy.
There’s no such concept as consent in Amish marriages. Women are punished if they try to say no whenever the husband demands sex. Most women and girls don’t even know that they have the human and Constitutional right to say no to sex or sexual abuse.
LGBTQIA+ people are forced to stay in the closet for their entire lives or give up the only world they’ve ever known by exiting the community, just for a chance to be who they are. Anything not straight is deemed even worse than rape in the eyes of the Amish religion. In a recent conversation with one of my practicing Amish cousins, she ranted on about how “disgusting” and “sinful” it is for people to be attracted to someone of the same sex. But when I brought up the topic of the rampant sexual abuse in the Amish Church, she suggested that it’s better for Amish children to be raped and molested than for them to know that they have the right under US law to be protected from such abuse. Her response to both topics is by far not unusual; this is what the Amish Church teaches or promotes explicitly and/or implicitly.
Today is the 4th of July in the United States, in the 21st century CE. When are we going to set our own citizens free? Citizens who are born into the Amish religion and citizens from a long list of other religiously abused, educationally deprived, and rights denied minority groups. . . .
And last but not least, when are we going to address our crimes against Native peoples, from over 1,000 tribes, whose land we occupy and for whom Independence Day is certainly not a day for celebrating “freedom”?
To education and children’s rights,
Executive Director, Amish Heritage Foundation