MAYFIELD, Kentucky (AP) — On Jacob Gingerich's farm in western Kentucky, there is no phone or electricity for his family of 12 children. He even sees putting an orange safety triangle on their black horse-drawn buggy as a violation of the simple and pious life his Amish faith requires.
He and other Amish men in rural Graves County have become scofflaws for not using the reflective signs, ignoring state law, disobeying orders from a judge and even going to jail for not paying fines.
To Gingerich and others in the conservative Amish community known as Swartzentruber, using the bright reflective symbol amounts to blasphemy. They consider it garish and believe they should rely on God, not symbols, for protection on the highway.
"We try to lead a simple, plain life," Gingerich said from his workshop as blue and navy shirts and pants fluttered on a clothesline outside. "Putting that orange triangle on the back of our buggy would not leave our buggies plain anymore."
He and seven other Amish men were sent to jail in September for a few days for refusing to pay fines related to vehicle sign violations. A ninth Amish man avoided jail time when a local resident paid his fine. At least two other Kentucky counties, Grayson and Logan, have recently summoned men into court for driving unmarked buggies. A court date on Thursday could land more in jail.
A group of Swartzentruber Amish who recently met with an Associated Press reporter at Gingerich's farm fear they would be treated as outcasts by other Swartzentruber communities around the country if they use the safety triangles.
Many Amish use the triangles with little objection, but Swartzentruber is a breakaway order that follows even stricter rules on modesty, humility and behavior than other Amish.
"If we go ahead and put it on, the other groups of the Amish in other states, they would shun us," said Joe Stutzman, another man who has been jailed.
The issue over triangles has come up before in other states with Amish populations. Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania have allowed exemptions from the orange triangles, and courts in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan have sided with the religious freedom argument.