Glimpse of Yesteryear
In the early 1940s, Amish families were often still engaged in working toward being able to educate their children in accordance with their values and…
In the early 1940s, Amish families were often still engaged in working toward being able to educate their children in accordance with their values and beliefs. Some even moved their households from places that had laws odious to them. For example, several Old Order households moved from Lancaster County to a new settlement in Saint Mary’s County, Md., because of conflicts over Pennsylvania’s school attendance laws.
By 1941, there were about 21,000 Amish living in North America. They were valued by many as good, hard working, law-abiding citizens. Largely because of this, in February of 1941, the United States and Canada, seeing how the international situation was going, adopted alternative service options for conscientious objectors (COs). For the United States, it was called American Civilian Public Service (CPS) and for the Canadians, it was the Canadian Alternative Service Work (ASW). This action allowed righteous COs to continue practicing their beliefs while giving them options for helping their country in a time of danger.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. America began military conscription. About 772 Old Order Amish men were drafted, and all of them declared themselves COs. Some Amish draftees were assigned to work on nonmilitary projects and stayed in special CO camps. These men labored in forestry projects, hospitals, social work and on farms. Others received farm deferments and worked at home. Their well known skills in agricultural production received recognition for supporting the national interest during war by providing food for their countrymen at home and abroad and for helping feed many Europeans.
On May 8, 1945, the war in Europe ended. The war in the Pacific ended on Aug. 15, 1945. However, by 1948, international tensions caused President Truman to reinstate the military draft. It was his goal to establish a large peacetime standing army. The draft completely exempted COs. But in 1950, the Korean War began and with the U.S. military entering combat, the draft system no longer exempted conscientious objectors. Drafted Amish men could enter some type of alternative service as part of the I-W program where COs spend two years working in government or nonprofit organizations that benefit society. However, most of these organizations existed outside of the men’s home communities.
In 1954, a new version of the Social Security Act was legislated. It protected every working American, including Amish self-employed farmers and other workers. The Amish viewed Social Security as a form of insurance and decided they would not receive the benefits. They sent a petition with 14,000 signatures asking to be released from the tax. The Amish believe they do not need Social Security because it is the duty of church members to care for each other’s material needs. In 1958, after some Amish refused to pay Social Security, the IRS began to confiscate property. Finally, in 1965, the U.S. Congress exempted the Amish from participating in Social Security. Today, Amish families fill out IRS Form 4029 after a child is born to exempt them from Social Security; they do not pay into it or receive payments from it.
Meanwhile, in August of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson committed American combat troops to the War in Vietnam. The draft became an issue once more.
For information on the events at the Geauga County Historical Society’s Burton Century Village Museum, call 440-834-1492 or visit www.geaugahistorical.org.
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