Glimpse of Yesteryear
In the last half of the 20th century, the Amish continued to work toward autonomous schools and an acceptable solution to the draft. Both of…
In the last half of the 20th century, the Amish continued to work toward autonomous schools and an acceptable solution to the draft. Both of these areas went well for them, in part because of the sympathy their Yankee neighbors felt for their causes.
As far back as 1937, when Amish formed the Delegation for Common Sense Schooling and wrote a petition to regain control over the education of their children, of the more than 3,000 signatures collected, most were from Yankees. By the mid-1960s, public sympathy for the Amish desire to educate their children in their own tradition had gained even more support and in 1967, non-Amish lawyers, academics and religious leaders formed the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom.
Also, in 1967, the Old Order Amish Steering Committee emerged in response to concerns over the negative impact of Selective Service policies on draft-age Amish boys. The Korean Wars I-W program was still in place, but the Amish were worried because it regularly placed young Amish men in the outside world for two years and some never returned home. The committee lobbied government officials for changes in alternative service policies for Amish COs, or conscientious objectors.
The Steering Committee and the Selective Service (military draft) finalized an agreement to let young men serve their I-W alternative service on Amish-owned farms instead of outside nonprofit organizations when drafted. Amish COs could serve two years on farms leased by the Amish church, thereby keeping them within the church fold and removing the enticements of the modern world.
By 1971,the North American Amish population surpassed 50,000, and thereafter, doubled every 19 to 20 years.
In 1972, the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom opened a lawsuit, Wisconsin v. Yoder, demanding that the Amish be exempted from the states schooling codes. The case worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately sided with the Amish, allowing them to withdraw their children from schools (private or public) after the eighth grade.
The 1990 census counted about 123,000 Amish living in North America.
Then, on Oct. 2, 2006, the Amish became the center of attention to people who had little interest in their schooling problems or their status as conscientious objectors. On that day, Charles Carl Roberts IV shot 10 Amish schoolgirls, killing five of them before taking his own life in an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa. Reaching out to the assailants widow and parents a few hours after the incident, Amish people, individually and as a community, forgave Roberts and extended such grace to his family that they earned their religion widespread recognition as an exceptional Christian community even by those who heretofore had no knowledge of them.
The latest available information shows the Amish population in the United States being more than 150,000 and growing. This is not only due to large family size (seven children on average), but also to a church-member retention rate of approximately 80 percent.
For information on the events at the Geauga County Historical Societys Burton Century Village Museum, call 440-834-1492 or visit www.geaugahistorical.org.
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