Behavioral rules: Since arriving in North America, there have
occasionally been disputes within the Amish community. Some members wanted
Construct churches and hold meetings there rather than in homes.
Educate their children beyond the elementary grades.
Allow their clothes to include buttons or pockets.
Vote or become involved in public life.
Theological disputes: There have also been disagreements in
beliefs and religious practices:
"Stream" baptism: Baptisms had traditionally been
held in individual homes. In the mid-19th century, some Amish wanted to
follow the tradition of Jesus who was baptized in the Jordan river. They
had candidates kneel in a river while the bishop poured water over their
head. After much debate, the church decided to accept both methods as
valid. Stream baptism was phased out around 1910.
Universalism: The concept that all persons would be
eventually "saved," Nobody would spend
eternity being tortured in Hell.
Hell: Whether it exists as a place where people are
Education: The Amish's insistence on terminating formal schooling
after the 8th grade conflicted with many state's laws which require children
to remain in school until their mid-teens. Some Amish avoided this problem
by migrating from Pennsylvania to other states, like Missouri, which had
more relaxed laws. A ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1972 (Wisconsin v.
Yoder) recognized their right to limit education of their children.
Accidents: Highway accidents between motor vehicles and Amish
black horse and buggies are a concern to many. Horse-drawn vehicles
generally travel between five and eight miles an hour. Some Amish are
reluctant to mount a slow-moving-vehicle sign on the back of their buggies.
In some states, they line the back of their buggies with reflective tape as
an alternative to a sign.
Polio: There was an outbreak of polio in 1979 among Amish in
Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin Missouri and Canada. The North American
population of Amish was essentially unvaccinated against polio at the time.
The spread of the disease was halted by an emergency vaccination campaign.
This was the last significant outbreak of the disease in the U.S.
Genetic diseases: Some Amish groups have a very limited gene pool. For
example, the vast majority of Amish in Lancaster County, PA, are descendents of about 200
Swiss citizens who emigrated in the mid 1700s. Because they traditionally do not marry
outsiders and because few outsiders have joined the order, the "community
has been essentially a closed genetic population for more than 12
generations."Thus, intermarriage has brought to the fore certain genetic
mutations that were present in the initial genetic pool (as they are in any
population), making the Amish host to several inherited disorders."
include dwarfism, mental retardation and a large group of metabolic
disorders. One in 200 have glutaric aciduria type I; they are born healthy,
but can experience permanent neurological damage when a mild illness
strikes. From 1988 to 2002, the Clinic for Special Children in
Lancaster County, PA, has "encountered 39 heritable disorders among the
Amish and 23 among the Mennonites.....For 18 of the disorders seen regularly
at the clinic, the incidences are high, approximately 1/250 to 1/500 births"
There are two obvious
ways to reduce the incidence of these genetic diseases towards levels experienced
in the general population:
A massive influx of converts to the Amish faith by outsiders.
Artificial insemination using sperm donated by non-Amish.
Testing of Amish adults for genetic diseases and persuading any that
test positive to refrain from having children.
Unfortunately, all of these paths are probably unacceptable -- and perhaps offensive -- to the Amish.
And so, the genetic diseases will probably increase in frequency over time.
TV reality show: On 2004-JAN-18, UPN , and CBS (who oversees UPN) announced a
new reality show called "Amish in the City." The show
involved five Amish men and women, aged 18 to 24. They were matched up with six
"mainstream young adults" chosen by UPN who were not told in
advance that their housemates were Amish. They lived together in a house in the
The creators insisted that the program
will be "totally respectful" and is "not intended to insult." However, the
show would appear to violate one of the fundamental practices of the Amish,
the prohibition of graven images, including pictures, movies, or TV images.
"...a campaign to stop the show has been started by lawmakers, rural groups,
Pennsylvania Dutch tourism officials and representatives of the Amish....The
'Center for Rural Strategies,' a nonprofit organization based in Whitesburg,
Ky., has helped organize opposition to the Amish show." Its president, Dee
Davis, said: "Once again Viacom has created a reality show where rural
people were going to be these curios...Viacom's got plenty of ways to make
money without ridiculing rural people." (Viacom owns CBS and UPN.)
Representative Joe Pitts organized a campaign against the show, sight
unseen. Joseph Yoder, an Amish cultural historian, said that he was
opposed to the "whole thing of televising the Amish and putting Amish people
on TV [because] they're trying to stay separated from the world."
"During the [initial] episode, the Amish begin to experience unfamiliar
technologies, from the mundane (escalators, parking meters) to the advanced
(airplanes), and new foods, including sushi and avocados. Together, all of the
roommates visit scenic Los Angeles destinations, including an emotional
first-time visit to the ocean for some of the Amish and a spectacular rooftop
view of the downtown skyline." 7
The show was shown to a group of TV critics who "seemed unoffended." The first
episode was shown on 2004-JUL-28, the ninth and last was on SEP-15. A
description of each episode is available online. 8
Massacre of school children: Three
girls were murdered in Nickel Mines, Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania on 2006-OCT-03 by a lone gunman. Seven more were wounded; of these,
two died later in hospital, and one is not expected to live. More details
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
D. Holmes Morton, et al., "Pediatric Medicine and the Genetic
Disorders of the Amish and Mennonite People of Pennsylvania." American
Journal of Medical Genetics Part C (Semin. Med. Genet.) 121C:517 (2003).
http://www.clinicforspecialchildren.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
Wade Paulsen, "UPN releases 'Amish in the City' contestant details,
screens premiere for TV critics group," Reality TV World, 2004-JUL-22,