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Judge: Amish Can Skip Orange Safety Tape

October 22, 2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Members of a conservative Amish sect that believe gaudy decorations violate their beliefs do not have to use orange reflective triangles on their buggies, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled.

The panel also ordered that a lower court throw out $2,565 in fines that 20 members of the Swartzentruber Amish received for not using the triangles, which the state requires on all slow-moving vehicles.

The plain-dressing Swartzentruber prefer gray reflective tape and a lantern. Gray or white tape is legal in nine states for use on slow vehicles, including Ohio, where the sect lived until a few years ago.

The Amish say the tape is as effective as the triangles, although state transportation officials dispute that.

The court’s 2-1 ruling overturned a 2002 decision that the state had a compelling public safety interest in requiring the triangles. The appeals court judges ruled Monday that the state did not produce evidence that would allow them to require triangles on the back of buggies.

Donna Doblick, the private attorney who represented the Amish for free along with the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the state didn’t prove whether buggy visibility contributed to crashes with vehicles. The prosecutor and state transportation officials did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

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On the Net: http://www.amishwebportal.com

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