Church vs. State: The battle of sanitation systems in Fillmore C - KXLT - Fox 47 Rochester MN News, Weather, Sports #rochmn

Church vs. State: The battle of sanitation systems in Fillmore County

Posted: Updated:
PRESTON, Minn. (FOX 47) -

It's a controversial, re-occurring issue: religion verses state.

In Fillmore County, there's an ongoing battle between the Amish and the government, stemming from their steadfast religious beliefs.

Approximately 22 Amish families in Fillmore County are being affected by a disagreement with the county and state about installing septic systems on their property.

Monday afternoon, Abraham and Lydia Swartzentruber had their hearing at the Fillmore County Courthouse.

The couple is battling the court system on account of their religious freedom.

"The Amish position is they are challenging the government's requirements that they put in a septic system on their property,” said Phil Villaume, an Attorney at Law for the Amish in Fillmore County.

Part of the Amish's steadfast belief system includes living apart from requirements of government.

"Since this is a government-required law, the Amish are taking the position that they shouldn't have to comply because it violates their religious principals,” said Villaume.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said septic systems are critical for health and safety.

"It's really important that we treat gray water because it can contain bacteria and pathogens and other pollutants, and so no matter the source of gray water, under Minnesota law, it does need to be treated,” said Cathy Rofshus, of the MPCA.

MPCA officials said they've faced many cases of this nature.

"We've been able to find solutions, while preventing pollution while respecting their religious rights,” said Rofshus.

The Swartzentrubers are also using their first amendment right as an argument.

"They have their own drainage system that they would use or have used that really is sufficient," said Villaume.

But, the MCPA maintains septic systems are key, due to the porous geography of the area.

“Any contaminates on the ground surface can easily reach groundwater use for drinking. And that's why it's really important that in Fillmore county you have systems in the right place, that are designed properly to prevent pollution," explained Rofshus.

As for the Swartzentrubers, the judge hasn't made a decision on their verdict, and has taken the matter under advisement until after business hours on October 17th, with the hope that a decision will be made on October 18th.

Powered by Frankly