EBENSBURG, Pa. – The Amish of Ebensburg live like it’s the early 20th century, stopping time in the year 1910. But their neighbors say they are stopping traffic.
Local residents call the Amish buggy a "road hazard" and say they have to almost come to a complete stop to get around the old-world vehicles that "drive down the road at turtle speeds."
A palpable tension is brewing between modern people and the plain people. The Swartzentruber Amish have refused to put new-fangled reflectors on their buggies, unlike some less strict Amish.
"The vehicle code in Pennsylvania requires a slow moving vehicle emblem on every farm tractor or horse drawn vehicle, and they fall into that category," Assistant District Attorney Heath Long said.
But Donna Doblick, an attorney representing the Amish, counters that this isn't about traffic, it’s about principle.
"They are very reluctant, as a matter of religious principle to accept any advancements that would propel them into the modern world," Doblick said.
Their clothing is hand-sewn and their barns are unadorned. Forcing these Amish to use modern reflectors, their attorney said, violates their faith.
"It is central to their way of living and their relation to God that their buggy be plain and unadorned," she said.
Residents say it's a safety issue, but Doblick said it's "bias against this particular group of Amish."
Yet Assistant District Attorney Long said this is not the case.
"This is just uniform enforcement of the vehicle code in the state of Pennsylvania, nothing more," he said.
Both sides recently pleaded their case in court and a judge is set to rule on the case as early as this week. As for the tension with town residents, the Amish hope that will become a thing of the past.
"I think that everyone wishes that this was over and done with," Doblick said.