National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom

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The National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom [1]is an organization of non-Amish citizens which was founded in March of 1967 for the purpose of advocating for, and providing legal assistance to, the members of the Amish religion (and related Anabaptist groups) who had or might come into conflict with state authorities on matters relating to the practice of their religion.

The impetus for the formation of the Committee came from a Lutheran minister, William C. Lindholm, who became interested in issues related to Amish religious freedom as a result of the controversy surrounding Amish attitudes towards public schools in Iowa in 1965.[2]

The founding meeting of the Committee took place during the National Invitational Conference on State Regulation of Non-Public Schools, organized and directed by Donald A. Erickson[3], who would later testify as an expert witness during the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court hearings on the Amish school question (in the case Wisconsin v. Yoder). Among the founding or early members of the Committee were (in addition to Lindholm, who was elected its first chairman), Dr. John Hostetler[4], Dr. Franklin Littell, and Fr. Robert Drinan.

While the most notable case with which the Committee has been involved is the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case Wisconsin v. Yoder, concerned with education and the Amish, the Committee has also taken up other cases related to Amish life, including those involving slow moving vehicles, land use and zoning, medical issues, and photo identification, among others.

Notes

  1. The official web site of the NCARC is maintained at: http://www.holycrosslivonia.org/amish/
  2. Interestingly, Rev. Lindholm's uncle, Paul F. Johnston, was the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Iowa at the time. Lindholm's involvement in the Iowa school controversy brought him into conflict with his uncle who was charged with enforcing the state's law against the Amish.
  3. see Donald A. Erickson (editor), Public Controls for Non-Public Schools, a collection of papers coming out of the proceedings of the Conference.
  4. Dr. Hostetler is the author of Amish Society, considered the definitive work on the Amish, their religion, and their culture.