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Southeast Minnesota: Amish beliefs conflict with building permit rules

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An Amish couple in southeast Minnesota has pleaded not guilty to a pair of misdemeanors for building without a permit on the grounds that the regulation violates their religious beliefs.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports that Ammon J. and Sarah J. Swartzentruber of Harmony entered the pleas Wednesday in Fillmore County District Court. They've each been charged with two counts of violating a county zoning ordinance.

A few weeks ago, KTTC in Rochester reported that the family did not request a permit for the home that they're building because it would have made them install a septic system, which is required if running water is used indoors. That's a modern convenience that contradicts their Old Order Amish beliefs.

The Swartzentrubers and others in their community haven't previously faced the building permit issue. Fillmore County adopted new treatment system ordinances in December 2013.

"We never had to do it before and we don't believe in changing,” Ammon Swartzentruber told the station.

The couple was cited in June, a month after they began construction on their new home in Harmony. They're due back in court Nov. 19.

Fillmore County is home to Minnesota's largest Amish population. Amish families traditionally shun contemporary technologies.

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