U.S. Amish Refuse to Pay Social Security Tax

, Time magazine published an article about Amish resistance to the social security tax in the United States.

But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. ―Ⅰ Timothy 5:8

Muttering into their beards, a cluster of black-hatted Amish farmers watched sullenly in Canton, Ohio last week, while an auctioneer sold off livestock confiscated by the U.S. Government. On religious grounds, Amishmen had refused to pay the social security levy — 3⅜% of their own incomes — that the law demands of farmers. To satisfy the Government’s claims, federal authorities in Ohio’s Wayne and Holmes counties seized 28 head of livestock from 15 Amish farmers, seized cash assets of 50 others.

The pacifist, Bible-quoting Amish sect is a survival from the 1690s, when it was founded by a Swiss named Jacob Ammann. In some of the 50 Amish settlements scattered around the U.S. and Canada, the old ways have yielded a little to the march of centuries, but the Amishmen of central Ohio have clung steadfastly to their traditional customs and costumes. They shun automobiles, movies, even home electricity. All married men grow beards, and all men, women and children wear black headdress in public. Farming and a few related trades such as blacksmithing and harness-making are the only approved ways of earning a living. Parents refuse to send their children to public schools beyond the eighth grade — a quirk that has got the Amish into trouble with state and county authorities (Time, ). The strictest members of the sect balk at social security levies on the grounds that Ⅰ Timothy 5:8 and other Bible passages command them to take care of their own. And they do: records in Wayne and Holmes counties show not a single case of an Amishman seeking public assistance of any kind.

In their troubles with the Old Age and Survivors Insurance system, the Amish are victims of the irreversible bloat that seems to afflict social-welfare plans. From modest beginnings in , when it applied only to regular employees and nicked only 1% from their paychecks, OASI has expanded in both coverage and bite. Once Congress extended the system to farmers four years ago, it was plainly necessary for the Federal Government to make the Amish pay up: laws must apply to all alike. But the plight of the Amish was a footnote reminder that the welfare state has its victims as well as its beneficiaries, its cost in dwindling freedom as well as its payoff in expanded security.

The Amish eventually won some legal protection for their conscientious objection to mandatory government insurance — a rare example of the government conceding a tax point in the face of conscientiously-motivated civil disobedience.