State Not Likely to Appeal Amish Premises ID Ruling

A Clark County judge's decision that gives Amish farmers the religious right to be exempted from the state's premises identification registration law is not likely to be appealed. District Attorney Darwin Zwieg told WCCN Radio in Neillsville that officials with the Department of Agriculture in Madison recently decided not to pursue an appeal of Judge Jon Counsell's March 9 ruling that the state's mandatory premise registration law infringed on an Amish farmer's religious beliefs.

Zwieg fought on behalf of the state during last year's legal battle against Emanuel Miller Jr. of Loyal. He's the farmer who caught heat with DATCP for refusing to register his property under the law--which requires anyone who keeps, houses, or co-mingles livestock to register their premises with the state.

As Wisconsin Ag Connection had reported during the case, the Amish believe the requirement infringes on their religious believes because it could eventually result in the tagging of all animals, or the 'Mark of the Beast.' But prosecutors felt with mandatory premise ID, the process of tracking down potentially at-risk farms, would be much easier if there were an animal disease outbreak.

It was noted during court proceedings that the Amish do provide their names and addresses when they buy and sell livestock, and Judge Counsell said that doing so should be enough for the state to track down animals in the event of a disease outbreak. He also determined that the state failed to show why alternatives, that would not affect Miller's religious freedom, would not be just as effective.

The case at one time was referred to as the state's first such prosecution, until a Polk County judge ruled in October 2009 that Patrick Monchilovich of Cumberland violated the now five-year-old rule after he refused to register his premises. He was ordered to pay a $200 civil forfeiture and about $190 in court costs.