Amish are freeloaders.

They don't pay taxes or contribute to the economy outside their little, closed circles.

They don't pay in to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, but benefit from them.

Their buggies carve up roads they don't have to pay to repair.

A man I met while covering an event nearly a year ago spewed those falsehoods and more about the Amish.

Soon after that, I overheard two elderly women in a store - it was before last October's Amish shootings - spouting the same nonsense.

They were not city people who just moved to this area, but lifelong residents of Lancaster County.

Frankly, their feelings stunned me and I've been simmering to write this column ever since.

It's tax time - high time to set the record straight about Amish and taxes.

I talked to an Amish leader and researched what I already knew: Amish pay taxes.

Amish pay school and property taxes just like you and me, and since most live on 50- to 100-acre farms, they pay more than their fair share.

Farmers only use a fraction of the local government services like schooling and police that their property tax dollars pay for, while non-farmers on average use more in services than what their taxes cover.

Amish take it to another level, because they don't send their children to public schools.

Amish taxes help us build schools and football stadiums, and buy desks, computers, musical instruments, sports uniforms and supplies, etc. for our children. Then they build one-room schools to educate their own.

Ask your superintendent what school district budgets would look like if the thousands of Amish children in the county all of a sudden showed up for public education.

Local police departments will tell you Amish generally don't break the law as often as non-Amish, and they certainly don't report as many crimes committed against them.

Back to taxes. Amish pay earned income taxes to Uncle Sam.

An Amish spokesman said they take very seriously the Bible verse that says to give Caesar what is Caesar's.

Amish are exempt from paying taxes for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because they have waived the right to receive benefits.

They pull together as a community to pay medical bills.

Some Amish businesses employ non-Amish, so some of them pay Social Security taxes.

Also, you can't claim a religious exemption unless you are a member of the church, so some young Amish pay Social Security taxes for a few years.

An Amish spokesman said very few ever accept a Social Security payment.

There are other exceptions, but they are rare.

What about the common gripe that Amish don't buy gas, so they don't pay their fair share for road upkeep.

One Amish spokesman recently told me that for every mile Amish travel in horse and buggies, they go two in gas-powered vehicles like you and me.

Many of the 300 or so Amish taxi drivers here will tell you that through their charges, Amish do pay for gas.

The idea of Amish not contributing to the economy or their communities is ridiculous.

Yes, many shop mostly in Amish stores but they also patronize non-Amish businesses and yard sales for their needs.

A large Amish family spent a week vacationing at Raystown Lake at the same time as my family this past summer.

While they may be more liberal than some Amish, they wore modern-looking bathing suits, played volleyball and snacked on candy bars and chips.

Amish certainly make and sell goods for the rest of us.

That milk you're drinking? It might have come from an Amish dairy.

The sheds outside the homes in your development? They might be Amish built.

Amish help put out fires by volunteering at local fire departments.

Don't get me started on how critical they are to the county's tourism industry.

We are lucky to live in a place with Amish as our neighbors, on many levels.

Next time you hear someone say otherwise, yank a straw hat down over their mouth.

  • CONTACT US: rrobinson@LNPnews.com or 481-6032. The Voices column is written by a rotating team of New Era staffers.

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