from – National Assn of Farm Animal Welfare – Dec. 31, 2009
A hotly contested court case centered on a farmers’ religious beliefs is now in the hands of a judge. Last week, Clark County District Attorney Darwin Zwieg filed his final brief in a case that jousts the state of Wisconsin against the historic religious convictions of Amish Christians.
On behalf of Miller, the court appointed Bonnie Walksmuth to present his case. Amish Christians normally shun court conflicts and are known for their peaceful humble demeanor. Thousands of immigrants fled Europe to settle in Wisconsin and the US to find safety for their religious freedoms. Now, as the court room was filled with concerned and broken-hearted Amish, an era of freedom was at high risk.
In Wisconsin v. Emanuel Miller Jr., Zwieg alleges the area farmer stands in violation of a new state law requiring all properties where livestock exist be registered with the state. Miller admits as much, but testifies the rule infringes on his religious beliefs. According to testimony during an evidentiary hearing in the matter, those in Miller’s faith fear eternal damnation if they abide by the law, which they feel is a pre-cursor to the biblical ‘Mark of the Beast.’ The issue is not an Amish only conviction, but also shared by Bible believers of many denominations.
Not just a new pestiferous state regulation, but a historic way of life was put on trial in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Miller was charged under complaint for civil forfeiture because he refused to surrender his life holdings into the state’s NAIS property enrollment surveillance system.
The DA says the state has a compelling interest to promote food and animal safety, human health and the economy of the state of Wisconsin. He points to testimony from DATCP employees, who stated mandatory premise ID could improve their ability to respond to an animal disease.
Dr. Paul McGraw, head of the Wisconsin Animal Health Dept. of Ag. was questioned, under oath, by Judge Counsell regarding the necessity of the premise registration system and whether the rule had shown to be a benefit to disease control in Wisconsin to which Dr. McGraw responded, “No”. The judge asked if it had been a benefit in any other state implemented and again, “No”.
In his brief, Zwieg notes a sincerely held religious belief should not give any Wisconsin resident the ability to refuse enforcements and regulations of the new state law. Zwieg crudely compares sincere Christians with corrupt cults of history to make the point that religious beliefs are not of any real consideration to the state of Wisconsin. The DATCP in Wisconsin was aware of the historic Bible beliefs of devout Christians and considered it a minor issue when laws were created to demand property enrollments.
Wisconsin enforces a mandatory NAIS although USDA on a federal level remains quasi voluntary for NAIS enrollment. At 16 recent listening sessions held by USDA Sec. Vilsack, over 90% of attendees opposed any form of government enforced animal ID. Nation wide the proposed NAIS program has been considered the worst idea, with the least proven value in USDA history. Basically, the NAIS, as proposed, is dead as a voluntary national program. The spark of life still exists in Wisconsin.
The state of Wisconsin is fulfilling their agreements with USDA to enforce state mandatory NAIS. The Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, and the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has received cooperative agreements totaling over 13 million dollars during a period from 2002 through 2009. According to state surveillance records there are 51,373 livestock properties in Wisconsin with 61,507 registered, to date, showing 119.7% in compliance. An estimated 7,320 have refused to surrender properties to the mandatory ruling.
As a result of Judge Counsell’s decision, either the religious folk in Wisconsin will be incarcerated by the hundreds, or they will break down their beliefs and be shattered by the state like a stomped soda can! The other option is for the state of Wisconsin to return the $13,000,000 to USDA. Go figure?
Attorney Walksmuth, representing Miller has already filed her final brief. The case now goes to Clark County Circuit Court Judge Jon Counsell for consideration.
Thanks to Brad Headtel, Marti Oakley and The PPJ Gazette.