Next Show: 23 Dec, 6:25am
David Belton's Emmy-nominated documentary looks at life within an intensely private and little understood community whose beliefs raise important questions about religious liberty in American life.
The Amish Church was founded more than 300 years ago in Europe and flourished in the US through the 18th and 19th centuries. Much like their neighbours, the Pennsylvania Dutch and Germans, they lived on farms and travelled by horse and buggy. The Industrial Revolution brought enormous social change, but while everyone else embraced the future, the Amish held fast to life as it had been. It was not until the 1930s, however, that Amish determination to remain apart from the rest of America provoked conflict with the state as they refused to comply with new laws that extended the age for compulsory school attendance. In 1972, the US Supreme Court finally upheld the rights of Amish parents to remove their children from public school after the eighth grade. Although their insularity has been eroded in the age of mass communication, the Amish have remained substantially resistant to the encroachments of modern society and government.
The film asks how their communal culture has thrived amid one of the most individualistic societies in the world and considers what the future holds for a community whose existence is rooted in the past.