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May 09, 2003
Ohio Set to Exempt Amish from Workers' Compensation
Ohio's House and Senate passed a bill that would exempt members of Amish and other religious sects from paying workers' compensation premiums if it goes against their beliefs, the Associated Press reports. A spokesperson for Ohio Gov. Bob Taft says the governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

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The measure would cover groups that have been a recognized religion since 1950. In addition, the religious groups must carry a program with coverage for their members' insurance needs.

Other states with large Amish and Mennonite populations have a similar provision, the AP reports. Ohio has about 51,000 Amish.

The AP notes that members of the Amish sect believe filing an insurance claim is contrary to principles of trusting in God.

"If we don't use it, why should we pay it?" asks Atlee Kaufman, a businessman who says he pays $4000 per year toward insurance premiums but wouldn't file a claim.

Kaufman contributes to a church fund that covers the costs of accidents, according to the AP.

The legislation met resistance from contractors in Ohio, who say it is unfair to exempt some and not others.

"This option for some contractors is unfair, and unconstitutional as a violation of separation of church and state," says Luther Liggett, an attorney representing the National Electrical Contractors' Association.

The Amish say they believe it was unfair that they had to pay the insurance premiums even though they wouldn't file claims. They have been trying to get the state to pass legislation on an exemption for at least a decade, according to the AP.

"We always thought it was kind of unfair to pay into workmen's comp if we don't get the benefits," says Andy Raber, a director of the state Amish Steering Committee.

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