The recession is hitting some northern Indiana counties so hard, even the Amish are making exceptions to their strict religious beliefs.
In LaGrange and Elkhart counties, where much of the state’s Amish population is concentrated, the Amish church is allowing members to collect unemployment checks, the Chicago Tribune reported today.
Amish shun most of life’s modern conveniences, including automobiles and electricity. They also are opposed to insurance and government aid.
However, religious leaders are making exceptions to unemployment benefits because they feel the laid-off workers have paid into the system, the newspaper said. Out-of-work Amish, however, are supposed to accept the help only when absolutely necessary.
“No one says go out and do it,” Eli Miller, 72, an Amish bishop from Goshen, told the Tribune. “But when they have to feed their families, we thought it would be OK to accept some of it, even though we would rather not.”
Traditionally, Amish families made their living through farming, but that has changed over the past two decades. Many have taken jobs in the hard-hit manufacturing and construction sectors.
Unemployment in the two counties is nearly 19 percent, according to March labor statistics.