Mennonites' steel-cleated tractors pit road maintenance vs. religion

A county ordinance established last year that bans steel-wheel tractors on hard-surface roads has entered a local courtroom and is gaining traction as a national issue: Does road maintenance trump the religious practice of a minority Mennonite population?

The local county attorney thinks this case could be headed for the Iowa Supreme Court, if not the nine black robes in Washington, D.C.

The 110 or so families in the local Old Order Groffdale Mennonite population, who flocked to this region since the early 1990s in search of farmland, feel unfairly singled out as they try to hold on to their conservative religious observance. Steel cleats to them are a crucial line in the sand. The cleats remind faithful farmers that tractors are agricultural machines, not all-too-convenient transportation.

Rubber tires offer a faster, smoother ride down the highway than the cumbersome cleats. So Mennonites fear the use of tires would entice families to take more trips into town on their tractors. It could represent an irreversible step down the slippery slope that leads to the next generation abandoning horses and buggies for cars. Close-knit Mennonite communities could be shattered.

desmoinesregister.com/article/20100606/NEWS03/6060354/1001/NEWS/Munson-Mennonites-steel-cleated-tractors-pit-road-maintenance-vs.-religion

I dunno… maybe I am wrong, but to me, it seems that this Mennonite group should use rubber tires and simply forbid its members to use tractors to go to town. If the members aren’t willing to comply, maybe they aren’t very religious to begin with.

Also want to point out that in some states they have farm diesel that is not taxed, if so, then they need to drop the issue IMHO.

How about:
The use the monster iron tires for farming but have to switch to rubber tires whenever on a public road? That should cut down on excessive trips.

I admire the Mennonites and Amish but here they are basically saying. "We can use tractors but we have to use road-chewing tires to avoid temptation."
Avoid it yourself, friend, and not at taxpayer expense.
Here in NY studs on snow tires were forbidden long ago and even chains can mark up a road if left on after the snow has been cleared.

[quote="didymus, post:3, topic:200998"]
How about:
The use the monster iron tires for farming but have to switch to rubber tires whenever on a public road? That should cut down on excessive trips.

[/quote]

That would probably be a good solution. Looking at those iron tires makes me cringe for how they're going to wreck the road.

I think the county is definitely right in putting their foot down on this one. If rubber tires on tractors are such a temptation then maybe this particular Mennonite community needs to give them up altogether and live as the Amish. I'm also sure the Mennonites can think their way around this one too. Maybe they could make a rule in their community that tractors can only be driven across roads when they are going to different parts of their fields or something that would limit how and where the tractors are used.

ChadS

I also believe that the local government is doing the right thing here. What the Mennonites are doing has the potential to affect everyone. As the article said, it could cause road problems which in effect could cause problems for other drivers including but not limited to: the much more fast deterioration of their own tires and possible accidents due to poor road surface. It seems to me that these Mennonites are not thinking about who they could affect but only about their own personal temptations and such. However, this is only my opinion and I could be wrong. I am not going to issue a definitive judgment as that is not for me to do.

This is a sampling of test results the Mennonites need to study, the site list several more:

"Agricultural experiment stations put rubber tires to the test. Purdue found, in actual farming tests extending over the working season, that pneumatic tires save an average of more than 14% in fuel and increase drawbar horse power by 15 to 21 percent."

"Ohio State University tests revealed that tractors equipped with rubber tires could plow 27 percent more, with 23 percent less fuel, than tractors mounted on steel. It required but 31.4 percent as much power to move the rubber-tired tractor on sod, and 54.1 percent as much power on plowed ground."

"With both rubber and steel tired tractors, the University of Nebraska made tests cultivating corn, combining wheat, binding oats, drilling wheat, picking corn, plowing and moving hay. In all these farm operations, the rubber-tired tractors saved 13.1 percent in time and 17.9 percent in fuel."

"University of Illinois experiments showed that rubber tires allow a tractor to roll so easily that "there is 20 to 25 per cent more horse power available at the drawbar than is the case with steel wheels, a saving of nearly 25 percent in fuel for heavy work, and a year-round saving of 14 to 17" [sic]

antiquefarming.com/tractor-tires.html

[quote="didymus, post:3, topic:200998"]
How about:
The use the monster iron tires for farming but have to switch to rubber tires whenever on a public road? That should cut down on excessive trips.

I admire the Mennonites and Amish but here they are basically saying. "We can use tractors but we have to use road-chewing tires to avoid temptation."
Avoid it yourself, friend, and not at taxpayer expense.
Here in NY studs on snow tires were forbidden long ago and even chains can mark up a road if left on after the snow has been cleared.

[/quote]

If you read on down the article you find several interesting little tid bits of information.

From the article:

Sadly, this controversy has divided Mennonites, too. The official line from local Old Order Mennonite church officials is to stay out of court, because the biblical mandate to turn the other cheek and live peaceably with all men trumps steel wheels.

"**The members that are taking this to court and are making a court battle out of this are really not giving the voice of the church, because they do not have our support," **said Carl Hoover of Ionia, bishop of the three Old Order Mennonite congregations in the region.

This group who are fighting this DO NOT have the support of their leaders. The leaders sound like they are perfectly willing to comply with the law.

and

I stopped by the 400-acre farm of Jonas Leid and his nephew, Mervin, on Primrose Avenue, where this controversy essentially began.

A John Deere 6610 was parked in the barnyard, partially converted - its back wheels with steel cleats, the front set still rubber. Mervin said that he's already lost about 60 percent of his baling work this year amid the controversy.

Oh, I see rubber is good for the front but not the back? :ehh:

Their own hypocrisy will cause them to lose this battle.

There are variations in Amish or Mennonite communities. Some are more strict regarding "modern" things than others.

But I found it interesting that they involved themselves in a lawsuit. Around here, they won't do that under any circumstance whatever. Won't even defend themselves if they're sued.

So, again, this is a purely local phenomenon.

[quote="Ridgerunner, post:9, topic:200998"]
There are variations in Amish or Mennonite communities. Some are more strict regarding "modern" things than others.

But I found it interesting that they involved themselves in a lawsuit. Around here, they won't do that under any circumstance whatever. Won't even defend themselves if they're sued.

So, again, this is a purely local phenomenon.

[/quote]

That was one of my first thoughts...Mennonites do not take people to court as a rule....and the Amish stay out of secular situations. Some Mennonite traditions do not allow it's members to take on civil or government jobs....one would not find a Mennonite Senator or Representative typically....perhaps one raised Mennonite...but a "Mennonite in good standing" would not hold public office...so using the court system seems very out of place.

[quote="Ridgerunner, post:9, topic:200998"]
There are variations in Amish or Mennonite communities. Some are more strict regarding "modern" things than others.

But I found it interesting that they involved themselves in a lawsuit. Around here, they won't do that under any circumstance whatever. Won't even defend themselves if they're sued.

So, again, this is a purely local phenomenon.

[/quote]

I remember going to an arts and crafts fair once with my parents where there was a Mennonite vendor. He told us they used electricity, but had no radios or televisions. The phone they used for emergencies was at their neighbors farm (one of the English). However, their son had a Nintendo hand game that ran on batteries and that was allowed since it wasn't strictly electric.

During the spring I saw several Mennonite men riding in a pick up truck with an English man driving. They were working on somebody's garage doing general carpentry and labor for him.

Even here in Pittsburgh you'll occasionally see Mennonites using public transportation to come into the hospitals for check ups and visits.

ChadS

The Old Order Mennonites, Beachy Amish and a few other Anabaptist groups do seek to refrain from modern convieniences. Most Mennonites...Mennonite Church in America, Mennonite Brethren and General Conference Mennonites do use modern convieniences. Two of the larger Mennonite groups merged....I don't remember which ones.

[quote="Publisher, post:12, topic:200998"]
The Old Order Mennonites, Beachy Amish and a few other Anabaptist groups do seek to refrain from modern convieniences. Most Mennonites...Mennonite Church in America, Mennonite Brethren and General Conference Mennonites do use modern convieniences. Two of the larger Mennonite groups merged....I don't remember which ones.

[/quote]

I see you have your religion listed as Quaker. Aren't they related, at least theologically, to the Mennonites or perhaps at least the Bretheren? My mom has done a bunch of geneaological research into our family tree and on both sides she's found many, many Mennonites, quite a few Bretheren and even a few Quakers in the bunch.

ChadS

Too bad the Mennonites don't have the Eucharist to give them strength against temptation, instead of steel cleats.

[quote="Sabda, post:8, topic:200998"]
Oh, I see rubber is good for the front but not the back? :ehh:
Their own hypocrisy will cause them to lose this battle.

[/quote]

I think you're a little too quick to label them hypocrites. According to the article,

Rubber tires offer a faster, smoother ride down the highway than the cumbersome cleats. So Mennonites fear the use of tires would entice families to take more trips into town on their tractors

If the rear wheels are cleated, I don't think the rubber on the front is going to make long trips on pavement that much more appealing. There may be divergent opinions of how the rule should be applied or interpreted, or the person in question with the rubber tires on the front may not have scraped together the money to buy cleated wheels for the front yet.

As I illustrated in my earlier post, rubber tractor tires are more efficient than steel cleats. Since rubber tractor tires are more efficient they obviously waste less fuel, pollute less and reduce time spent in the field so to not use rubber tires goes against the basic nature, one could even say against one of the basic tenets of Mennonite life.

[quote="Digitonomy, post:15, topic:200998"]
I think you're a little too quick to label them hypocrites. According to the article,If the rear wheels are cleated, I don't think the rubber on the front is going to make long trips on pavement that much more appealing. There may be divergent opinions of how the rule should be applied or interpreted, or the person in question with the rubber tires on the front may not have scraped together the money to buy cleated wheels for the front yet.

[/quote]

Did you miss where it stated how their leaders do not support them? Their church has a basic live and let live policy. The ones fighting this are going against their own church in this matter. I'll post it again in case you missed it.

Sadly, this controversy has divided Mennonites, too. The official line from local Old Order Mennonite church officials is to stay out of court, because the biblical mandate to turn the other cheek and live peaceably with all men trumps steel wheels.

**"The members that are taking this to court and are making a court battle out of this are really not giving the voice of the church, because they do not have our support," **said Carl Hoover of Ionia, bishop of the three Old Order Mennonite congregations in the region.

Their leaders are perfectly happy to comply with the county on this.

Those who are fighting this are asking the taxpayer for use of the taxpayer's roads and at the same time using a tire that well be very damaging to the road. Which ends up costing the taxpayer even more money. That does not sound very Christian to me. If your going to use something that belongs to someone else or is community property the Christian thing to do is not to tear it up.

To me, they sound very weak and selfish. Using a special tire that deliberately tears up community property is not the way to practice self control. They may pay taxes on the road but that doesn't give them the right to tear up the road.

[quote="ChadS, post:13, topic:200998"]
I see you have your religion listed as Quaker. Aren't they related, at least theologically, to the Mennonites or perhaps at least the Bretheren? My mom has done a bunch of geneaological research into our family tree and on both sides she's found many, many Mennonites, quite a few Bretheren and even a few Quakers in the bunch.

ChadS

[/quote]

In some ways yes...we are "related"....Anabaptism and Pietism began on the Continent while the Society of Friends formed from those English Seekers and Ranters that discovered a dynamic experiential faith of the Living Present Christ.

Early Friends had their dealings with the Mennonites on the Continent...but Friends rejected outward forms of rituals which Mennonites embraced.

When Pennsylvania was established, William Penn invited those persecuted sects to migrate to Pennsylvania...namely Moravians, Huguenots, Mennonites, Brethren....even Swankenfelders....with the exception of the Moravian and Huguenots became known as the "Historic Peace Churches" and since have shared in peacemaking activities and simplicity of life with a belief that a true Christian lives as a Christian...if one goes through the rites and rituals they avail nothing unless a life lived for Christ occurs with the rites and rituals.

Mennonites were drowned since they believed in "re-baptism" of adults only and Friends languished in the jails of England for concience sake....both groups sought to aleve the others perdicaments as "people of conscience."

[quote="Publisher, post:18, topic:200998"]
In some ways yes...we are "related"....Anabaptism and Pietism began on the Continent while the Society of Friends formed from those English Seekers and Ranters that discovered a dynamic experiential faith of the Living Present Christ.

Early Friends had their dealings with the Mennonites on the Continent...but Friends rejected outward forms of rituals which Mennonites embraced.

When Pennsylvania was established, William Penn invited those persecuted sects to migrate to Pennsylvania...namely Moravians, Huguenots, Mennonites, Brethren....even Swankenfelders....with the exception of the Moravian and Huguenots became known as the "Historic Peace Churches" and since have shared in peacemaking activities and simplicity of life with a belief that a true Christian lives as a Christian...if one goes through the rites and rituals they avail nothing unless a life lived for Christ occurs with the rites and rituals.

Mennonites were drowned since they believed in "re-baptism" of adults only and Friends languished in the jails of England for concience sake....both groups sought to aleve the others perdicaments as "people of conscience."

[/quote]

In doing a little digging around in relation to this thread's topic, I found an article that stated that during WWII both Amish and Mennonite leaders urged their young men to go to jail instead of serving in the armed forces or taking the work deferments that were allowed. That would've been an incredibly brave stance to take given the mood and prevailing thoughts at the time on the subject.

ChadS

[quote="ChadS, post:19, topic:200998"]
In doing a little digging around in relation to this thread's topic, I found an article that stated that during WWII both Amish and Mennonite leaders urged their young men to go to jail instead of serving in the armed forces or taking the work deferments that were allowed. That would've been an incredibly brave stance to take given the mood and prevailing thoughts at the time on the subject.

ChadS

[/quote]

I was convinced a Friend at 19. I put off going down and registering for the draft as I was conflicted....the Viet Nam War was "winding down"...but there still was a draft going on.

I was able to register as a "conscientious objector" as by the time I registered for the draft, I was a Friend. There is a process one had to go through if one was "called up" to serve.

Letters from peers, religious leaders and a statement of faith by me giving my objections to war and providing proof that I was a member of an "Historic Peace Church". My number was never pulled and a year later the draft ended.

Many Friends, Mennonites, Brethren and Amish refused the alternate service of the armed forces and chose instead Quaker and Mennonite Work Camps.

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