When two preteen sisters were abducted from the town of Oswegatchie in upstate New York recently, police quickly sprang into action. Naturally, officers asked the parents for photos of their daughters, so that the girls’ likenesses could be distributed in a bid to bring the young victims back.
The reply was unusual:
The family had none: They were Amish, a community that generally prohibits photographs partly based on the biblical injunction against likenesses.
The cops then proposed that the parents work with a police sketch artist to produce pictures of the girls.
After initially resisting, and with critical time elapsing, the girls’ father, Mose Miller, finally agreed to a compromise: He allowed a sketch artist to make an illustration of the older sister, who is 12, but not the younger one, who is 7.
The New York Times reports that the next day, the girls were returned to their family. They were thought to have been sexually assaulted by their kidnappers. Two people were arrested.
The rest of the Times story makes much of how friendly the burgeoning Amish community in New York’s northwestern St. Lawrence County is with its non-Amish neighbors.
But I just can’t let go of the fact that a father knowingly risked at least one of his daughters’ lives by refusing to help provide even a pencil sketch of her. Because of the Bible. Apparently, God would rather see an innocent child die than tolerate the making of a picture.
It shouldn’t have come as a shock, I suppose. St. Lawrence County was the site of a 2010 flap between the Amish and local authorities, in which especially pious sect members chose to endanger people’s lives, including their own, by refusing to affix reflective orange hazard triangles to the rear of their traditional horse-drawn buggies. They considered such additions un-Biblical.
Then, in 2012, a court in Canton, the county seat, fined several Amish families for declining to install smoke detectors in their homes.
They refused to pay — pointing out that that would imply they had accepted that obeying God’s laws was wrong — and how could God be wrong?
When one defendant was asked how he would protect himself and his family if a night-time fire broke out, this was his response:
“I use this,” he said pointing at his nose, “or him,” and his finger pointed upwards. “I don’t need a devil on the wall to tell me if my house is burning. … If God does not wake us, well, that must be part of his plan.”
That defendant’s name was Mose Miller. By happenstance, that’s the same Mose Miller who would’ve let his seven-year-old daughter die because he didn’t want anyone to make a picture of her.
I’ve often admired people who are steadfast and consistent. In Mr. Miller’s case, I have the opposite of that emotion.
(Image via Shutterstock)