Amish reject giving Social Security numbers to get licenses
AP

Amish reject giving Social Security numbers to get licenses

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MADISON (AP) — Amish families say their teen-agers will forgo hunting rather than violate religious principles under a new law that requires Social Security numbers on hunting-license applications.

The numbers are used to locate parents who are overdue in paying court-ordered child support.

The state Department of Natural Resources recently confiscated the licensing terminal of a Cashton business that officials said entered phony Social Security numbers so Amish teen-agers could obtain licenses.

In response, Amish bishop Harvey M. Miller wrote the DNR Aug. 20, saying members of the Cashton Amish community in Monroe County will quit hunting.

"We do not have any intention of using the Social Security numbers for licenses," Miller wrote. "Our community has agreed not to hunt under these standards."

Freeman Mast, an Amish window maker near Loganville, said he usually hunts turkey and deer with his two oldest sons near their Sauk County farm but no longer.

The Amish have a religious exemption from the Social Security system. They get Social Security numbers when they join the church, then file exemption forms, Mast said.

Because they are members of an Anabaptist religion, which believes in adult baptism, their children are not considered members of the church until they accept the faith as adults, generally between the ages of 16 and 22.

So Amish children do not get Social Security numbers until they are old enough to be church members.

Under Wisconsin law, children need hunting licenses when they are 12 and fishing licenses when they are 16.

"We try to be legal," Mast said. "We didn't know about it until a couple days before the turkey season when my son couldn't get a license."

The Social Security requirement went into effect in March just in time for the turkey hunting season.

Many hunters objected to having to disclose their Social Security numbers. Protesters included a man who blocked traffic in La Crosse by sitting on a Mississippi River bridge with an American flag.

The government threatens to withhold $318 million in federal funds for needy families in Wisconsin if the state doesn't collect the numbers.

"I think there's a lot of compassion on this issue," acting DNR licensing director Diane Brookbank said in Madison, "but it's my understanding an exemption would have to be issued by the federal government."

"For my sons' sakes, I'd like to be able to get licenses," Mast said. "It just hurts. That's the only way to explain it."

"It's a problem and I don't know what to do about it," said Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud, R-Eastman, who represents the Cashton area.

John Buss, a Sauk County game warden who teaches hunter safety classes at an Amish school, said the law affects his students.

"I understand the problem of deadbeat dads," Buss said, "but to me, the bottom line is that a boy or girl who wants to hunt should have the opportunity to do so."

Fred Hundt, owner of the Cashton store where the DNR seized license equipment, said the Amish are being victimized.

"The whole reason for this is deadbeat dads and (Amish) don't have that problem in their group," Hundt said. "The Amish take care of their own."

Hundt said he called a help-line number for merchants who sell licenses and was told it was all right to use the Amish teen-agers' birth dates in place of a Social Security number.

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