Last week, Roberta and I rode the Amtrak Hoosier State for the last time. The Hoosier State connected Indianapolis and Chicago. Chicago is a rail hub, which Roberta and I use frequently to travel and sketch nationwide with our Brompton folding bikes. This vital rail link is no more. But, I don't want to complain about our inconvenience. Roberta and I will find alternatives. However, there is a group of people, a people with no online voice for which this cancellation is a far greater inconvenience, the Amish.
Friday night, while riding the Hoosier State, I spoke with some Amish passengers. They asked me why the Indiana Legislature cancelled the Hoosier State. The Amish have religious restrictions regarding computers, email and social media where public debate happens these days so, I feel obligated to relay their concerns. I want readers to know how Governor Holcomb and the Indiana Legislature acted to restrict the religious freedom of fellow citizens by canceling passenger rail service to and from Chicago to Indianapolis.
Many Amtrak passengers are Amish. Orthodox Amish have religious restrictions about transportation technology. They do not drive or fly on planes. Passenger trains are a vital service for them. Cutting the Hoosier State while spending lavishly on highways and airports is a restriction of their religious freedom.
The Amish have a Constitutional right to practice their religion in a way that does not impinge on the rights of others. Most non-Amish people like Roberta and I can choose to fly in an airplane or drive a car and not violate their religious beliefs. Protection of the rights of religious minorities is why we have the First Amendment.
The annual cost in the Indiana budget to maintain the Hoosier State was $3 million. That’s peanuts. The entire budget approved by the Indiana Legislature and Governor Holcomb was upwards of $30 billion (and the Amish pay taxes too).
$3 million a year is a small price to pay to safeguard the religious freedom of our fellow citizens. Governor Holcomb needs to restore funding for the Hoosier State. Failure to do so is religious intolerance bordering on persecution.
This is an issue that bridges the rural/urban divide. This is an important matter for Indianapolis residents like my wife and I who are car-free, but also rural people who travel to Indianapolis for the train.
On our last trip on the Hoosier State I sketched (after asking permission) these Amish young women singing hymns in German and English. It was one of those incredibly beautiful, convivial, spontaneous experiences that happen frequently on passenger trains. If you live in Indiana, please contact Governor Holcomb and your state representative about this matter. Thank you.