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US: False claims of compulsory registration exposed as conscientious objector sues

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  • Andy
    http://www.pennlive.com/newsflash/pa/index.ssf?/base/news-51/1182561248133680.xml&storylist=penn Mennonite s lawsuit prompts Pa. ag officials to admit error
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 24, 2007
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      http://www.pennlive.com/newsflash/pa/index.ssf?/base/news-51/1182561248133680.xml&storylist=penn
      Mennonite's lawsuit prompts Pa. ag officials to admit error
      6/22/2007, 9:08 p.m. ET
      By PETER JACKSON
      The Associated Press


      HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -
      The state Agriculture Department acknowledged Friday
      that it erroneously advised Pennsylvania poultry farmers
      they were required to enroll in a voluntary federal
      farm-registration program in order to participate in the state's
      avian-influenza monitoring program this year.

      Spokesman Christopher Ryder said officials realized the error only
      after the department was sued by a conservative Mennonite farmer
      who claimed he would suffer "eternal damnation" if he complied
      with the rule and got a federal registration number
      to continue to sell his ducks.

      "Apparently, they changed their mind at the last moment,"
      said James Landis, the Lebanon County farmer who filed the lawsuit.
      Landis said he and other members of the Eastern Pennsylvania
      Mennonite Church believe the Bible's book of Revelation
      warns that numbering systems that require participation as a
      requirement for doing business are the work of the Antichrist.

      The deadline for enrolling in this year's monitoring program
      is June 30. Ryder said department officials expect to reach
      an accommodation with Landis and will contact other farmers
      to ensure that they know that participation in the federal program
      is not mandatory. Ryder said he did not know
      how many farmers received the incorrect notices.

      "We are in the process of working it out," he said Friday night.
      It was not immediately clear if Landis planned to drop
      his lawsuit now that the state has acknowledged the error.
      In the suit filed Thursday in Commonwealth Court,
      Landis contends that the state rule unconstitutionally violates
      his religious beliefs and that the state has no authority
      to require participation in the voluntary federal program.
      The federal program is designed to help officials respond
      quickly to outbreaks of disease and other health threats.

      Landis raises thousands of Muscovy ducks, a variety that his lawyer
      says has leaner meat than other ducks. He gets ducklings
      from a hatchery and keeps them on his Lebanon County farm
      for about three months, then ships them for sale
      at live-bird markets in New York City.

      New York requires farmers to participate in a monitoring program
      or pay for private testing of their flocks before they can
      be sold in the state, Ryder said. Landis chose to satisfy
      that requirement by participating in Pennsylvania's voluntary
      monitoring program for 20 years, according to the lawsuit.

      Landis' attorney, Leonard G. Brown III, is affiliated with the Alliance
      Defense Fund, a Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

      About two-thirds of Pennsylvania's more than 42,000 income
      -producing livestock farms are currently registered,
      according to USDA estimates. Nationally, fewer than one-third
      of the 1.4 million farms are registered.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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