Samuel Girod is a farmer who belongs to the "Old Order Amish community" and a father to twelve in Bath County, Kentucky. According to Ricochet, the 57-year-old Girod got in trouble with the government after selling homemade herbal remedies, like:
... a salve made of chickweed, rosemary, beeswax, and olive oil. The label said it was to treat skin disorders such as “dry skin, cuts, burns, draws, and poison ivy.” Girod also handed out pamphlets touting the product’s effectiveness in treating skin cancer, diaper rash, and fungal infections.
When a Missouri resident filed a complaint, the state health department demanded he remove the language. Girod changed the product’s name to “Healing Chickweed,” agents said the word “healing” was verboten, so he renamed it “Original Chickweed.”
Another of Girod’s products, called TO-MOR-GONE, contains bloodroot and was claimed to be “very good at removing tumors.” This old folk remedy has been practiced for centuries, mostly to remove dead skin layers from around skin tumors and wounds. But bloodroot removes this dead skin due via its caustic properties. The FDA decided this was a danger to the public and demanded to inspect his manufacturing process — in other words, his home.
Girod, who said the FDA had no right to oversight since he made herbal remedies, wouldn't let them in. His deeply-held beliefs require he "avoid the modern world as much as possible, including modern pharmaceuticals." Unsurprisingly, the FDA disagreed with his assessment of their level of possible involvement, so the federal behemoth came down on him for the "vague medical claims" on his labels.
When Girod missed a hearing in August last year, the government went to his family farm and arrested "the fugitive." He didn't hire an attorney, instead acting as his own counsel. “I am not a creation of state/government, as such I am not within its jurisdiction,” he said. “The proceedings of the ‘United States District Court’ cannot be applied within the jurisdiction of the ‘State of Kentucky.’” Nevertheless, the trial proceeded. “I do not waive my immunity to this court. I do not consent," he said in a statement.
No one was happy with the way this was going:
Bath County Sheriff John Snedegar petitioned the feds, asking why the FDA was “attacking and victimizing such peaceful and law-abiding Americans,” adding he “would not stand by while the rights of peaceful people are violated.”
Local residents agreed with their sheriff. “I can’t even figure out what he has done wrong,” said neighbor Suza Moody. “They live at the foot of the cross and the thought of one of them intentionally doing something wrong is outrageous.” An online petition generated more than 27,000 signatures seeking his immediate release.
Nevertheless, the government persisted. Girod was sentenced to 6 years in federal prison, "three years supervised release following that, $1,300 in fines, and more than $14,000 restitution for his victimless crime." Outside the courtroom, people protested the verdict. One student from Boone County held a sign that read, “I don’t need the FDA to protect me from an Amish farmer."
Image Credit: Bob Jagendorf on Flickr