IPT Book Reviews

Title: No Law Against Mercy: Jailed for Sheltering a Child From the State
Authors: Barbara Lyn Lapp and Rachel B. Lapp
Publisher: Hand of Hope Press, 1996

Hand of Hope Press
P.O. Box 101
Cassadaga, NY 14718
(716) 595-3210
$25.95 (c)

This 428-page book presents the story of two sisters who fought the family courts and local child protection agency and were imprisoned for eight months. The Lapp sisters were raised by Amish parents who left the church but retained the Biblical teachings of simplicity, modesty, honesty, hard work, and community sharing. This upbringing led Barbara Lyn Lapp to adopt two abused children. She first encountered the child protection system when one of the children's emotional difficulties led to a false charge of child neglect against her. After being vindicated of the charges, her concern over what she saw as reckless intervention and inept investigation led her to organize public meetings, become involved in cases, and start a local chapter of VOCAL (Victims of Child Abuse Laws). Her activism greatly irritated the county commissioner of Social Services.

This story begins after Barbara Lyn Lapp had heard complaints from over 500 people about the behavior of the child protective agencies. In 1993, a 15-year-old boy was confined to Social Services custody because of child abuse charges against his father. Both the boy and the father denied the abuse and the boy reported mistreatment during the year he had spent in state custody. The family sought help from the Lapps, who sheltered the boy in their farmhouse. They refused to turn the boy over to the police and Barbara and Rachel, along with two other family members and a friend were jailed. The book describes the progress of what was called the "Mayville Five" case. Much of the book was taken from diaries that Barbara Lyn and Rachel kept during their eight months in jail.

The book describes how the community supported the Lapp family and how the sisters were treated in jail. It reports the questionable behavior of the local sheriff and his deputies, and explores the concepts of civil disobedience and how the moral convictions of the authors conflicted with the legal system.

This well-written book provides a thought-provoking exploration of justice, freedom, and civil disobedience. It describes the daily stresses of jail and illustrates how to enlist the media in a cause such as this. The book closes with a large appendix of references, important articles, support letters, and poems.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Emeritus Professor, West Virginia University.

Order this book: Hardcover

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