Home > Previous Issues > Volume 19, Number 3 >
.

Sunday Laws in an Age of Freedom

James D. Standish, JD, MBA

As I write this piece, John G. Roberts has just been confirmed as the next Chief Justice of the United States. Many Adventists will have noted with interest that Roberts is reported to be a conservative Roman Catholic. Some will speculate that this could be the justice who brings in the Sunday law. In this, Roberts is not new. For generations now, some Adventists have seen every president from John F. Kennedy to Jimmy Carter, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, as possible harbingers of imminent Sunday legislation. And yet, here we are, well over a hundred years since The Great Controversy was penned, and there seems to be no national Sunday law in sight.

Three Responses

Adventists have responded to this situation in three principal ways.[1] The first reaction is to believe Sunday laws are imminent. Speculation about secret efforts to pass Sunday laws sweeps periodically through our ranks, generating corresponding excitement for short periods of time, but generating cynicism when the predicted Sunday law fails to materialize.

A second group of Adventists has become convinced that Sunday laws are a thing of the past. They do not necessarily doubt the prophetic interpretation presented in The Great Controversy, but they believe it to be a conditional prophetic interpretation. When the conditions fail to be fulfilled, they argue, the prophetic interpretation becomes obsolete in the way that many Biblical prophecies concerning Israel failed due to unmet conditions.

Those in this second group argue that if Christ could have come in Ellen White’s lifetime,[2] but if He did not due to a failure of His people, as she states,[3] then maybe the end-time events scenario that would have played out in the late 1800s is also conditional.[4] Christ certainly will come again, it is argued, and the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation will certainly be fulfilled, but maybe in a different way than they would have if God’s people had met the necessary prerequisites in the 1800s. Those who take this position, which for convenience this article will refer to as “reinterpreters,” frequently rely on numerous factors that make the enactment of a national Sunday law unlikely under present conditions.

A third group of Adventists believes that the prophetic scenario laid out most clearly in The Great Controversy remains current, but that certain prerequisites are necessary before Sunday laws are passed. They agree that it would be most unlikely for a national Sunday law to be passed through the U.S. Congress and signed into law by the President under current conditions. However, they believe that prophecy has mapped out preconditions for the passage of the national Sunday law, and that once these preconditions are met it is not unlikely, but rather is a prophetic inevitability, that Sunday laws will be enacted.

The author of this article argues that the position adopted by the third group of Adventists is the appropriate approach in light of what we know of prophecy and the current state of the law, religion, and politics.

The Adventist message, at its purest, has always been one that combines the rigorous intellectual investigation of a broad array of academic disciplines with in-depth study of Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our findings, at their best, are expressed with unflinching honesty as we strive towards the goal of discovering and understanding ultimate truth. The author endeavors to follow in this tradition.

Is a Sunday Law Imminent?

Rumors about secret movements toward the imminent enactment of national Sunday laws have swept through the Adventist Church for generations. There are three problems with these rumors.

The first is that all rumors to date have been without adequate documentation. The second is that if a Sunday law were passed in secret through stealthy movements, such a passage would not confirm prophecy, but rather would contradict it, as we are explicitly told that Sunday laws will be enacted through an open democratic process driven by public calls from America’s clergy.[5] Finally, all these rumors have proven untrue. Here we are in 2005, without a serious movement of any kind to pass a national Sunday law since the seminal events of 1888.

This final fact has created a growing culture of skepticism within the church. If our pastors, our academy teachers, our parents, and other pillars of authority within the Adventist Church have been repeatedly wrong in their speculative Sunday law scenarios, maybe they are simply wrong about their entire religious understanding.

Hence, the speculation some Adventists have engaged in over generations not only ignores important elements of the Adventist prophetic scenario, and not only has proven untrue, but also has had a serious negative impact on the faith of many associated with Adventism.[6]

Is There a Need for a New Interpretation?

The group of Adventists that calls for a reinterpretation of the prophetic scenario described in Great Controversy tends to do so in a quiet, more reasoned manner than those who engage in speculation, but their analysis is equally flawed for three reasons.

1. Against Speculation. The first is that some who adopt this position do so in reaction to the speculative excesses within the church. As noted above, the speculative excesses themselves violate the Adventist prophetic scenario. Reaction against statements that violate elements in the scenario by abandoning the scenario in toto is a misguided overreaction. One can well reject wanton speculation without simultaneously rejecting the studied interpretation of prophecy that, in fact, discredits speculators’ scenarios.

2. Reinterpreting Ellen G. White. The second reason is that many who adopt this skeptical position claim simultaneously to accept the inspiration of the writings of Ellen White. Unless one resorts to tortured reasoning, the two positions are mutually exclusive.

Precisely what inspiration means is, of course, a debate within the debate; but at the very least it must mean that when a prophet talks of prophecy, he or she can be relied upon. In the case of the Adventist prophetic scenario, Ellen White continued to reiterate the prophetic scenario outlined in The Great Controversy until her death in 1915. This was 27 years after Senator H.W. Blair’s effort to pass a national Sunday law in 1888.

If the prophetic scenario was built around events leading up to and culminating in 1888, and if subsequent to that time the scenario was ripe for reinterpretation, Ellen White had almost three decades to communicate this. She did not. Indeed, late in her life, Ellen White continued to predict that a Sunday law would be enacted in the future.[7]

It is true that the Bible has many conditional prophecies that were never fulfilled due to a failure to meet the conditions. But there are two hallmarks to the conditional prophecies in the Bible. First, they provide conditional language in the text or imply conditions in the context. Second, at the time of conditions going unmet, God provided explicit guidance.

The example of the failed prophecies regarding Israel well illustrates this pattern. Not only were the conditions for fulfillment explicit,[8] but also the time for conditions to be met was mapped out in Daniel centuries in advance.[9] At the end of the prophetic period, Christ gave clear indication of the end of Israel’s prophetic period,[10] and after the period had ended, Paul wrote extensively explaining how the prophecies of the Old Testament related to the new Christian church.[11] In short, a student of God’s Word could not be in doubt over the conditional nature of the prophecies.

In contrast, the prophetic scenario laid out in The Great Controversy provides no conditions relating to whether the prophecy would be fulfilled; the only conditional factor related to the prophecy was when. Further, God did not provide an indication of a change through Ellen White as He did, for example, through Jonah.[12] Still further, there is no time period provided for the prophetic fulfillment, nor has any other prophet risen up to provide an alternative explanation.

In summary, when prophecies were conditional, and when the conditions failed to be met, God expressed this to His people explicitly in times past. There has been no similar expression regarding the prophetic scenario provided by Ellen White. Therefore, if God inspired her prophetic scenario, it is still in effect. Others think that her prophetic scenario is wrong, and if so, she was not a true prophet of God. It is impossible, however, to reconcile Ellen White’s prophetic gift if we are to believe that she was fundamentally wrong on her central interpretation of prophecy.

3. Sundaykeeping Today. The third reason that reinterpretation is unnecessary is that, while the passage of a national Sunday law seems unlikely under current circumstances, these circumstances will change. When conditions change, there are societal, legal, and political foundations that could pave the way for a national Sunday law movement.

It is likely that most Adventists who have come to doubt the prophetic scenario in The Great Controversy have done so because it appears so entirely unlikely, given our current social, economic, political, and legal climate.

Yes, it is true that there may be some indicators that reflect the prophetic scenario, it is argued. But it is also true that America has developed a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week economy; that it has become a much more religiously diverse society; that Sundaykeeping Christians don’t revere Sunday as they once did, and even if they did, they don’t have the power some ascribe to them; that large numbers of Americans have a religious faith expressed in a very different manner from the traditional Christian one; and that religious minorities enjoy broad rights today under American law which they did not in the 1800s. Each of these observations has merit.

To illustrate the difficulty of passing a national law requiring rest on Sunday, one only has to consider the economic implications of such a law. How would the manufacturing, retail, and entertainment sectors of the economy react to such a law? What would General Motors’ reaction be to a proposed law that requires shutting down its assembly plants 1/7th of the year? How would Wal-Mart react to closing its stores 14% of the week? How would the National Football League respond to a ban on Super Bowl Sunday?

We can’t say for sure, because no serious effort to enact a national Sunday law has been mounted in well over a hundred years; but we do have indications. There is a bill currently pending in Congress that would make it easier for individual workers to take off time for religious observance,[13] including a weekly Sabbath. Industry has not responded positively to the proposal, and its opposition has made passage of the bill–which is supported overwhelmingly by a broad cross section of America’s religious community–very difficult to pass.[14]

The demographics of America are also much different today from the 1880s, and this is reflected in its power structure. One of the two congressional chaplains is a Seventh-day Adventist minister; there are two Jews on the U.S. Supreme Court, 37 Jews in Congress (11 in the Senate and 26 in the House of Representatives), and two Seventh-day Adventists in the House.[15] Put another way, 50% of the congressional chaplains are Seventh-day Adventists, Jews comprise 22% of the Supreme Court and 11% of the Senate, and 6% of the House of Representatives are Jews and Seventh-day Adventists combined. The impact of this is profound. In 2004, for example, the Supreme Court decided not to hear cases on a Jewish holy day out of respect for its two Jewish members, and Congress no longer schedules votes on the first days of Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and Yom Kippur.[16]

American Seventh-day Adventists joined commercial interests to successfully oppose a national Sunday law in the 1880s, when the former were a small, marginalized minority. Today they are a significant presence, with a million members, over a thousand schools, and 52 hospitals in the United States. It is asked, couldn’t Adventists, working with other Sabbathkeepers, secularists, and commercial interests, defeat a national Sunday law under current circumstances?

Not only have barriers risen to the passage of Sunday laws since The Great Controversy was penned, but the support for such laws has also waned. Most Christians don’t revere Sunday as they once did. They routinely work on Sunday without complaint. They participate in sports, entertainment, and a wide range of other activities from which their forebears not only abstained, but also vigorously prosecuted those who did not conform. Not surprisingly, today’s Sundaykeeping Christians have not proven keen to enact a national law that would prevent many of them on Sunday from engaging in activities that they have done all their lives.

As proof of a growing movement for a Sunday law, some have pointed to Pope John Paul II’s letter regarding Sunday and its call for civil legislation to protect Sunday sacredness.[17] An alternative explanation that has been put forth is that the letter is a reaction to the weakness of observance among those whom the Catholic Church claims as its own adherents. If today virtually no predominantly Christian nations have comprehensive Sunday laws, it is asked, isn’t this a sign that the pope’s letter was written from a position of weakness rather than of strength?

Moreover, the political power of Christians is sometimes overstated. Since 1973 the full force of conservative Christians from Baptists to Catholics has been focused on abortion. And yet, if polls are to be believed,[18] even if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, most state legislatures still would vote to uphold legalized abortions. It is asked, If Christians can’t prevail on abortion in today’s environment, what chances are there of bringing the economy to a grinding halt one day out of seven?

Some also believe America is becoming a more secular nation. It is true that it remains an unusually religious nation vis-à-vis other Western nations, it is noted, but it is also true that there is a growing trend away from identification with a particular denomination towards a more ambiguous spirituality, and that, with immigration, America has become a spectacularly spiritually diverse country. Both of these trends augur poorly, it is suggested, for a successful effort to pass a national law enforcing one group’s holy day orthodoxy.

Finally, those in favor of revising the Adventist prophetic position often point to freedom that a broad range of faiths enjoys in this nation—freedom that is guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions and by a relatively large body of statutory and case law.

Maintain Our Understanding

Even if we accept all of the above observations of society, religion, politics, and the law, it does not necessarily result in the acceptance of a need to reinterpret the Adventist prophetic scenario. This is true for three reasons: (1) the above observations are only a partial view of society today, (2) the Adventist prophetic scenario is predicated on society changing radically before the passage of a national Sunday law, and finally (3), prophets have insights beyond what is available through reason and observation.

1. The Constitution and the Sunday law. Those ascribing to the need to reassess our prophetic vision sometimes appeal to the constitutional protections as evidence that the passage of a national Sunday law is exceedingly unlikely. It is surprising to many reinterpreters to learn, however, that the Constitution contains no bar to the passage of Sunday laws.

In 1961, the Supreme Court decided two cases that challenged the constitutionality of Sunday closing laws.[19] The Court went through a lengthy analysis of the origins and the nature of Sunday laws at the time of the cases. It acknowledged that Sunday laws have a religious origin, quoting from various state and Colonial laws that contained reference to the “Lord’s day,” prohibitions against “profaning the Sabbath,” and other similar overt religious language.[20] Nevertheless, the Court found that by the 1960s the motivation behind Sunday laws was the protection of workers’ rights.[21]

Thus, as Sunday laws now protect workers’ rights rather than enforcing religious doctrine, the Court found that these laws do not establish a religious belief, and therefore they do not violate the Constitution’s ban on laws regarding an establishment of religion.[22] In addition, the Court also found that Sunday laws do not violate the Equal Protection Clause[23] or the Free Exercise of Religion Clause in the Constitution.[24]

Justice Potter Stewart joined Justice William Brennan in dissent, stating that Sunday laws, when applied to those who keep the seventh day holy, unconstitutionally violate their religious freedom. He noted in his dissenting opinion in Braunfeld v. Brown: “I think the impact of this [Sunday] law upon these appellants grossly violates their constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion[25]

Similarly, Justice William O. Douglas dissented in McGowan v. Maryland, stating: “The Court picks and chooses language from various decisions to bolster its conclusion that these Sunday laws in the modern setting are ‘civil regulations.’ No matter how much is written, no matter what is said, the parentage of these laws is the Fourth Commandment; and they serve and satisfy the religious predispositions of our Christian communities. . . . It seems to me plain that by these laws the states compel one, under sanction of law, to refrain from work or recreation on Sunday because of the majority's religious views about that day.”[26]

While these dissents are eloquent and will resonate with many Adventists, they are, however just that: dissents. The majority opinion that Sunday laws do not violate the Constitution is the law.

It is over 40 years since these cases were decided. This raises the question whether the Supreme Court’s analysis of Sunday laws has changed. It has not. Rather, the Court relatively recently has confirmed the concept that Sunday laws are constitutional. In 1990 the Court decided Employment Division v. Smith.[27] In this case Justice Anton Scalia, writing for the majority of the Court, used Sunday laws as an example of the types of laws that impact people’s ability to practice their faith but which also are nevertheless constitutional. He stated:

    Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does     not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a “valid and neutral law     of general applicability. . . .” In Braunfeld v. Brown, . . . [for example] we             upheld Sunday-closing laws against the claim that they burdened the religious     practices of persons whose religions compelled them to refrain from work on         other days.[28]

A recent review of Sunday laws in the 50 American states found that 49 of them, plus the District of Columbia, have at least one form of Sunday law currently on the books.[29] These laws range from requirements to close certain businesses on Sunday to prohibitions on engaging in certain activities on Sunday.[30] Some of these laws have been challenged, but overwhelmingly they have been upheld as constitutional even if they may no longer be enforced rigorously in many jurisdictions.[31]

2. The Congress and Sunday legislation. Of course, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court considers Sunday laws constitutional doesn’t mean that Congress must enact a Sunday law. It merely means that there is no constitutional bar to Congress, should it choose to enact a Sunday law. Is there any evidence that Congress is headed in that direction?

Under today’s circumstances, there is little if any evidence that a national Sunday law is imminent. But the Adventist prophetic scenario is contingent on today’s circumstances changing dramatically. Writing about Sunday laws, Ellen White stated repeatedly that they would only be enacted following a catastrophic series of disasters:

    Satan puts his interpretation upon events, and they think, as he would have         them, that the calamities which fill the land are a result of Sundaybreaking.         Thinking to appease the wrath of God, these influential men make laws                 enforcing Sunday observance (emphasis added).[32]

    When the angel of mercy folds her wings and departs, Satan will do the evil         deeds he has long wished to do. Storm and tempest, war and bloodshed,—in         these things he delights, and thus he gathers in his harvest. And so completely     will men be deceived by him that they will declare that these calamities are the     result of the desecration of the first day of the week. From the pulpits of the         popular churches will be heard the statement that the world is being punished     because Sunday is not honored as it should be.[33]

While it is impossible to prove that the American people will pressure Congress to pass a national Sunday law if faced with a series of unprecedented national calamities, it is certainly not inconceivable. In the face of enormous loss, people tend to examine why God allows the tragedy. This happened after 9/11, after the tsunami, and is happening today in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It is not remarkable to come to the conclusion that God permitted such great destruction because society has wandered from His principles.

But what principles would these be? Many Adventists believe that Christians as a whole have forgotten the Ten Commandments. Recent American court cases focusing on the Ten Commandments,[34] however, demonstrate precisely the opposite. Many Sundaykeeping Christians, like their spiritual forebears, speak with passion and conviction of the need for society to reflect the Ten Commandments in its laws.[35] This is not a dead concept of a bygone era, but a concept that has been remarkably resilient against many predictions to the contrary.

Further, the reemphasis on Sunday sacredness among the Catholic tradition, including the pope’s call for civil legislation to enforce Sunday sacredness,[36] is hard to ignore in the face of the reemergence of the papacy as arguably the most prominent spiritual voice in the world (including the United States).[37]

It is also worth noting that the growth of the conservative Protestant/Catholic political union in the United States is not, as some might wish, easily dismissed as inconsequential. The power of this union arguably made the difference necessary to elect the current President, George W. Bush; a majority in the Senate and the House;[38] by the end of this year will have been influential in the choice of over half of the justices on the Supreme Court; and will have contributed to the Republican control of a majority of state legislatures and state governorships.

This is not to suggest that these individuals are suspect, since conservative people of faith support them. Nor is it to suggest that candidates supported by the secular and religious left would be preferable. It is, however, to suggest that the political power of conservative religion is immense in America today; and to ignore this fact is to ignore political reality.

3. Religious minorities. The increased power and prominence of Sabbathkeeping minorities in America, along with non-Christian religions, while significant, should not be overstated. First, many non-Christian faiths don’t stress a weekly holy day observance as do the Jewish/Christian traditions, and many non-Christian faiths meet on Sunday as a matter of convenience. [39]

Further, while a majority of Jews may observe the high holy days, those who refrain from secular work on Sabbath are a minority of a minority.[40] It is therefore hard to imagine non-Seventh-day Adventists reacting to a proposed Sunday law–particularly in times of unprecedented crisis–in the way Adventists would.

Moreover, the crisis that the Bible predicts for the end-time will undoubtedly cause havoc among commercial interests.[41] It is unlikely that a commercial sector on the verge of collapse would be in the position to block Sunday legislation, even if it wanted to (in a time of unprecedented turmoil, business leaders may well seek to appease the same God as does society in general).

It is also difficult to ignore the fact that there are significant developments that make The Great Controversy scenario much more likely today than when the book was penned. For example, the intense anti-Catholicism that characterized American society for much of its history has, thankfully, largely ceased. This permits Catholics and Protestants to work closely together, a prediction that must have been hard to conceive in the 1800s. In addition, America is in a position to influence the nations of the world today in a manner that was inconceivable in the 1800s, when it was rebuilding from the Civil War and during which other world powers, particularly Great Britain, were far more influential on the global stage.

4. Reliability of Prophets. Finally, even if there were no contraindicators to the observations relied upon by the reinterpreters, the role of the prophet is to give insight beyond what we can arrive at by mere human observation and reason. When Daniel predicted the powers to dominate in years to come,[42] there was no objective evidence of the veracity of the vision. Similarly, if we believe Ellen White’s prophetic vision to have been derived from God, we can be assured of its fulfillment.

To summarize, we can reject wanton speculation without rejecting the prophetic scenario. There is no textual or subsequent prophetic message to indicate that the prophetic scenario is conditional. While there are many indicators that the enactment of Sunday laws under current conditions would seem impossible, there are significant legal and political trends that prepare the way for just such an enactment. Further, the Adventist prophetic scenario assumes an unprecedented series of crises in America that radically alter society in a fundamental manner. Finally, if we accept Ellen White to be a true prophet, her prophetic vision supersedes any conclusions we can draw through our observations alone.

Conclusion

It has become fashionable in Adventism to display one’s intellectual openness by questioning the doctrines, practices, and interpretations of the past. While pushing knowledge forward is a hallmark of a follower of God, before we abandon the insights of those who went before us, we must look long and hard at the scholarship and inspiration that led us to those insights.

In the case of the Adventist prophetic scenario, particularly the Sunday law, increasing numbers of Adventists are erring on both sides. Speculators have it wrong because they separate a lone aspect from its prophetic whole. Reinterpreters have it wrong because they assume a continuation of current circumstances, they focus on the veneer of society, and, consequently, they degrade or deny the inspiration of Ellen White.

Those who stay a steady course of faith in the validity of our prophetic understanding in its entirety have it right; for it is the only consistent position with continued faith in God’s unfolding revelation, the foundation for the scenario is set in law and society, and the scenario is predicated on unprecedented events that will transform society.

Accepting the third approach has at least three very practical ramifications. First, while we must remain vigilant for Sunday laws, we should not be preoccupied in searching for signs of their imminence. We have been told that they will be enacted through the democratic process, preceded by an open public debate. In short, we will know when Sunday laws return to the national agenda.

Second, if the history of speculation has taught us anything, it must be that prejudging candidates for national leadership based on their personal faith commitment is not only substantively misguided, but it is wrong. From President John F. Kennedy to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, there have been and continue to be many powerful Catholics who have had a positive impact on religious freedom. In nations where there are majority Catholic populations[43] Seventh-day Adventists and other religious minorities routinely experience broad religious freedom. An individual’s religious affiliation is a poor indicator of that individual’s heart, and assuming otherwise can lead us to acts and opinions that are not merely unfair, but bigoted. We have to look far deeper than religious affiliation to determine an individual’s disposition towards liberty of conscience.

Finally, until Sunday laws become an issue once again in the United States, there is much work to be done in the area of religious liberty. For example:

  • As you are reading this article, there are men, women, and children, right now, who are rotting in gulags in North Korea for no other crime than taking the name of Jesus.[44]
  • There are, right now, nations like Saudi Arabia that forbid by law the spread of the Gospel.[45]
  • If today is an average day in the United States, three of your brothers and sisters in the faith were fired for no crime other than keeping the Sabbath.[46]

And religious freedom is only a part of our public work. Other issues in which we are engaged include:

  • Women and children being sold across national borders as property for the sex industry;[47]
  • Genocide occurring in the Sudan;[48]
  • Some Western nations increasingly implicated in the worldwide spread of torturing prisoners;[49]
  • Tobacco companies spending $34.1 million ($12.4 billion per year) on advertising in the U.S. alone to entice young children to become addicted to their deadly products;[50]
  • Our society facing vexing issues ranging from abortion and other medical ethics issues to the challenge of alleviating poverty; from deciding how to promote stable families to ensuring access to healthcare and a quality education; from preserving the environment to promoting personal responsibility.

These lists only begin to scratch the surface of public issues for which there should be a Seventh-day Adventist voice. And yet, many Seventh-day Adventists today are completely disengaged from these critical issues, choosing instead to spend their time and energy chasing phantom Sunday laws and supporting financially those with the most spectacular, albeit speculative scenarios. This is not what Adventism is all about.

Our spiritual forebears targeted their activism in the public square on issues as they arose, from slavery to Sunday laws, from dress reform to temperance reforms. As Seventh-day Adventist Christians with a dedication to the Gospel, a firm belief in prophecy, a love for humanity, and a commitment to the liberty granted by God to His creation, we can and we must do the same.

Sunday laws will come, and when the movement for their passage begins, we should be there to counter them as we are instructed to do.[51] Until the movement reemerges, we have more than enough in the public square to challenge our intellects, utilize our talents, and engage our resources. It is the author’s prayer that as a people we follow the example of early Adventists and become engaged in the issues of today—today, while remaining vigilant for the issues of tomorrow, and knowing that tomorrow may arrive sooner than any of us imagines.

[For more on how to support and become actively engaged in public issues close to the hearts of Seventh-day Adventist Christians, visit www.religiousliberty.info.]

Note on Author

James Standish earned his Juris Doctor degree, cum laude, from Georgetown University, where he was president of the Georgetown Church-State Law Forum and an editor of the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy; his MBA from the University of Virginia, where he was news editor of the Darden News; and his bachelor’s degree from Newbold College, England, where he was editor of the college newspaper and later president of the student association. He serves as Associate Director of the General Conference Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty, where he represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the U.S. government. In addition, he serves as Executive Director of the North American Religious Liberty Association: www.religiousliberty.info.



NOTES

[1] This analysis is based on the author’s conversations and written communications concerning Sunday laws with thousands of Adventist laypeople, clergy, and administrators over the last five years.

[2] “Had Adventists, after the great Disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith, and followed on unitedly in the opening Providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward” (Ellen G. White, Early Writings,p. 299).

[3] Id.

[4] “Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the Word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional” (Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 695).

[5] “From the pulpits of the popular churches will be heard the statement that the world is being punished because Sunday is not honored as it should be” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, September 17, 1901). “Political corruption is destroying love of justice and regard for truth, and even in free America rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance” (Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, p. 129).

[6] This observation is based on the author’s conversations and written communications with thousands of current and former Seventh-day Adventists.

[7] See, e.g., “Sooner or later Sunday laws will be passed” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Feb. 16, 1905; “Soon the Sunday laws will be enforced, and men in positions of trust will be embittered against the little handful of God’s commandment-keeping people” (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 279) (1909).

[8] See, e.g., Deuteronomy 28, which begins with the prophetic promise that “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on Earth.” The chapter goes on to list a long series of conditioned events. This is, of course, just one example of the hundreds of conditional prophecies.

[9] The 70-week prophecy of Daniel provides a time line for the events leading up not only to Christ’s birth, but also pointing to the end of the probationary period for Israel. Daniel 9:24-27.

[10] In Matthew 23 and the beginning of 24, Christ makes clear that the time for the fulfillment of prophecies regarding Israel was ending.

[11] Paul’s writings, particularly in Hebrews, further provide an explanation of how the prophetic nation of Israel relates to the Christian church.

[12] Jonah 4.

[13] The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, S. 877, H.R. 1445.

[14] The author co-chairs a coalition of 45 religious groups ranging from the Southern Baptists to the Supreme Islamic Council, from the Union of Orthodox Jews to the United Methodists.

[15] Congress at Your Fingertips: 109th Congress: 1st Session: 2005 (Fairfax, Va.: Capitol Advantage, 2005).

[16] Information supplied by the American Jewish Committee.

[17] Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini, 1998.

[18] The August 2005 CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll found that 54% of Americans describe themselves as “pro-choice” and 38% describe themselves as “pro-life.” Although this poll’s numbers have fluctuated over the last 10 years, those who favor legalized abortion are consistently in the majority. Other polls have found a similar pro-legalized abortion majority. A good many polls on attitudes towards abortion are available at http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm.

[19] Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961); McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420 (1961).

[20] McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 431-444 (1961).

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 427-428 (1961).

[24] Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961). (“We cannot say that the Pennsylvania statute [Sunday law] before us is invalid, either on its face or as applied.”)

[25] Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961), Justice Stewart dissent.

[26] McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420 (1961), Justice Douglas dissent.

[27] Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).

[28] Id.

[29] Miriam Cho, State-by-State Review of Sunday Laws (2002) (a detailed report over 400 pages long, compiled for the General Conference Department of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty and available at www.religiousliberty.info or by calling 301-680-6683).

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, p. 239 (1899).

[33] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, September 17, 1901.

[34] Van Orden v. Perry; McCreary County v. ACLU.

[35] For example, the Family Research Council, a predominantly Christian entity, laments that the Ten Commandments are not displayed prominently in many public buildings, noting that the Ten Commandments are a “timeless message of moral truths.” Similarly, the Baptist Press ran a piece this year that states: “Unbeknownst to many, American law and the Ten Commandments are inextricably associated.” Jeremy Tedesco, “American Law & the Ten Commandments,” Baptist Press, February 23, 2005. These are just two examples of innumerable statements venerating the Ten Commandments and their place in American society and law.

[36] Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini, 1998 (concluding an approving discussion of Sunday laws by stating: “Christians will naturally strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy,” a statement in its context which appears to support not merely laws that accommodate religious observance, but more so laws that mandate rest on Sunday).

[37] The funeral of Pope John Paul II illustrated the unmatched influence of the papacy on the world stage. President Bush has made numerous statements concerning the spiritual influence of the papacy in the United States, including: “I may not be a parishioner [of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, D.C.] but I’m proud to live in your archdiocese. . . . The last leader of the Soviet Union would call [Pope John Paul II] ‘the highest moral authority on Earth. . . .’ We thank God for this rare man, a servant of God and a hero of history.” Remarks by the President at the Dedication of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, Office of the White House Press Secretary, March 22, 2001.

[38] The decisive role of conservative Christians in recent elections has been widely commented upon and analyzed. For example, the Baptist Press notes that, “Faith and morality played major roles Nov. 2 [2004] as American voters re-elected President Bush, expanded the Republican Party’s advantage in Congress, and approved amendments to protect marriage in 11 states.” Tom Strode, “President Bush Wins Re-election; Exit Polls Show Values Voters Made the Difference,” Baptist Press, November 3, 2004. Similarly, after the 2000 election, there was much discussion about the importance of religious voters. For example: “One of the big surprises in American politics in the last year is the focus on the Catholic vote. That focus is becoming more intense every day. . . . [R]eligion is playing a bigger role in American political life, to my mind, than ever in my lifetime.” Juan Williams, host of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, August 6, 2001; “Catholic bishops and priests are becoming more willing to be more active politically the way Protestant evangelicals are. . . . I think that religion is playing a larger and larger role in politics.” Mara Liasson, National Public Radio reporter, on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation, August 6, 2001.

[39] For example, the Sikh community in the U.S. generally meets on Sunday for worship.

[40] One study reported that only 6% of American Jews keep the Sabbath. Jewish Center for Public Affairs, “Apostasy Among American Jews,” http://www.jcpa.org/dje/articles3/apostasy.htm.

[41] “At that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince Which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time Thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1.

[42] Daniel 2.

[43] Every year the Seventh-day Adventist Church publishes a world report on religious freedom. While there are many nations where religious persecution is severe, religious persecution in majority Catholic nations today is very rare. The world report on religious liberty is available at http://parl.gc.adventist.org/documents/world_reports/index.html.

[44] The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom reported in May 2005, that in North Korea “Persons found carrying Bibles in public, distributing religious literature, or engaging in unauthorized religious activities such as public religious expression and persuasion are arrested and imprisoned. There continue to be reports of torture and execution of religious believers, including a January 2005 report of the execution of six religious leaders.”

[45] U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Annual Report, May 2005.

[46] Based on estimates provided by the Office of General Counsel, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

[47] U.S. State Department’s 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report, available at http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/.

[48] CNN, “Powell Calls Sudan Killings Genocide,” September 9, 2004, available at http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/africa/09/09/sudan.powell/.

[49] See Amnesty International Annual Report 2005, available at http://web.amnesty.org/report2005/index-eng.

[50] According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, “The tobacco industry spends more than $12.4 billion per year—over $34.1 million a day—marketing its deadly products in the U.S. alone, much of this reaching kids”; http://tobaccofreekids.org/adgallery/.

[51] “We are not doing the will of God if we sit in quietude, doing nothing to preserve liberty of conscience.
. . . Let there be most earnest prayer, and then let us work in harmony with our prayers” (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 714).

Home | Contact | Previous Issues | Store | Links | About Us | Women's Ordination FAQs | Site Menu
  SiteMap.   Powered by SimpleUpdates.com © 2002-2014.   User Login / Customize.
HomeAbout UsWhat's NewPrevious IssuesStoreContact UsLinksFAQ'sSite MapSubscribe NowLoginSubscribe Now