Religious liberty and you

The North American Division Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty

A special report by the department of Religious Liberty

Paul's  words "we must through I I much tribulation enter into the * kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22) do not just apply to Seventh-day Adventists in repressive countries. Each year these words have a personal meaning for the 1,000 or so of our brothers and sisters in North America who, because of their faith, are threatened with the loss of their jobs: Mary, fired from a grocery store after 10 years because she wanted to keep the Sabbath; Larry, fired after two years in a mill because of the Sabbath; Carlton, fired after seven years as a prison guard because he's a Sabbathkeeper.

What will happen to these church members? What should they do? Who should they contact?

It's to help Mary, Larry, Carlton, and thousands of others like them that your Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) Department in North America exists. We are here to serve, minister, counsel, defend, and comfort fellow believers who struggle with religious liberty concerns.

The North American Division and each union conference within the Division have a religious liberty ministry specifically for these problems. The North American Division Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (NAD PARL) is committed to (1) protecting freedom of religion, (2) maintaining the wall of separation between church and state, and (3) protecting freedom of conscience.*

COMMON PROBLEMS

Most of the requests for assistance come from individuals experiencing conflicts between Sabbath observance and work schedules, or with union membership. Others include child custody matters that involve religion, SDA education, or other issues of conscience. Children and grandchildren have been separated by court order from love of family, church, and church school.

BASIC RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the free exercise of religion. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides protection against religious discrimination in general, and the Equal Employment Act of 1972 provides protection against religious discrimination in employment.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion. And specific human rights protections, including freedom of religion, are contained in the Constitution of Bermuda.

HOW TO OBTAIN ASSISTANCE

The primary contact person for a church member experiencing a problem is the union PARL director. The local church religious liberty leader, pastor, or the local conference religious liberty director can also help in the process.

PREVENTION IS THE BEST POLICY

Individuals should seek to avoid religious liberty problems by building good relationships, practicing good citizenship, and displaying Christian traits of character.

Employees should be excellent workers and possess conscientious work habits of punctuality and performance and an attitude of loyalty, flexibility, dedication, and cooperation. Where problems exist, records should be kept indicating dates, times, precise actions, exact words, and witnesses."So should the followers of Christ, as they approach the time of trouble, make every exertion to place themselves in a proper light before the people, to disarm prejudice, and to avert the danger which threatens liberty of conscience" ( The Great Controversy, p. 616).

Industries requiring regular weekend work not just overtime or periodically present most of the Sabbath work problems. Church members should take this into consideration when seeking employment. You will have certain basic rights, and you can count on your religious liberty team to help. But you may suffer some real hardships in these industries. However important, the work of PARL doesn't end with helping members who suffer for righteousness' sake. We hope to avoid many potential problems by monitoring legislation that could impact our freedoms.

PUBLIC POLICY ISSUES OF CONCERN

Legislative bodies, such as Congress, Parliament, and state and provincial legislatures frequently give attention to issues that affect freedom of conscience and church-state relationships, often relating to religion in public schools. NAD PARL seeks to share with these law-making bodies information that will protect religious freedom.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS INITIATIVES

In addition to monitoring legislative bodies and acting to protect our freedoms, special initiatives have been implemented to witness to public officials. Christ died for these individuals, and they need to know of His gospel. Through visits, books, letters, and other materials, PARL keeps in touch with members of Congress, members of Parliament, the president, the prime minister, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, mayors, business leaders, labor union leaders, and others involved in influencing public policy. If you wish to participate in this ministry, write to your union PARL director.

Liberty magazine is our most popular instrument for reaching public officials. It is sent six times a year without charge to public officials, attorneys, and others involved with public policy throughout North America. We receive letters regularly telling us how much it is enjoyed and how it helps to protect freedom.

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

Some religious leaders are known more for their political influence than for their spiritual power. The prophecies of Revelation 13 and 17 are being fulfilled. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is to be known for spiritual power, not political influence. NAD PARL seeks, through moral influence, to keep political leaders sensitive to the inappropriate entanglement of religion and government. At times NAD PARL cooperates with special groups or organizations in pursuit of religious freedom, but care is exercised to avoid alliances that may compromise the Church's doctrines and public positions.

YOUR SUPPORT FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Efforts to protect freedom can be very costly. The cost of placing Liberty magazine into hundreds of thousands of offices is expensive. We need to double these numbers to reach corporate executives, who, if they understood the issues, could prevent some of the Sabbath work problems. This is an end-time ministry. Many officials to whom we witness in the last days will accept this gospel at the last hour because of our witness.

The cost of attorneys needed to handle legal cases is high. The annual Religious Liberty Offering received in NAD churches is not enough to cover these costs. Other funds are needed regularly. Church members should remember the religious liberty ministry in their wills, trusts, and other estate-planning documents. Call or write the General Conference Trust Services Department for more information on gifts designated for religious liberty: (301) 680-5005 or (301) 680-5003; 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600. Large gifts from members have made some of our projects possible. For this generous support we are very thankful. Ask God to show you how you can do much more for this end-time ministry.

FOR ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE

Contact your union PARL director (listed on opposite page). Information is also available on CompuServe: SDA On-line Library, Religious Liberty section; and from FAX Plus: Document f 199 (1-800-474-4SDA).


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A special report by the department of Religious Liberty

November 1997

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