Sunday Laws Not an Option Now
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA... [ANN] Any "so-called" Sunday law legislation is not an option currently, according to United States congressman Roscoe Bartlett. During a luncheon meeting on December 10 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, Bartlett, was questioned regarding Congress and Sunday law legislation.
He forthrightly indicated that he saw under present circumstances practically no possibility for such legislation to be seriously considered, let alone enacted by Congress.
In his opinion, the oposition from the number of Jewish members of Congress and that of many others would be much to strong. Bartlett, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, explained that for any such legislation to come forward in a significant way, there would have to be "radical changes in American society."
For more than a century, Seventh-day Adventists have opposed work cessation Sunday blue laws, considering them to be religiously motivated and therefore unconstitutional, and furthermore discriminatory toward those observing another day of worship and rest.
French Government Reinstates Adventist Rights
Paris, France ... [ANN] French Seventh-day Adventist pupils can once again legally observe their day of rest due to pressure from a religious freedom group.
In a letter to the French chapter of the International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty (IADRL), the office of Minister of Education confirmed it was granting permission for Jewish and Seventh-day Adventist students to be absent from school on Saturdays.
"In making this decision, the French government has reversed its policy which discriminated against religious minorities," says Maurice Verfaillie, Communication director for the Adventist Church in central and southern Europe.
Until 1993, each new minister of Education wrote letters granting permission for Adventists to be absent from compulsory attendance on Saturdays at France's public schools. The 1993 Waco tragedy and 1994 Solar Temple suicides led some French authorities to identify certain religious minorities as "dangerous sects." According to Verfaillie, media campaigns against such cults led to some school directors to mistakenly identify Adventists as a kind of unusual religion that should not be granted any kind of toleration. "The attitude of French school authorities hardened," said Verfaillie. "Many practising Jews and Seventh-day Adventists were not granted the right to freedom of conscience regarding Sabbath (Saturday) absences for religious motives."
A 1992 decree passed after Islamic agitation was cited as a reason to restrict religious freedom. As a result, some school directors refused to grant permission for Saturday absence. Now that right has been reinstated.
"There is no objection to pass on my letter to the families so that they can mention it, in case of difficulty, to the relevant academic authorities,"said cabinet director Denis Soubeyran while confirming that permission has now been granted again. "This is a great help to Adventist families, not only here in mainland France but also in French overseas territories," says Verfaillie. "It is also a great advantage to show the public that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not considered a sect but as a church by French authorities. The letter from the minister of Education takes on particular importance in the context of the emotional agitation regarding the new religious movements and religious minority groups."
Breakthrough for Sabbath-keeping Students in France
Paris, France .... [Bettina Krause]
A letter issued by France's Minister of Education last week will make it easier for students to receive religious exemptions from school attendance on Saturdays.
While affirming that the principal of each school still has the discretion to grant or deny requests, the letter by National Education Minister Jack Lang identifies religious accommodation as a valid reason for a principal to grant an exemption.
"This is a significant breakthrough," says Dr. John Graz, director of the public affairs and religious liberty department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church worldwide. "There has been an ongoing, deteriorating situation in France where Adventist students have been denied permission to be absent from school on Saturday-their day of worship."
Graz says that from 1950 to 1981, France's Minister of Education issued an annual letter recommending such exemptions "almost as a matter of course."
"Since that time it has became more difficult," Graz says. In the past three to four years, dozens of Adventist students have failed to gain their principals' approval for Saturday absences. An Adventist student from Versailles was denied Sabbath accommodation and took his case to the European Court of Human Rights in 1999. Although the court ruled in the student's favor, teachers at his school went on strike when the ruling was implemented.
The timing of the minister's letter is significant, coming just weeks after France's National Assembly adopted a proposed anti-sect law. The law, which prompted expressions of concern from religious and human rights groups around the world when it was adopted on June 22, targets a list of 172 so-called sects. If passed by the Senate, the law would provide for the dissolution of religious organizations engaging in the poorly defined crime of "mental manipulation." Although the Adventist Church was not included on the list of sects, Graz says the law foreshadows an increasingly hostile environment for all religious minorities in France.
"There is an ideological battle against the principles of religious liberty in France," says Graz. He says that "widespread secularism," "public apathy towards religious freedom issues," and "a media-driven fear of small or unknown religious groups" has contributed to the current environment.
Graz says that it is difficult to know why France's Ministry of Education released the letter last week after stalling on the issue for more than three years. International bodies-including the United Nations and the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom-expressed concern about France's increasingly hostile attitude towards religious minorities, which may have played a role, Graz believes.
Jean-Paul Bargoun and Jimmy Trujillo, Adventist church leaders in France, have been credited with obtaining the letter. They say that while the minister's letter has no binding legal effect, it may have "persuasive influence" on the decisions made by school principals.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, which teaches that Saturday-the seventh day-is a day of worship and rest, has operated in France since the 1880s. The Adventist Church is a longtime proponent of religious liberty principles, believing that individuals should have the right to follow the dictates of conscience in matters of religion and worship.
After issuing his guidelines on religious expression in the federal workplace President Clinton has been hailed as the president most supportive of religious freedom in our nation's history!
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of
Reform Judaism said:
"[The Clinton administration] is the most supportive administration to religious freedom and religious liberty of American citizens of any administration in the history of this nation. Time and again, they have stood up on behalf of the rights of religious people in the schools, on behalf of religious freedom generally and now within the federal workplace."The recently issued guidelines tell federal employers to reasonably accommodate employees' religious practices, including allowing them off in order to keep the Sabbath.
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