Archive for December, 2008

Religious Liberty Reader, December 21, 2008

December 21, 2008

December 18

Medical ‘Conscience Rule’ Is Issued

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (NY Times), The Bush administration, as expected, announced new protections on Thursday for health care providers who oppose abortion and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

“Doctors and other health care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience,” Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement on his department’s Web site.


December 19

U.N. religious hate vote alarms liberty groups

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) — The U.N. General Assembly Thursday approved a “Defamation of Religion” resolution, largely supported by Islamic countries, condemning critical or offensive expressions directed at any religious faith. What’s not to like?


Morning Bell: Protecting Religious Liberty

President-elect Barack Obama angered gay groups this week by choosing “Purpose Driven Life” author Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Despite the fact that Obama and Warren have the exact same position on same-sex marriage, gay leaders like Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese object to “the symbolism” of inviting an “anti-gay theologian” to deliver his inaugural invocation.



Voting on the Sabbath

December 21, 2008




[Caribsda] Voting on Sabbath
Pedrito Maynard-Reid Pedrito.Maynard-Reid at
Thu Feb 7 13:21:08 PST 2008


This Sabbath, Washington State hold its caucuses. And as was the case with Nevada, Adventists are asking whether they should or should not vote on Sabbaths. Our VP for Academic Administration just forwarded the communication that originated from the North Pacific Union Conference.

From: Ginger KettingWeller
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 11:41 AM
To: Faculty-Mail; Staff-Mail
Subject: The Matter of Voting & When
Importance: High

Dear Faculty and Staff,

The Caucuses are this Sabbath afternoon. Attached, FYI, is an e-mail from the NPUC religious liberty department regarding the issue of voting on Sabbath. You may find it helpful. Thanks to Greg Dodds, our local religious liberty representative, for bringing this to our attention.


From: Greg Hamilton [mailto:Greg.Hamilton at]
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2008 12:08 PM
To: Gregory Dodds
Subject: The Matter of Voting & When
Importance: High

Ellen G. White – Question of Voting on Sabbath & Other Thoughts…

(The first four paragraphs below are excerpts from the book written by Herbert E. Douglass, “Messenger of the Lord: The Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White.” Chapter 13, “Delivering God’s Message,” and in subsection “Manner of Delivering Messages Varied.”)

The Question of Voting on the Sabbath

A vision (or a dream) often turned a group from hasty decisions to the right course of action to be seen better as time went by. In the summer of 1881 James and Ellen White were tired. She was ill. However, she had a “deep impression” that they should leave the Michigan camp meeting and go to the Iowa camp meeting, which was to open in two days. When they arrived in Des Moines, she said to a minister, “Well, we are here at the Lord’s bidding, for what special purpose we do not know, but we shall doubtless know as the meeting progresses.”

The Whites did much of the preaching. On Sunday evening, after Mrs. White had retired, the constituency was conducting a business meeting on the subject of voting, especially in regard to temperance and prohibition. After a short time the message came that the group wanted her counsel. G. B. Starr recalled later that Ellen White related a dream that described the Iowa circumstance and that the heavenly spokesman had said: “God designs to help the people in a great movement on this subject. He also designed that you, as a people, should be the head and not the tail in the movement; but now the position you have taken will place you at the tail.”

In the meeting, Mrs. White was asked whether the Iowa Adventists should vote for prohibition. Her answer was swift: “Yes, to a man everywhere and perhaps I shall shock some of you if I say, If necessary, vote on the Sabbath day for prohibition if you cannot at any other time.”

Writing later, Starr emphasized: “I can testify that the effect of the relation of that dream was electrical upon the whole conference. A convincing power attended it, and I saw for the first time the unifying power of the gift of prophecy in the church” (White, Arthur L. Ellen G. White, Vol. 3, Six-volume biography [Washington, D. C.: RHPA, 1981-1986]: pp. 158-160. Ellen White endorsed G.B. Starr’s report).

The Battle Creek Example

EGW also encouraged all of Battle Creek Adventists to rise up and vote the then sitting Mayor out of office, a candidate for office (not just an issue), because he was a womanizer, a drunk, and a gambler and thief, and because he assumed 1) that Adventists didn’t believe in voting, and 2) they would not vote on the Sabbath because they were “Sabbath-keepers.” (See the book Temperance, pages 255-256.)

Exception or the Rule?

The more I read of EGW, the more I am impressed that she believed it was a citizen-stewardship duty to vote. It is, however, unclear if voting polls back in those days were mainly and traditionally only open on the Sabbath in various (if not many, or most) local communities where Sunday keeping was strictly observed. On the other hand, if it was a rarity for voting polls to be open on the Sabbath, it would make voting on the Sabbath an exception as a matter of practice rather than the rule and thus why she had no problem with it

I personally believe EGW was a very practical woman and looked for opportunities to carry out her civic duty, even on the Sabbath because in those days the issue of temperance and prohibition was continually before the people for a number of years during her lifetime. It was an ongoing issue, along with the matter of prohibition (at least until Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863). Furthermore, I’m not sure one could truly make the argument from the Bible that voting on the Sabbath is somehow a sin. Hey, we have a hard enough time convincing some, yea many, Adventists that it is not a sin to vote! I think you get the picture.

Practical Counsels on Voting

EGW’s counsel is also pretty straightforward in Gospel Workers, pages 387, and 391-92. She writes: “Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue” (page 387.) Notice that she didn’t just single out “temperance,” but also “virtue.” We must stand up for what is right is right because it is right, while also being ever cognizant that we are not like some who seek to push an agenda for the purpose of seizing political power. This kind of partisan politics EGW opposed in the strictest terms. Corresponding pages in this section of Gospel Workers makes this point very clear. But the question of voting is very clear in this reference. We are encouraged to vote. There is no statement by EGW encouraging us not to vote.

There is the reference on pages 391-92 of Gospel Workers that some misread and interpret to mean that Seventh-day Adventist Christians should not vote, when in fact the reference implies just the opposite. She writes: “We cannot with safety vote for political parties; for we do not know whom we are voting for.” This simply means that we must remain independent voters and not be loyal to any specific political party, be it Republican, Democrat, or any other party platform. She goes on to say that “We cannot labor to please men who will use their influence to repress religious liberty, and to set in operation oppressive measures to lead or compel their fellow-men to keep Sunday as the Sabbath…. The people of God are not to vote to place such men in office; for when they do this, they are partakers with them of the sins which they commit while in office.”

One must take this last portion in context and understand that voting for men or women who will use their influence to repress religious liberty is what she is referring to and not the message that we should not vote. Quite the contrary. One of the clear signals we should watch for is the promise of candidates to nominate “strict constructionist” judges to the federal or Supreme Court bench. Such judges typically support the establishment and enforcement of certain types of Christian acts of loyalty and devotion in the public square in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and in violation with the spirit and use of the first table of the law of God, which is off limits to the power and jurisdiction of the state.

The establishment and enforcement of such acts in the public square represents the spirit of constitutional and historical revisionism. While professing to be “strict constructionists,” these presidential candidates and the judges they promise to nominate actually propose a radical sort of judicial activism that would see America return to the good old days of the Puritans in which religious freedom was only for those religions that were favored, and where all others were merely tolerated or even worse. Here we see how such thinking – the establishment and enforcement of acts of religious loyalty and devotion could very easily lead to a National Sunday law. That is why it is very important to vote for those who you believe will make religious freedom – the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state (i.e., the Establishment Clause) and the free exercise of religion – a singular priority to protect while serving in office.

Questionable Comparisons & Distinctions

Some have argued that voting on the Sabbath should not be the rule, but the exception. This may be true today, but strangely enough it may not have been in EGW’s day because of the historical possibility that voting may have been frequently done only on Saturday in some local communities. We don’t know this for sure, but research would need to be done on this point.

1) Forced to Vote on the Sabbath

Also, voting is a voluntary act of citizenship. No one is forcing you to vote or forcing you to violate your right to keep the Sabbath. The comparison of the three Hebrew worthies being forced to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image has been used to suggest that to refrain from voting on the Sabbath is the principled equivalent. Yet the Hebrew worthies were forced to bow down. It’s a good thing they did not; but such a comparison does not work for me when it comes to the matter of voting and that is because voting is a volunteer act. No one is being forced to vote. Everyone has the option to be fully persuaded in their own mind on whether they should vote on the Sabbath if that is the only option available, such as in Nevada a few weeks ago.

2) A Violation of Civil Rights

Some have argued that Seventh-day Adventists are being disenfranchised in the same way that Black Americans were before the 1960’s. Not so. Black Americans were specifically targeted. No one can seriously make the claim that the State of Nevada was specifically targeting Jews and Seventh-day Adventists and that they intended to do so during the Primary caucus vote a few weeks ago. Yes, by opening the polls during the prime time hours of the Sabbath, during Sabbath School and Church service, the process was inherently inconvenient; but to make the case that it was purposely made unfair to Jewish and SDA voters, or that they were somehow forced to vote on their Sabbath, against their sincerely held convictions, is a case that cannot be made. Such a claim may be true for numerous orthodox Jews, but it cannot be made for Seventh-day Adventists. This is because the act of voting is voluntary and we have a history that suggests that it is not necessarily against our church’s sincerely held religious convictions, or any supposed policy, to refrain from voting on the Sabbath. There is no such church policy, nor can anyone make the claim that it is a sin to vote on the Sabbath, particularly today when voting polls are rarely only open on the Sabbath.

The best way to deal with states and various communities that open their polling stations only on the Sabbath is to seek to change such practices by encouraging and backing legislation that would put into motion an all-state wide mail-in voting ballot, such as is practiced in Oregon and Washington, as well as in other states across our country. It is better to be active on this level than to whine in the press about how Seventh-day Adventists were somehow disenfranchised and discriminated against by forcing them to vote on the Sabbath. I think the former approach provides a much better long term solution to the problem, if there really is one, depending on your personal perspective as you weigh the counsel of EGW above.

3) Issues vs. Individual Candidates

Finally, some have argued that a distinction has to be made between voting on the Sabbath in a general primary or election and voting for or against certain issues. While such a distinction may seem like an important one, however finely parsed it is, my thinking is that you cannot separate the issues from the candidates, just as EGW did not separate the issues (mainly the matter of “character”) from the mayoral candidate seeking re-election in Battle Creek. (This is a limited example, but it is one of the few we have on record.) Outside of routine ballot measures that come up from time to time at the state and local level, by voting for an individual you are voting for the issues they believe in and have stated so during the election campaign. As to character, that is an important qualification or disqualification to make as well, as in EGW’s Battle Creek example. Therefore, to make a seemingly important distinction between “issues” and “candidates,” one has to remember that such a distinction is oftentimes flawed. I find it is often an excuse not to vote at all during general primaries and general elections, whether congressional or presidential or both, or for those running for state offices, etc.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to write. I open to revising my thinking on this depending on the evidence and the reasoning behind the evidence presented. Thanks for your time. I thought some of you would appreciate receiving these insights regarding the matter of voting, particularly when so many continue to find ways and excuses to refrain from voting altogether, let alone be worried about voting on the Sabbath. We have problems enough, as it is, to get people to vote at all! May the good Lord reverse that trend in our midst is my prayer.

Gregory W. Hamilton
Northwest Religious Liberty Association
5709 N 20th Street
Ridgefield, WA 98642


Email: greg.hamilton at
Office: (360) 857-7040
Cell: (360) 910-4882
Fax: (360) 857-7140

Thomas Jefferson: “It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united.”




SDA Religious Liberty History, Canada, 1904

December 8, 2008

Canadian Union Messenger, March 1, 1904


The Canadian Union Conference Committee met at their office in Montreal on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Members present were Elders Thurston, Rickard and Thompson, and the writer. Three days were spent in careful and prayerful consideration of questions concerning the work in the Union Conference, and the following resolutions were carried by unanimous vote of the members present:—

2. That we ask Bro. T. H. Robinson, of the Ontario Conference, to go to Ottawa during the session of the Dominion Parliament, to represent the interests of religious liberty, spending as much time as seems advisable, in view of the attempt of any party to secure legislation in reference to Sunday laws.

3. That we invite Elder Rickard to associate with Bro. Robinson in the aforementioned work at Ottawa.

4. That we invite Elder G. B. Thompson to prepare some literature for use in the Religious Liberty campaign.


The General Conference Council last October recommended that special offering for religious liberty work be taken early in 1904. The first Sabbath in March was the date first set, but to give more time for the announcement, we have set the time on Sabbath, March 12.

In the reorganization of the work on departmental lines called for in general, union, and state conferences, the time has fully come to develop the department of religious liberty, to enable it to bring out up-to-date literature, and to make an earnest effort to lift up the voice of warning against the influences that are working to bring about the enforcement of Sunday laws. We know that these agencies are working day and night to mold sentiment and secure control of legislation to enforce the worship of the beast and its image. We shall be surprised at the sudden manifestation of strength on the part of these organized movements one of these days. Now is our time to work. One call for immediate work is supplied by the opportunities in connection with the St. Louis World’s Fair.

In order to bring out special literature on the religious liberty issue, and to foster the interests of this work among all the conferences and churches, the General Conference Religious Liberty Department must have funds. Elder Allen Moon, the chairman of the departmental committee, has his office in Chicago. The committee is planning an active campaign. If the notice is given out promptly, and all unite in the offering, a good working capital for the year will be given in this one collection, which will take but a fey moments’ attention from the regular service. Will not ministers and church elders announce this, and encourage the people to act liberally and unitedly? The offering should be sent through the channel of the Local Conference treasury.




I trust that all of our people in Canada had a part in contributing to the special offering March 12 for the Religious Liberty work; and now we have another matter to which we wish to call attention.

You are probably aware that at the next session of Parliament there will be a strong effort made by the Lord’s Day Alliance people for a Dominion Sunday Law. We have had to prepare literature here in Canada to meet the issue and have arranged for two men to go to Ottawa in the interest of religious liberty, and spend what time seems necessary there when the bill is presented.

At the recent session of the C.U.C. committee, this matter was considered, and it seemed to us that it would be proper for us to ask our people in Canada to contribute to a fund for religious liberty work in Canada.

It will cost something to publish tracts, as several thousand of different kinds will be needed, and we believe that our people will gladly contribute to this fund. We do not design to set apart a day for a special offering to this fund, but will simply ask you to send to S. D. Hartwell, 4230 St. Catherine Street, Montreal, whatever
you feel willing to give for this line of work. We have a message for the people, and this session of Parliament will be an opportune time to call the minds of men in official positions to the true principles of Christianity.

“I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

Let us pray, and not only pray, but let us do what we can at this time to bring these men to a knowledge of the truth. We shall he blessed in doing.


Freedom to Speak Against

December 8, 2008

A Canwest News Service report

National War of words over hate speech heating up

Keith Bonnell, Canwest News Service

Published: Sunday, December 07, 2008

In the war of words over free speech, it seems one of the early combatants has switched sides.

Imam Syed Soharwardy is opening a Freedom of Speech Centre in Calgary – a place where he says people will be encouraged to openly discuss thorny cultural issues of the day.

It’s a new twist for the man who helped spark a national uproar two years ago over the role of human rights commissions in censoring hate speech.

That debate’s still raging, and it’s a nasty one.

Conservative pundits and a growing number of major media outlets have turned on the commissions, saying they risk becoming kangaroo courts where special interest groups can bully the media and jeopardize Canadians’ freedom of speech.

On the other side, there are calls to preserve what advocates insist is a needed tool in the battle against hate speech – and a way to hold mainstream media outlets to account for biased journalism.

Soharwardy fired an early salvo in the battle, lodging a human rights complaint against publisher Ezra Levant. In February 2006, Levant published the notorious Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the now-defunct Western Standard magazine.

At the time, Soharwardy argued the cartoons were a form of hate speech.

However, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has been through a lot since then. You might say he’s had a change of heart about hate.

“My view of the human rights commission has changed almost 180 degrees,” he told Canwest News Service. “Especially about this Section 13, the freedom of speech.”

Soharwardy backed out of the complaint against Levant, which was eventually dismissed by Alberta’s human rights commission, and has renounced the process.

“I wish we could have sat down at that time and talked it out rather than me going to a human rights complaint and Mr. Levant writing about me in the media and on the website,” Soharwardy says. “I think it would have helped us both.”

He says he hopes his planned Freedom of Speech Centre can help Muslims and all Canadians explore ways to balance hate speech and free speech.

He said he wants to help Muslims newly arrived from more repressive cultures to understand why, for example, Canadians can freely mock religions – and why that right to offend is an important pillar of democracy.

He hopes to open the centre in January.

With his volte-face, Soharwardy has added his voice to a growing chorus calling for human rights commissions to get out of the business of sanctioning public discourse and deciding what qualifies as hate speech.

This is not the stuff of calm, reasoned debate. There are columns about how Muslims are taking over the world, there are blogs saying the holocaust never happened.

Still, editorials calling for changes have appeared in the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and elsewhere.

The debate centres around Section 13 of the federal Canadian Human Rights Act. It allows the federal commission to reprimand anyone found to have spread messages online that are “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.”

Those fighting to have the section repealed got a boost last month from free speech expert and University of Windsor professor Richard Moon.

Moon was asked by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to look into the debate. His report said the best-case scenario would be to get rid of Section 13 and leave hate speech to the police.

Alternatively, Moon suggested, the wording of the act should be changed so that the definition of hate speech is explicitly defined as language that “advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group.”

That was music to the ears of conservative pundits such as Levant and author and blogger Mark Steyn, who have long complained the commissions aren’t fair to the accused.

Their grievances? There is no presumption of innocence; truth is not a defence; and if a complaint in found to have no merit, there is no compensation offered to the wrongly accused.

All of which, these critics say, remains beside the point: the right to free speech is absolute in a free society.

“The only reason we’re talking about this is because of censorship,” Levant said.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission says it wants to get public reaction to the Moon report, then submit it to Parliament by the middle of next year.

But the commission may not find a welcoming audience on the Hill, where Liberal MP Keith Martin has taken up the fight.

“As freethinking, democratic individuals in a democracy, we don’t have a right not to be offended,” he said.

Martin has introduced a private member’s motion calling on the government to repeal Section 13. He said he’s also been lobbying to have the justice committee hold a public, televised hearing on the issue.

While Moon’s report partly sided with the conservative pundits, the expert also calls their criticisms largely “overblown.”

Moon stressed that the media have a responsibility to provide fair and balanced content.

His report suggested the creation of a national press council. It would have the power to investigate complaints of human rights discrimination or bias in journalism, and could force a media outlet to publicize a judgment against it, should one be made.

The Canadian Association of Journalists has condemned the idea, saying it smacks of government censorship.

The notion does appeal to some, including Khurrum Awan. He was one of the law students who filed a failed complaint against Maclean’s magazine over its decision to publish online an excerpt from Steyn’s book, America Alone. The excerpt alleges that Muslims’ booming populations numbers could threaten Western democracies.

“There has been a lot of media and political heat around our complaint,” Awan said. “We do feel if that heat had not been there, the decision may have been different.”

He said currently the human rights commissions are the “only meaningful avenue of holding our media accountable for Canadians,” but said his group would have preferred to air their complaint at a press council – had Maclean’s belonged to such a body.

Like Awan, human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis says the media haven’t done a good job of fairly examining the issue – because they are vested in the outcome of the debate.

She says there are good reasons to keep hate speech under the mandate of human rights commissions, even if it means amending the legislation. She shoots down criticism from pundits she calls “controversy entrepreneurs.”

“These positions are simply incoherent,” he said. “The media normally dives in, attacks the hype, tests things. They haven’t done that in this case.”

Section 13, which dates back to the inception of the federal act in 1977, was originally meant to deal with the issue of “hate lines,” telephone numbers where callers could hear pre-recorded racist messages.

In 2001, the federal government amended the section so that it also covered hate speech online.

There, arguably, is where the problem began.

With the explosion of the Internet – including newspapers publishing online, political bloggers, etc. – suddenly the commissions were in a position to oversee and judge journalism.

“The fact that the mainstream media are now covered by the legislation is something none of us anticipated or foresaw,” said Philippe Dufresne, director and senior council for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The commission can award compensation to victims of hate speech to a maximum of $20,000. It can also levy a penalty of as much as $10,000.

Soharwardy’s complaint against Levant and the high-profile case against Maclean’s became twin lightning rods for those who said the human rights commission was going too far.

Levant said he’s spent $100,000 on legal fees dealing with the human rights complaints against him that have dragged on for a total of 900 days.

For the record, he doesn’t buy Soharwardy’s conversion in the least. But he said it’s clear opinion is piling up against the commissions.

“The only people in the country who still support it are those who have a direct financial stake in it,” he said.

He dismissed the argument that because he and Maclean’s won their cases the system is working.

“Mark Steyn and I were a political problem for them,” he says of the human rights commission. “We were let go, whereas people who can’t afford pricey lawyers . . . they get crushed. That’s a form of corruption.”

As for Soharwardy, the imam’s change of heart took time – and included spending a while looking down the barrel of a human rights complaint that was aimed squarely at him.

Soharwardy was accused of discriminating against several women at his mosque.

“I understand the pain that people go through when they face a complaint at the human rights commission,” he said. “If a frivolous complaint has been filed, then the defendant is still on the hook to defend himself.”

But he insists it wasn’t the complaint against him but his concerns about his religious freedom that prompted him to turn his back on the process.

“Freedom of religion is very dear to me,” he said, explaining he worries that restricting speech could lead to limits on his right to express his religious beliefs.

Soharwardy said he believes the federal government needs to do a better of educating newcomers to Canada about freedom of speech, as well its consequences, both good and bad.

“People in any Muslim country people will not make fun or should not make fun of any religions,” he said.

“Here, people go on air and make fun of Jesus Christ. . . . That is a very shocking thing for a Muslim. People are not used to this kind of freedom.”

He said he believes freedom of speech is about more than just public discourse – it’s also about how different generations relate within families.

He points to family violence, some of which is the result of tensions flaring between immigrant parents and their western-raised children.

Freedom of speech is crucial so that everyone’s voice is heard, he said.

“That freedom will save a family from destruction,” he said. “We can resolve domestic violence, we can resolve women abuse, child abuse.”

What proponents of Section 13 stress is that the system offers a more appropriate range of remedies than the criminal justice system.

The system, they say, works to find compromises and resolve disputes.

“Words have power; and terrible words have terrible power,” said Bernie M. Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

He argues that an amended act – along the lines of what Moon’s report recommends – is the best option.

“I know that there is a clamour by some to jump on the band wagon where they feel that any law that limits speech of any kind is harmful, but our position is that if one can find the right balance, it makes us a better society.”