The idea of forcing someone to do what they don’t want to do is generally viewed as something inherently unAmerican and even unChristian. Personal individual liberty is highly valued in Christianity and has historically been one of the foundational building blocks of the government of the United States. After all, the famous phrase of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. There is also the famous 1775 declaration from Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” – a motto that was shared among all of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Table of Contents
- 1 Christian Anarchy?
- 2 Limits of Personal Freedom in a Civil Society:
- 3 The Golden Rule:
- 4 Christian Basis of Civil Law:
- 5 Government Vaccine Mandates vs. Religious Exemption:
- 5.1 Three Groups of People:
- 5.2 Inconsistency:
- 5.2.1 Non-zero personal risk:
- 5.2.2 No Significant Benefit for Others:
- 5.2.3 The Injection of Fetal Cells:
- 5.2.4 Testing with Fetal Cell Lines:
- 5.2.5 The mRNA Vaccines are too New and Untested regarding Long-term Dangers:
- 5.2.6 The Spike Protein produced by the Vaccine is Poisonous:
- 5.2.7 God Never Used Vaccines:
- 5.2.8 All Government Mandates on Vaccines are Morally Wrong:
- 6 Obeying the Government Despite Objection:
- 7 Updates (12/5/2021):
- 8 Bio of Dr. Sean Pitman
Does this mean, then, that the United States of America, and Christianity in general, stands for complete individual autonomy? – that there is no place for government or the enforcement of civil laws upon those who think themselves “free” to disregard any and all laws and governments with which they do not personally agree? Well, no. The United States does not stand for complete anarchy, and neither does Christianity – a situation where “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Where then is the balance between personal freedom and the general enforcement of civil laws in a well-governed society?
Limits of Personal Freedom in a Civil Society:
It seems that a well-governed society recognizes the truism that personal liberties end where those of another begin. Borrowing from an earlier speech by John B. Finch, Rev. Dixon illustrated this concept as follows:
A drunken man was going down the street in Baltimore flinging his hands right and left, when one of his arms came across the nose of a passer-by. The passer-by instinctively clenched his fist and sent the intruder sprawling to the ground. He got up, rubbing the place where he was hit, and said, “I would like to know if this is not a land of liberty.” “It is,” said the other fellow; “but I want you to understand that your liberty ends just where my nose begins.” (1894 – At a temperance campaigner named Rev. A. C. Dixon at the “Thirteenth International Christian Endeavor Convention”)
The Golden Rule:
This very same principle also has a basis in the Bible – in the formation of governments and laws set up by God Himself. All of these Biblical laws that govern civil society appear to be based on the basic principle of “loving one’s neighbor as one’s self” (Matthew 22:29 and Leviticus 19:18) and “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31). In fact, this concept seems so basic and so self-evident that it is, essentially, a “truism” – something so self-evident that it is hardly worth mentioning.
Christian Basis of Civil Law:
So, the real question here is not if civil governments should exist or if they should enforce civil laws that protect the personal rights and basic liberties of all. Clearly, such governments, along with their ability to enforce civil laws, are set up by God Himself (Romans 13:4). The real question is where to draw the line between allowing personal liberties and protecting the noses of others from those liberties?
Government Vaccine Mandates vs. Religious Exemption:
Of course, the current issue at hand in this regard is over the issue of government mandates regarding the vaccines against COVID-19. Should these mandates be resisted by Christians, in particular? And, should Christians claim a “religious exception” as a reason to disregard these government mandates?
Three Groups of People:
There are at least three groups of people, who oppose the current vaccine mandates, to consider here.
- There are those who believe that the vaccines against COVID-19 are very beneficial in the fight against the pandemic, but who oppose government mandates because of their infringement on personal liberty.
- There are those who believe that the vaccines against COVID-19 are very beneficial in the fight against the pandemic, but who are not in favor of government mandates because they are seen as counterproductive – that there are better ways to promote the general use of the vaccines.
- There are those who believe that the vaccines against COVID-19 are dangerous and poisonous – potentially more risky than the disease itself, and therefore the mandates to take such dangerous vaccines should be opposed on the basis of the concept of one’s personal body being the “Temple of God” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Therefore, no order to defile one’s temple can ever be valid for the Christian. Those in this group of people usually also believe that vaccines don’t prevent or even significantly reduce the transmission of the virus to others and therefore don’t fall under the guidance of the Golden Rule.
Personally, I find myself in the second group rather than the first or the third group. While I personally see the evidence that is currently in hand as being overwhelmingly in favor of the vaccines when it comes to significantly reducing the risk of serious COVID-19 infections, and even the spread of COVID-19, I don’t see the current government mandates, for the general population (with the exception of those working with those who are most at risk of infection – such as hospital or nursing home workers), as being the best and most effective approach. I just see the current use of vaccine mandates as too heavy-handed, resulting in a natural backlash against vaccines for those who are not very very familiar with the basic science as to how these vaccines work, their high level of effectiveness, and their high level of relative safety. Still, I see a big difference between disagreeing with the government and actively disregarding government laws or mandates – or citing religious exemptions when one’s concerns are often really nothing more than personal preferences that are inconsistently applied to various situations.
But what about those who believe that the vaccines will actually poison their bodies? – or in some other way defile the “Temple of God”? Shouldn’t such people be given religious exceptions? It would seem as those the answer to this question is a clear-cut and unequivocal yes. However, even here there are shades of gray that involve many and probably most Christians. For example, many who are currently citing a “religious exemption” are not being consistent in their reasons for such a religious exemption – as follows:
Non-zero personal risk:
There are those who argue that even though the risk of the vaccines may be very small, that it’s not zero. Even if there is just a very remote possibility of serious personal injury and death from the vaccines, that it should be up to the individual, not the government, if such a risk should be taken – regardless of the benefit it may have for others or for the society at large.
This is an inconsistent argument because such people generally have no problem with other government mandates that also pose a small personal risk in exchange for the much greater benefit to society that is realized. Examples of such mandates include the wearing of seatbelts or the use of airbags in vehicles. While very rare, airbags and seatbelts are not entirely risk-free. There are numerous examples of people being seriously injured and even killed by airbags and seatbelts. Yet, since the benefits to society at large are so great in comparison, very few complain about such government mandates, much less claim religious exemptions to avoid complying with such mandates.
No Significant Benefit for Others:
There are those who argue that even if the vaccines might offer some personal benefit, that the vaccines offer no significant benefit for others since they do not prevent the virus from spreading to others.
The problem here is that the vaccines, while not 100% effective at preventing viral transmission by any means, do actually significantly reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus to others (Link). The same is true for the wearing of masks (Link, Link).
This argument is also inconsistent even if only the individual risk were improved by vaccines since reducing the severity of disease for the individual also ends up reducing the number of those who require hospitalization and ICU-levels of care. This ends up reducing the burden on hospitals that have often been stretched beyond the limit during this pandemic.
Again, the claim that a person’s actions during this pandemic, regarding one’s choice to get vaccinated or not, or to mask up in public places or not, don’t significantly affect other people is simply mistaken. Those who live in society don’t live as islands. The Golden Rule therefore always applies since someone else is almost always affected by one’s actions or inactions.
And, even if it were true that it’s vaccination and/or mask-wearing offer nothing more than a perception of safety, that alone should be enough for the Christian – to act in such a way that gives others the impression that their lives and health are important enough to me for me to suffer a bit of risk or inconvenience for their sake alone. That is, after all, what being a Christian is all about since this is exactly what Jesus did for all of us.
The Injection of Fetal Cells:
There are those who believe that the COVID-19 vaccines are created with the use of fetal cell lines, making them immoral for the Christan to use.
The problem here is that the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 (i.e., the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines) are entirely synthetically produced. They do not require the use of any living cell culture to produce. They also require no adjuvants to enhance the human immune response nor do they require the addition of any preservatives. They only consist of an mRNA sequence, some salts, and some lipids. That’s it. They are, in fact, the “cleanest” vaccines ever produced.
Testing with Fetal Cell Lines:
There are those who argue that because the vaccines against COVID-19 were initially tested on immortal fetal cell lines that were started many decades ago, that it would be immoral for them, as Christians, to take these vaccines as well.
Yet, many of these same Christians use other vaccines or medications, on a regular basis, that were also tested on these very same fetal cell lines. Some of these common over-the-counter medications include Tylenol, Ibuprofen/Motrin, Aspirin, Pepto Bismol, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, Preparation H, Claritin, Prilosec, and Zoloft – and numerous others (Link, Link). So, if this argument is to be viewed as consistent, much of modern medicine would be off-limits to such Christians.
Consider also a bit of history behind one of the most popular fetal cell lines in use today – the HEK293 cell line. The original cells for the HEK293 fetal cell line were transformed and immortalized in January 1973 by a young Canadian postdoc by the name of Frank Graham, who was working at the time in Leiden (in the Netherlands) in the laboratory of Professor Alex van der Eb. Normally, a cell can only divide a limited number of times. However, Graham managed to modify these particular cells so that they could divide indefinitely – creating an “immortal” cell line. This was his 293rd experiment, hence the name of the line (HEK stands for “human embryonic kidney cells”). Now, consider that elective abortion was illegal in the Netherlands until 1984 – except to save the life of the mother. Consequently, many researchers now consider it likely that the HEK cell line produced by the Graham was probably originally derived from a spontaneous miscarriage, not an elective abortion (Link).
Either way, getting rid of this cell line at this point and never using it again to expand medical knowledge would seem to be a serious mistake.
The problem is that the use of many such medications and other therapies to treat many diseases is, in fact, based on fetal cell line studies. If one refused to use any knowledge based on such research, if one were to be consistent, any such research could not be used to treat a great many diseases.
In this light, I would suggest, given the potential importance of such information to help a great many people, that this knowledge not be discarded or left unused because of its basis in the use of immortal fetal cell lines that were established many decades ago, probably with the use of a spontaneous miscarriage. Rather, I would suggest that laws be made that make it illegal to use deliberately aborted fetal tissues in the future.
The mRNA Vaccines are too New and Untested regarding Long-term Dangers:
There are those who argue that even though they are not personally against vaccines in general, having used vaccines themselves, that the mRNA vaccine technology is “too new” and that the long-term effects of these vaccines remain unknown.
The problem here is that the mRNA vaccine technology is not new or untested in the long term. It has been around and extensively tested for over 30 years (Link). It has also been extensively used in the clinical setting for many years to treat other diseases with good success and a very good safety record (Link).
The Spike Protein produced by the Vaccine is Poisonous:
There are those who claim that the spike protein is “poisonous” to the body and therefore should not be taken since it would harm the Temple of God.
While there are risks to the modern vaccines against COVID-19, serious risks are very rare – similar to the risks associated with having airbags in cars or wearing seatbelts. These risks are well-known now since the extensive double-blinded placebo-controlled trials and since the use of these vaccines by hundreds of millions of people (Link). So, as previously noted, the refusal to take on a tiny risk, despite the benefits to others and to society as a whole, just comes across as inconsistency for those who have no problem with taking on other very similar risks that also benefit society.
God Never Used Vaccines:
There are those who cite the Levitical laws in the Bible dealing with what to do with those who come down with some kind of sickness or infection, noting that God never commanded the use of anything like vaccines to treat the healthy or any kind of quarantine for those who were healthy – only for those who were already sick.
It is interesting to note here that the Levitical laws listed in the Bible dealing with those who were infected or sick put serious restrictions on the personal liberties of these people for the sake of protecting the community as a whole. Again, the basic moral principle of personal liberties ending with the beginning of another person’s nose is illustrated here – in the Bible.
Of course, the Bible didn’t cover all possible advances in medical knowledge or medical care. For example, God didn’t explain anything regarding the existence of infectious bacteria or viruses as the underlying cause of various diseases. He just gave some basic rules of thumb on how best to limit disease within a community – without providing all of the biological details behind these rules. God didn’t give information on the development or use of antibiotics here either. Yet, most Christians have no problem with the use of antibiotics when it comes to treating serious bacterial infections. God also didn’t explain the biochemistry of the innate or adaptive human immune systems. Yet few Christians have a problem with the concept that modern scientific advances have greatly benefited mankind when to comes to fighting infections by bacteria, viruses, and various other parasites that have long plagued humanity. Some who wouldn’t think of getting vaccinated have no problem with off-label uses of anti-paracytic drugs like ivermectin to treat viral diseases like COVID-19 infections (despite the lack of scientific evidence) – which seems rather inconsistent. God didn’t even explain, within the Levitical Laws at least, the use of many of the health messages given to Mrs. White – to include hot/cold fomentations, activated charcoal, or a vegan diet (which would have been impractical throughout most of Biblical history after the Flood – until the invention of refrigeration).
Ellen White on Useful Medical Advances:
For Seventh-day Adventists, in particular, Ellen White was a strong promoter of the best advances of modern medicine in her day – to include the use of medications like quinine to treat malaria (despite calling quinine a “poison” when it came to general frivolous uses of her day). Beyond this, she recognized the advantages of anesthesia during surgery and the use of medicines to relieve the intense pain and suffering of the injured or sick (Link). She recommended blood transfusions when needed, despite the risks involved (Link) – and even had radiation therapy to resolve a skin lesion on her face (Link). And yes, she even approved of the smallpox vaccine for her son, William White, and his staff and was vaccinated against smallpox herself according to her personal secretary (Link).
It seems particularly inconsistent, then, for Seventh-day Adventist Christians to argue that if some medical concept wasn’t specifically described by the Bible, that Christians shouldn’t take advantage of it or that any such treatments or mandates should be actively opposed with exemptions claimed “on Biblical grounds”. Still, there are a number of outspoken SDA Christians who are doing this very thing. Tim Perenich for example, a chiropractor who is fairly popular among SDAs who are opposed to vaccines on supposedly Biblical grounds, has recently promoted such arguments in a 4.5-hour panel discussion with Drs. Margaret Song and Roger Seheult (Link).
Scott Ritsema and Dr. Lela Lewis:
Other fairly well-known voices who are opposed to vaccines and particularly to vaccine mandates, like the evangelist Scott Ritsema and Dr. Lela Lewis, for example, are urging the SDA Church, as an organization, to make a public statement against government vaccine mandates. They write:
“It is time for our Church to speak clearly in defending liberty of conscience on this matter, and the appeal below is offered in a spirit of Christian concern. Our Church has an obligation to lead in this crisis, not only for ourselves, but for millions of others around the world who are looking for hope. We must provide it. You are invited to add your voice by signing the appeal.” (Liberty and Health Alliance)
Response of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:
While the legal counsel of the SDA Church does provide options for individuals to seek religious exemptions, it would be inconsistent for the SDA Church itself, as an organization, to come out against government mandates regarding COVID-19 vaccines, in particular, while not also speaking out against the numerous other long-standing government mandates regarding various other types of vaccines and medical laws in general. It simply is not the place of the church, as an organization, to oppose the government along such lines since these mandates do not specifically undermine any direct command of God given to us in the Bible. In fact, the SDA Church has come out in favor of the use of vaccines during this pandemic (Link). At least part of the reason for this decision involves the action of Mrs. White when, as previously mentioned, she approved of her own son, William White, along with his staff, getting vaccinated against smallpox – and was, according to her long-time personal secretary, personally vaccinated against smallpox as well (Link).
For such reasons, the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church summarizes its position on this topic as follows (quoted in part – October 25, 2021):
The current position of the Church on immunization and vaccines, including COVID-19, builds on the insights of the comprehensive health message Seventh-day Adventists have endorsed early on with ample support in Scripture and the writings of Ellen G. White that refer to the importance of disease prevention. As a denomination, we have advocated the synergy of a healthy lifestyle and responsible immunization for more than one hundred years. In the light of the global magnitude of the pandemic, the deaths, disability, and long-term COVID-19 effects that are emerging in all age groups, we encourage our members to consider responsible immunization and the promotion and facilitation of the development of what is commonly termed herd immunity (pre-existing community immunity of approximately 80 percent of the population or more as a result of previous infection and/or vaccination)…
Public health practices have been mandated from the time of Moses and, probably, earlier. More recent examples of mandated public health practices include the banning of smoking on aircraft, and the use of safety belts as a general requirement for all motor vehicles. Over the past 120 years, mandated smallpox vaccination has been implemented in the United States general population and in countries around the world, resulting in a smallpox-free world at present. Numerous other infectious diseases have been brought under control by vaccinations and have also been subject to mandates (e.g. polio, measles, diphtheria). Seventh-day Adventist missionaries in the 1930s were instructed by the Church, as their employer, to receive the smallpox and typhoid immunizations. These requirements have been shared widely over the years in the Church’s official publications and acceptance of this requirement by Church members has been positive overall. The requirements for missionaries to be appropriately and responsibly vaccinated continue today. Ellen White did not comment on the issue of religious liberty in connection with vaccination mandates in her lifetime. She clearly understood the wholistic health message entrusted to the Church better than most…
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not opposed to public safety and government health mandates. Submission to government authorities is a biblical principle unless it conflicts with obedience to God (Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-7). In many cases the Seventh-day Adventist Church has supported government mandates in support of health and safety issues. When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, we believe individuals have the right to state and defend their conviction whether to be vaccinated or not. Mandates usually allow exemptions for individual religious convictions or health conditions. With widespread personal testing available, individuals may choose instead to submit to regular testing if required…
We recognize that at times our members will have personal concerns and even conscientious convictions that go beyond the teachings and positions of the Church. In these cases, the Church’s religious liberty leaders will do what they can to provide support and counsel on a personal basis, not as a Church position, even at times assisting members in writing their own personal accommodation requests to employers and others. To avoid confusion, however, about the Church’s own positions, it will often be the case that in such circumstances the Church will not wish its support or advocacy for the member to be reflected in public correspondence or communications. It is important that the Church preserve its ability to speak to issues that are central to its system of beliefs and identity, and that its influence not be diluted by pursuing personal convictions and agendas that are not central to its Gospel and prophetic concerns.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, in consultation with the Health Ministries and Public Affairs and Religious Liberty departments of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, is convinced that the vaccination programs that are generally being carried out are important for the safety and health of our members and the larger community. Therefore, claims of religious liberty are not used appropriately in objecting to government mandates or employer programs designed to protect the health and safety of their communities.
This has generally been the position of the Church for the last century, since the modern vaccine program was developed. If we use our religious liberty resources in such personal decision advocacy efforts, we believe that we will weaken our religious liberty stance in the eyes of the government and the public. Such efforts would make it less likely that these arguments will be heard and appreciated when they are used for matters of worship and religious practice. We understand that some of our members view things differently, and we respect those convictions. They may at times have rights that can be pursued under the law, and we will point them towards materials and resources for doing so but cannot directly undertake this personal effort for them.
GENERAL CONFERENCE: Reaffirming the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Response to COVID-19
This document has been produced by the General Conference Administration, Biblical Research Institute, General Conference Health Ministries, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department, General Conference Office of General Counsel, and Loma Linda University Health. It builds on the immunization statement voted in April 2015 and affirms both this latter statement, and the information on the COVID-19 vaccines shared on December 22, 2020.
Regarding vaccines for COVID-19, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists also writes:
In line with this commitment, the NAD fully supports the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s statement encouraging “responsible immunization/vaccination,” and as such has “no religious or faith-based reason not to encourage [its] adherents to responsibly participate in protective and preventive immunization programs.”
While the Church’s statement recognizes it is “not the conscience of the individual church member, and recognize[s] individual choices,” the choice not to be vaccinated is not based on Seventh-day Adventist Church teachings or doctrine. For this reason, the Adventist church in North America does not provide Church-endorsed vaccine exemption request letters.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church respects convictions of conscience. While the NAD cannot endorse that vaccine refusal represents Adventist teachings, your local Union Public Affairs and Religious Liberty ministry is available to advise you in writing your own letter if you choose to pursue an individual vaccine exemption. (Link)
All Government Mandates on Vaccines are Morally Wrong:
There are those who think that anything that goes into one’s body is strictly a personal choice – that no government can ethically mandate what one does or doesn’t put into one’s body.
The problem here is that many of these same people haven’t had any problem with historical government vaccine mandates regarding situations like working in a hospital or attending a school. Vaccine mandates are nothing new. Many states have long required healthcare workers to have various vaccinations (Link). Many states have also long required various vaccinations for child care, pre-K, and K-12 school attendance (Link). So, if one is to be consistent here, one should oppose all such mandates. Of course, there are some who do homeschool their children and who do not work in public healthcare jobs for this very reason. Anything else would seem to be inconsistent when it comes to the claim of “religious exemption” status.
Obeying the Government Despite Objection:
What if I just disagree with the government, but my disagreement isn’t clearly a moral disagreement regarding a direct command of God?
Going the Second Mile:
Consider, for example, the situation of a Jewish man during the time of the Roman occupation during the time of Jesus. The was a Roman law, a mandate if you will, that a Roman soldier could order, at will, any Jewish man to carry his equipment for one mile. Such Roman laws were absolutely hated by the Jews. Yet, what did Jesus advise one to do if such a command were given?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5:38-42
Paul also says basically the same thing here:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. – Romans 13:1
This is true even if one feels that one must give up some rightful personal liberty or that one’s personal liberties are being taken away.
The Golden Image:
As another example of this, consider what happened to Daniel and his three friends. Their city was destroyed and their parents were likely killed by a foreign government – a government who then forcibly marched them over 1600 miles to Babylon and then castrated them. They had every reason to be angry and rebellious against anything having to do with such a government. Yet, how did they respond when given the high privilege of eating food from the king’s table? – something that they knew would injure their own health? Did they respond to what was intended as a generous offer from their enemies with a rebellious and belligerent spirit? Not at all. Rather, they respectfully and very tactfully approached the commander explaining their situation and asking that he scientifically test the claims of “his servants” for “ten days”? – to see for himself if they were telling the truth or not? (Daniel 1:12).
The same thing happened when they were called, by the king, to the Plain of Dura where a golden statue had been set up. They obeyed this command despite knowing, full well, its purpose. They obeyed as far as they could without directly violating a clear command of God. It wasn’t until the command to actually worship the golden image was given that they disobeyed the law of the land – in favor of the Law of God. Even at this time, note, however, that they continued to address the king in the most respectful tone possible.
“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
This is also what we should be striving for today, in relation to the mandates of modern governments.
Ellen White on Government Mandates:
As Ellen White put it:
“In cases where we are brought before the courts, we are to give up our rights, unless it brings us in collision with God. It is not our rights we are pleading for, but God’s right to our service.” (Ellen White, Manuscript Releases 5:69 – 1895)
“The time will come when unguarded expressions of a denunciatory character, that have been carelessly spoken or written by our brethren, will be used by our enemies to condemn us. These will not be used merely to condemn those who made the statements, but will be charged upon the whole body of Adventists. Our accusers will say that on such and such a day one of our responsible men said thus and so against the administration of the laws of this government. Many will be astonished to see how many things have been cherished and remembered that will give point to the arguments of our adversaries. Many will be surprised to hear their own words strained into a meaning that they did not intend them to have. Then let our workers be careful to speak guardedly at all times and under all circumstances. Let all beware lest by reckless expressions they bring on a time of trouble before the great crisis which is to try men’s souls.” (Ellen White, Counsels for the Church, p. 317)
Regarding National Sunday Laws: “The Sabbath must be taught in a decided manner, but be cautious how you deal with the idol Sunday. A word to the wise is sufficient…. Refraining from work on Sunday is not receiving the mark of the beast; and where this will advance the interests of the work, it should be done. We should not go out of our way to work on Sunday… After the Sabbath has been carefully observed, in places where the opposition is so strong as to arouse persecution if work is done on Sunday, let our brethren make that day an occasion to do genuine missionary work. Let them visit the sick and the poor, ministering to their wants, and they will find favorable opportunities to open the scriptures to individuals and to families. (Ellen White, Maranatha, p. 177 and Letters and Manuscripts, Vol. 10 (1895), par. 18)
Note here that A. T. Jones, one of the founding fathers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and strong proponent of righteousness by faith, never accepted Mrs. White’s advice regarding how to deal with national Sunday laws. He felt that any government law commanding Sunday observance should be actively and very openly resisted – by working on Sunday in direct conflict with the law. In fact, in response to Mrs. White’s advice to avoid actively breaking any national Sunday law, Jones wrote a pamphlet in 1909 entitled, “The Ten Commandments for Sunday Observance” in which he flatly accuse Ellen White of advocating that Adventists accept the Mark of the Beast. (Link)
Such disagreements with Mrs. White wouldn’t end here, and would eventually lead to Jones leaving the SDA Church and actively fighting against it. He began, along with Kellogg, to insinuate that not all of Ellen White’s testimonies were inspired by God and that she was being manipulated by her son and the General Conference leaders. (Link)
Individual Rights Not the Main Issue:
Our individual rights, while certainly very nice while they last, just aren’t the main issue for the Christian. The main issue for the Christian is how best to represent God and His Law and His Grace and the Gospel Message that He has given us for these Last Days of Earth’s history.
So, even if a Christian may personally disagree with this or that government mandate, to include the current government mandates regarding vaccines against COVID-19, such disagreements, despite how strongly they may be held or how right they may be, are not the basis for open disregard of the actual mandate itself – as long as the mandate doesn’t directly violate a very clear command of God Himself where the Christian is called to be entirely consistent. In other words, the Christian can tactfully and respectfully disagree with the government and still obey the government and its laws and mandates at the same time – as long as they do not directly conflict with a clear command of God. In this way, it will make acceptance of our Gospel Message to the world that much easier to accept by those who are open to the call of the Spirit of God and that much harder for the enemies of God to refute.
Southwestern Union Response to NAD Memorandum on OSHA ETS:
In a November 11 letter addressed to the NAD Secretariat, the Southwestern Union wrote, “In light of prophetic understanding, we formally request the [NAD] and the Office of General Counsel review the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard and consider the conflicts it presents with the beliefs and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
The subject line of the letter reads: “Southwestern Union Response to NAD Memorandum on OSHA ETS.”
However, according to the NAD, there was no memorandum. Instead, the division sent an email to the unions and conferences asking if they had received “inquiries” or “questions” about the new OSHA guidelines.
The Southwestern Union’s letter does not detail the ETS guidance, instead stating, “It is our belief that the church should not be the enforcer of government policy, as we believe in the steadfast adherence to the Seventh-day Adventist Church principle of separation of church and state.” OSHA experts have stated that the ETS is not a vaccine mandate as it allows testing and mask-wearing as a workplace alternative.
The union’s letter says that it speaks on behalf of all its constituent conferences as well as Southwestern Adventist University, stating that these entities “are prepared to present this issue to their executive committees for authorization to disregard” the OSHA ETS. Calling the regulations “government overreach and violation of church-state separation,” the union concludes: “We ask that the [NAD], and the office of General Counsel provide counsel, advice, and defense against penalties for such actions.”
In a statement to Spectrum on December 3, the division responded with the following:
The North American Division (NAD) is aware that there are multiple legal challenges to the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) regarding mandatory vaccinations and that the whole question is presently in a state of flux. We are also aware of the differing individual and institutional points of view on the subject.
As a denomination, we respect an individual’s right and freedom of choice to make responsible decisions regarding their own health. We also encourage each of our church entities to make decisions that are best suited to their particular circumstances and reflect the spirit of community love and caring, which we are compelled to practice. The NAD has no intention to mandate that Adventist organizations adopt or comply with these OSHA regulations, but will provide guidance and resources to assist our organizations in their decision making.
Currently, no other unions appear to have publicly joined the Southwestern leadership by citing a “prophetic understanding” in opposing regulatory efforts to minimize the risk of viral transmission in the workplace.
Interview with Steve Allred, Esq:
Stephen Allred is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and also an attorney who serves as Of Counsel to the Church State Council. He received a bachelor’s degree from Hartland College in 1998, a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in 2005, and a Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 2012.
Dr. Sean Pitman is a pathologist, with subspecialties in anatomic, clinical, and hematopathology, currently working in N. California. He’s also a life-long Seventh-day Adventist, the son of a retired SDA minister, and is very active in his local church.