Last week two Christian pastors were jailed in the United States for violation of court orders involving two different types of property disputes.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Pastor Michael Salman of the Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church (not affiliated with the Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA) is serving a 60-day prison sentence for violating building, fire, and zoning codes. In 2008 Salman received a permit to build a 2,000 square foot "game room" which expressly prohibited its use as a church, business or assembly because it did not meet the physical requirements that such structures were required to meet. Large groups of 80 people would routinely meet on the property.

In 2010 Salman was found guilty of 67 Class 1 misdemeanors such as not having lighted emergency exits, fire doors or sprinklers. He appealed the conviction, lost, and began serving his 6-day term on July 9. Although he described it as a "home Bible study," the Salman church collected tithes and he reported it as a church to avoid property taxes on the home.

Despite cries of violation of religious freedom, the code violations in question were undoubtedly secular and Salman would have to convince the courts that his church should be exempted from meeting generally required health and safety regulations and that he had been completely honest when describing this structure, which included chairs and a pulpit as a game room when he applied for the permit.

The other case involves intellectual property rights. On Friday, July 13, Tennessee Pastor Walter McGill was arrested outside the Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists on federal charges stemming from a contempt of court citation for refusing to abide by a court order to stop referring to his church in Guys, Tennessee as the "Creation Seventh-day Adventist Church."

In April a federal judge issued a warrant for the arrest of McGill.

McGill who had left the Seventh-day Adventist Church a couple of decades ago for theological reasons had started the "Creation Seventh-day Adventist Church" based on what he believed was a divine mandate. The worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church sued McGill for trademark violation and, after six years of litigation, won the case in 2010.

But McGill, claiming religious conviction, refused to change the name of his small congregation. In an interview with the Press Enterprise, McGill said, "To cease using it would be to disregard the plain instructions of God."

Apparently McGill had planned to hold a news conference at the Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists on Sunday and had visited the site on Friday. His presence was reported to the police and sheriff's deputies arrested him.

It is unclear whether McGill will be sent back to Tennessee to serve the rest of his 30-day sentence or remain in the San Bernardino County Jail. McGill reportedly plans to go on a hunger strike, or fast, throughout his imprisonment.

The church has a legitimate interest in protecting its trademark and goes to Federal Court to protect it. This is to avoid situations like the Baptists, who have not been able to trademark their name, face when people like Fred Phelps name their church the "Westboro Baptist Church." The Church of Scientology has also protected its trademark, presumably for similar reasons.

McGill refuses to abide by the court ruling on grounds of conscience. He ends up in jail. Arguably this is a tougher case than the Salman matter and it presents an interesting juxtaposition between intellectual property rights of religious organizations and individual rights of conscience. With the jailing of Pastor McGill, the matter has entered the sphere of public opinion, and I hope that the Seventh-day Adventist Church™ will recognize that two issues are at play and respond in a way that honors both its legacy and dedication to religious liberty. According to some articles on the subject making their way through the press, the church could at least put in a request that Pastor McGill be released and a compromise reached.

So that's the story – two pastors jailed within a week. One for violating zoning rules of Phoenix and the other for refusing on grounds of conscience.

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For more information on the Walter "Chick" McGill story check out Spectrum Magazine's article by Jared Wright, "Creation Seventh Day Adventist Pastor Imprisoned, Fasting"

For more information on the Michael Salman case, see http://religiousliberty.tv/is-it-really-persecution-phoenix-enforcement-of-safety-and-zoning-ordinances.html

 
 

7 Comments

  1. peter bailey says:

    It is not now nor has it been the intention of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to shut down McGills ministry or for him to be jailed. Recent developments are results of actions taken by the court because Mr. McGill did not comply with the courts ruling.

    We believe that Mr. McGill has the right to exercise his religious beliefs and
    operate a ministry, however to falsely identify himself with an organization of which he is not a part, is not acceptable. This false association confuses the public, media and at times members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has processes and procedures for establishing and maintaining congregations.

  2. peter bailey says:

    It is not now nor has it been the intention of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to shut down McGills ministry or for him to be jailed. Recent developments are results of actions taken by the court because Mr. McGill did not comply with the courts ruling.

    We believe that Mr. McGill has the right to exercise his religious beliefs and
    operate a ministry, however to falsely identify himself with an organization of which he is not a part, is not acceptable. This false association confuses the public, media and at times members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has processes and procedures for establishing and maintaining congregations.

    Base on this statement given above by the GC of the SDA church some questions have come to mind that I would like to get some answers for and I hope that they will be answered because our eternal destiny hangs on the answers that will be given.
    I have a few questions for the GC of the SDA church and all those who are supporting them in the actions they are taking against Pastor McGill/CSDA CHURCH. Does the BIBLE support the actions you are taking now and what you have done in the pass in order to reach this point in time concerning the use of the name SDAC?
    Does the SOP support the actions you are taking in prosecuting others for using the name Seventh day Adventist Church?
    Does the BIBLE teaches us or anyone that when they have a matter that they cannot agree on, in order to resolve it you MUST take them to the court of the land or in others words use CIVIL POWERS to resolve it?
    Does the BIBLE teacher that civil power and dogmas of the church should take precedence over God and his words?
    The BIBLE STATES VERY CLEARLY that in 1Co 10:31 whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

    Tell me and the members of the SDA church how are these actions that are taken By THE GC OF THE SDAC by using of civil power and NOT the word of GOD and the SOP to resolve the problem they are having with Pastor McGill and the CSDA CHURCH glorifying GOD?
    I know as well as the GC and the SDA CHURCH members what is said that Force is the last resort of every false religion . 7BC 976.7 (S.D.A. Bible Commentary Vol. 7)
    So can anyone tell me in very clear words base on what is be thought by words and action of the GC of the SDA church, is this a false religion being taught by the GC now and some of the members are going along with it, some are not aware of it and some just dont care about it? Tell me please from the word of God where to find such teachings.

  3. Josiah says:

    Great Controversy – Page 607 – This is only a demonstration of what is to come – so sad to see our Seventh-day Adventist Church abiding this very type of oppression. "
    The church appeals to the strong arm of civil power, and, in this work, papists and Protestants unite. As the movement for Sunday enforcement becomes more bold and decided, the law will be invoked against commandment keepers. They will be threatened with fines and imprisonment, and some will be offered positions of influence, and other rewards and advantages, as inducements to renounce their faith. But their steadfast answer is: "Show us from the word of God our error"–the same plea that was made by Luther under similar circumstances. Those who are arraigned before the courts make a strong vindication of the truth, and some who hear them are led to take their stand to keep all the commandments of God. Thus light will be brought before thousands who otherwise would know nothing of these truths."

  4. This is awful informatics, brittle and clear

  5. Pastor Chick says:

    I am one of the two pastors jailed in July. I disobey the civil authorities on "the grounds of conscience" as rightly stated in the article.

    I have been fasting 38 days with two remaining to make a total of 40. What a blessing it is to enter into the sufferings of our LORD. I fast for you who know not what you do. I fast for you who are slaves to addiction or habituation. I fast for you who are captive to Satanic delusions. I fast for all who struggle with the flesh to overcome besetting sin. I fast for my enemies whom I love by the "righteousness of Christ." I fast for my own cleansing as well.

    If I can, by the power of Almighty God, overcome the pangs of hunger for 40 days which is a natural biogenic drive, surely all penitent and believing souls can become "more than conquerors" by the faith of Jesus Christ. I pray for all of you.

    Thank you for posting this article. Perhaps the principles expressed therein will make a difference before more Adventist believers are in danger of chains on "the grounds of conscience."

 
 
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