Seventh-Day Adventists want to stop 'hate
group' using its name
By CATHERINE WILSON, Associated Press
p.m. Mar. 13, 2000
MIAMI -- The
national headquarters for Seventh-day Adventists asked a federal judge Monday to
bar a West Palm Beach church it considers "a hate group" from using the
denomination's trademark name.
Newspaper and radio advertising
run nationally by the Eternal Gospel Church of Seventh-day Adventists denounces
Catholics and most Protestants for worshipping on Sunday and likens them to
Satanists and pagans.
The ads indicate "intolerance, a hate
group," denomination attorney Jeffrey Tew said in opening statements. He called
it "a classic case of a breakaway church trying to use the mother church's
Church attorney Robert Pershes told U.S. District Judge James
Lawrence King that the name Seventh-day Adventist registered as a trademark in
1980 is a generic term describing the religion.
"What we have
here is the trademark law being used in a religious context when it was intended
to be used commercially," Pershes said. "One particular religion, even if it's a
large segment of the religion, should not be allowed to get a
The court fight has attracted worldwide interest
among the denomination's 10 million followers.
Dr. Russell Standish, an
evangelical pastor from Melbourne, Australia, plans to testify on behalf of
church pastor Rafael Perez's right to use the Adventist
"The issue is vital to religious liberty," Standish said
outside court. "It's a generic name. Anyone who wants to can call themselves a
Seventh-day Adventist, but you must remember there's a day of
Some of Perez's supporters said they don't support
his ad message but contend the denomination is fighting him as an extremist
because it is trying to become more mainstream and
The Silver Spring, Md.-based denomination has been
trying since 1992 but wants a court order to prevent the church from using the
term Seventh-day Adventist and the acronym SDA, which it currently tacks onto
the church name.
Pershes drew a round of "amen" from spectators, many of
whom carried well-worn Bibles and prayer books, when he said prophet "Ellen
White said the name Seventh-day Adventist is given to us by
King interrupted to warn the audience against making any
distractions, saying, "There will be no showing of agreement or disagreement
with what the lawyers are doing."
The judge also broke away
before the first witness to take a call from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg telling him he had been named winner of the Devitt award, recognizing
distinguished service by a federal judge.
King, who is hearing the case without a jury, opened with a history lesson,
complete with 135 items from archives, about the early years of the denomination
named in 1860.
The religion's name is based on beliefs in
honoring the seventh day, Saturday, as the Sabbath and in the second coming of
Christ. Many Adventist followers are vegetarians.
The trial is
expected to last five to seven days.