SDA Church using "hate" in lawsuit

Seventh-Day Adventists want to stop 'hate group' using its name

By CATHERINE WILSON, Associated Press
Web-posted: 2:19 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 name."

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 monopoly."

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 name.

"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 judgment."

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 ecumenical.

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 God."

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.

Testimony before 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.