Church State Council: Working on Behalf of Religious Liberty

image_pdf

Religious liberty is more than a department or ministry of the church. It is a value integral to Adventist identity. For more than a century, the Seventh-day Adventist commitment to religious liberty has been a significant global witness to a Creator whose love requires freedom. For 58 years, the Church State Council has been the public face of religious liberty in the Pacific Union Conference, focusing on three primary activities: education, legislative advocacy, and legal services.

Education is crucial to religious freedom. The Council raises funds to promote the distribution of Liberty magazine to influential thought leaders at both local and national levels. Council speakers conduct sermons and seminars, including mini evangelistic series, on the pressing religious liberty and prophetic issues of the day. Executive Director Alan Reinach serves as co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Religious Liberty Committee and on a California Employment Lawyers Association committee, speaking and organizing seminars for lawyers nationally and regionally. Freedom’s Ring Radio, a 15-minute weekly broadcast, is currently in its 23rd year of production.

Legislative Director Dennis Seaton, assisted by Natalie Eva, monitors thousands of bills in the five states of the Pacific Union Conference, as well as in Congress, and advocates for religious freedom when necessary. Bills in recent years have included those threatening the eligibility of students attending Adventist colleges and universities to receive Cal Grants. The Council achieved a major win in California with the enactment of a regulation requiring employers to inform job applicants not to disclose their unavailability to work at certain days or times due to their religion.

While many faith-based organizations protect their own interests, Adventists uniquely work for everyone’s religious liberty. The Church State Council provides legal services to both Seventh-day Adventist church members and those of other faiths as a demonstration of our commitment to defend the religious freedom of all people. Our church’s reputation in this regard is both national and global. Significant recent victories include a ruling in the Tenth Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals on behalf of two Seventh-day Adventists who were fired from a Morningstar Farms plant in Clearfield, Utah, and a 2020 appellate victory in California on behalf of an Adventist woman whose application to work as a correctional officer was rejected because of her Sabbath observance.

In the past five years, the Council has settled every case that has closed—and returned 100% of the costs to the treasury. Council staff leverage their efforts by recruiting experienced employment lawyers to help, and they have provided thousands of hours of pro bono services to Council clients. More work will be necessary in the future in areas such as Christian Nationalism, the conflict between LGBTQ rights and religious liberty, the meaning of religious liberty, vaccine passports, social justice, and church involvement in public affairs.
____________________
Alan J. Reinach, Esq. is the executive director of the Church State Council.