Adventist Denomination Again Goes to Court to Force Congregation to Stop Using Name
By Andrew Hanson, August 14, 2015: Walter McGill, pastor of The Creation Seventh Day and Adventist Church, has told Adventist Today that he has received notice of new litigation in the district court in Jackson, Tennessee. He and his assistant, Lucan Chartier, were previously jailed for their refusal to stop using the name.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church v. McGill is the latest legal action to eliminate the name “Creation Seventh Day & Adventist Church” from any “document, file, blog, bulletin board, video, post, tweet, webpage, social media page, social media account, social media post.” The legal action seeks to prohibit the use of the name in “domain name registries, domain name hosts, web servers, blog publishing services, search engines, social networks, social media companies and other service providers.”
According to McGill, if the court orders this legal action it will allow trademark law to control or the use of words or phrases in every-day communication so long as that communication is done via computer. Adventist Today has ask the denomination’s General Conference (GC) why this lawsuit is necessary, who authorized it and its potential cost. No one from the GC has returned the phone calls of the Adventist Today reporter.
McGill and Chartier will likely refuse to comply with any such court order and go to jail to protest what they consider to be a matter of conscience. McGill previously served 30 days in jail and Chartier served 10 days related to similar issues.
The small congregation is located in rural Tennessee in the southern United States, although it claims adherents elsewhere and missionary projects in Uganda. It left the denomination in 1988 because of doctrinal disagreement with the GC acquisition and enforcement of a trademark on the name “Seventh-day Adventist.”
The name “Creation Seventh Day & Adventist” was based upon what they believe to be a divine revelation received by both Danny Smith and McGill. At a meeting held in Plant City, Florida, the official Creation Seventh Day & Adventist (CSDA) was organized as an association of believers.
They believe that the name Seventh-day Adventist was given by God to describe the Adventist faith and that those who accept the Adventist beliefs must use the name in identifying themselves and their organizations, according to a Wikipedia article on the group. They consider this to be a matter of conscience equivalent to denying or affirming the name “Christian” and cite several quotes from Adventist cofounder Ellen G. White regarding the adoption and use of the name being Divinely commissioned.
The group has similar teachings to those of the denomination on the Sabbath, the imminent Second Coming of Christ, the investigative judgment and other doctrines. It says that it differs from modern Adventists on the Trinity, separation of church and state, and victory over all known sins.
The conclusion of the original litigation was a 2 to1 split decision by a three-judge panel, with two judges deciding in favor of the denomination and one judge in favor of cancelling the trademark on the name “Seventh-day Adventist.” The dissenting judge wrote an opinion regarding the problems with treating a religious name as a property right. It can be found at: https://archive.org/details/StockerPerryVsG.CCorporationofSDAs
The Phillip M. Kirkpatrick law firm in Nashville, Tennessee, has been retained by the GC to litigate this current case. It is considered to be one of the top law firms in the nation for this type of case. The firm that represented McGill at the Supreme Court level pro bono is on record stating that it would normally cost about $1 million to file such a claim, according to Chartier in the online edition of Spectrum, the journal of the largest organization of Adventist academics, July 20, 2012.
Adventist Today has previously reported on this ongoing conflict: “Is Protecting the Denomination’s Name Important Enough to Send People to Jail?” by Andrew Hanson, Adventist Today Magazine, December, 2012, p. 18.