by Ron Lawson, Ph.D.  |  28 February 2019  |

Seventh-day Adventists have been involved in a number of landmark court cases bearing on both the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and on statutory law. The main issues have included security of employment for Sabbath observers, the right of persons dismissed from their jobs for reasons of conscience to unemployment compensation, the right of those with conscientious objections to bearing arms in the military to become citizens, and the freedom to choose not to join a labor union. Some of these cases created key judicial precedents in the area of religious liberty. The Adventist Church, its medical, educational and publishing institutions, and its members as such have become increasingly involved in court suits in recent decades. This paper examines the dynamics, significance, and trajectories over time of these cases. Through tracing the changing issues and outcomes of Adventist cases and the increasing comfort of Adventists with the court system, it finds another measure of Adventism’s journey along the route from sect towards denomination.

This is the abstract, or summary, that was published with the paper. If you are interested in the key cases or in my account of the increasing involvement of the Adventist Church and its institutions in the courts over time, you are invited to read the entire paper, at RonaldLawson.net. 


Ronald Lawson is a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, and a sociologist studying urban conflicts and sectarian religions. He is retired from Queens College, CUNY.

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