U.S. Supreme Court Asks Government to Express View on Church Member's Case

Seventh-day Adventist church member Darrell Patterson’s religious discrimination case against Walgreens continues to gain interest and support. Patterson asked the United States Supreme Court to hear his religious discrimination case (see the September 2018 edition of Adventist Journey for more detail). He was fired by Walgreens in 2011 because he refused to work at a call center on the Sabbath.

Since Patterson’s petition was filed last fall, several encouraging developments have occurred. First, other religious denominations and religious liberty groups filed friend of the court briefs in support. This wide-ranging collation included Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs. Second, Walgreens was ordered by the court to respond to Patterson’s request, something it had declined to do on its own.

More good news came in January when four of the justices filed a “statement” concerning a different religious discrimination case dealing with a football coach fired for praying after games. In declining to hear his case, Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh strongly signaled interest in reexamining TWA v. Hardison.

This 1977 case set an extremely harmful legal precedent that religious employees have been fighting ever since. Patterson asked the court to revisit this decision, and the reference to Hardison by the justices was seen as interest in Patterson’s case.

In March the court reinforced its interest by asking the U.S. government to file a brief. This relatively rare request is made when the justices think the government, which has responsibility for enforcing the law, can help inform their decision. This was such a strong indication of interest by the court that it sparked an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (Mar. 22, 2019) by Pepperdine law professor Michael Helfand urging the government to support Patterson.

The government is likely to file its recommendation sometime during the summer. The justices will then decide, probably sometime in October or November, whether to take the case. If the Supreme Court does decide to take the case, it likely will be argued in early 2020, with a decision handed down before the end of June 2020.

Of course, none of this guarantees that the court will take Patterson’s case, let alone that he will win if it does. However, for the first time in over 40 years there is a very real opportunity to undo the mistake made in Hardison.

This opportunity did not come about by accident. It is the result of a faithful church member who stood up for the Sabbath eight years ago and a church that invests the resources to defend its members.

Click here for background article and copy of "Cert Petition."

This article was written by Todd McFarland, associate general counsel for the Office of General Counsel of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and originally appeared on the NAD website.

Image by Dan Weber, courtesy of NAD website.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9565

If I were Walgreens attorney, I would call to the stand every one who took call at an Adventist hospital on Saturday


tjzwemer: You would not be allowed to call such to the stand as nothing that they could say would be related to the issues in this case.
Under the law, it is the religious convictions of Patterson that are considered. This case has nothing to do with the religious convictions of those you have suggested you would call to the stand.

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However…it may not be pertinent to this particular case but may very well be in future ones. The SDA church could still have issues with its inconsistencies with employment on Saturdays and what is “approved” for church members- or not. THIS is what Tom is really speaking to.


My point is: The issue under the law, relates to the specific beliefs of the individual, not to either the teachings of the denomination or to the beliefs of someone else who might belong to the same denomination.

Any alleged inconsistencies in the employment recommendations as to Saturday work approved for SDA members for consideration by the Courts. Their consideration is limited to the beliefs of the person who has come before them.

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I got your point, Gregory…but it doesn’t nullify what Tom or I said. I don’t think we need to reiterate things again.

Would be interesting to see what would happen is one or several SDA workers refused to work on Sabbath at an SDA hospital or facility.


Don’t forget those members who believe that if you are required to work on Sabbath–in a healthcare capacity, of course–you should give all that day’s pay to the church. I’ve never understood that one.


Absurd ideas are indeed difficult to understand…


Since we are talking about taking issues to the Courts, my suggestion is that all COMMISSIONED women pastors should take their discrimination case to the Courts and have the conflict resolved by the Law of the Land. Commissioning is just baloney, nothing but a male tool to exert exclusive male control of the Church.

Discrimination is against the Law in our Country. If it’s happening, it’s a crime, and needs to be prosecuted. The “remnant” is not above the Law!


"So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5

A very interesting response when Jesus was accused of working the Sabbath. On another level, it is also interesting to note the absence of advice of the Apostles or Paul as to avoiding Sabbath work. Rome did not have what we call weekend, where many employers close. Meaning most non-Jewish Romans would work 7 days week. The alone would necessitate NT advice as to the sacredness of Sabbath keeping for new Gentile believers.

Acts 15 fails to disclose instructions to Gentile members as to proper Sabbath observance. I wish they had given clear guidelines on how to honor the Sabbath. But sadly, they did not. Maybe the best thing for us SDA’s is to read into Acts 15 Sabbath laws. In this way we can add what they neglected to say about the Sabbath, what they should have said! As it is we must rely mostly on OT examples for reverence for the Sabbath.

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Acts 15, and everywhere else in the NT fails to disclose any instructions regarding Sabbath observance for Gentiles.

You said, SDA’s should “read into Acts 15 Sabbath laws” and “add what they neglected to say about the Sabbath, what they should have said!” Why would you do that? Is it okay to add to and re-write Scripture?

Those examples and instructions were given to Israel under the Mosaic Covenant. The Sabbath was the sign of that Covenant.


I asked my SIL who ran the Food Service and Dietetics Program at LLH for many years how they handled the issue. She said that those who requested either Sat. or Sun. off for religious observances could generally switch places with someone who was equally qualified. If this was not possible, then they would have to work. Generally speaking, everyone understood that they would otherwise have to occasionally work on either Sat. or Sun. per terms of their employment.

She was not sure how different parts of the hospital handled this particular issue.

Yes, in days of yore, this was the thinking. Strangely enough, because you were being compelled to work on a day in which you did not want to work- you were expected to hand over this money to the church! I don’t think many follow this any more…


Sorry to mislead you. I was speaking tongue-in-cheek-- not seriously intended and should not be taken at face value.

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Yes…I did enjoy the “read into” part, Frank! lol

Thanks for clearing that up. I thought you might be kidding…but, I’ve heard stranger things!

You got me! :grinning:

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You were never expected to hand over your Sabbath made cash. It was an idea that a few had to ease their conscience, for what ever reason, and was a personal decision. Some people have a way of sharing their personal convictions so you feel you should do what they do but that doesn’t make it an official institution or official church position…

Rod, this was pretty standard in certain SDA institutions at a certain point and time. I know many who were expected (and checked up on) to hand over their “Sabbath earnings” (especially tithe automatically taken out of pay chks) to the church.

Fortunately…this has ended as far as I have heard quite a while ago.

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Well, he did write:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. - Galatians 4

In this context, “miserable principles” refers to The Law. Special days and months and seasons and years, refer to among other things the Sabbath, the New Moon high Sabbath, the various festivals and holy days, and so on.

Key do his objection, though, is the concept of observing. For Paul Christ released the Jews, and everyone else, from the common practices of religion, both Jewish and Pagan, which included primarily observance and public prayer. Religious practice was external and ritualized.
Correct practice / observance made the gods happy, not correct belief.

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