National Sunday Law: Fact or Fiction? 2nd Edition
Is the National Sunday Law a Real Threat?
By Dirk Anderson, 2022
In 2021, an African group calling itself AUSC, and claiming to be "true" Seventh-day Adventists, sounded a dire alarm about the National Sunday Law. According to their web site, a "national Sunday law" was "registered in Congress on January 27, 2021."1 They go on to claim that the enactment of the law is found in the United States Climate Act registered in Congress on April 19, 2021, and the enforcement of the law is found in the Green New Deal legislation of Feb. 15, 2021.2
In this chapter, please allow me to share my personal experiences in dealing with claims like this. Over the years, I have heard all sorts of wild conspiratorial claims, and have realized the importance of fact-checking them. As for AUSC's claims, they are easy to check because the U.S. Congress has open records and they are available online and can be viewed by anyone. Regarding AUSC's first claim, the January 27, 2021, U.S. congressional record says nothing at all about a Sunday law of any sort. Regarding their second claim, the debate on the climate, the April 19, 2021, congressional record, says absolutely nothing about a Sunday law or its enactment. Regarding their third claim, the February 15, 2021, congressional record, says nothing about a Sunday law or its enforcement. Thus, the AUSC's claims were entirely bogus and devoid of any facts. This has happened over and over again, ever since Ellen White made her frightening claims about a universal Sunday law:
All nations and tongues and peoples will be commanded to worship this spurious sabbath.... The decree enforcing the worship of this day is to go forth to all the world.3
Since the late 1800s, Seventh-day Adventists have seen the arrival of this universal Sunday law in every crisis. Each time, they suppose that this "crisis" will be the one that finally brings in Sunday legislation. For well over a century, any world crisis—whether it be the COVID pandemic, or climate change, or the world trade center bombing—is seen as the trigger mechanism that convinces lawmakers to abandon all reason and bow down to the papacy and institute a National Sunday Law. However, each time, the crisis fades and the National Sunday Law conspiracy never materializes. Then, they start looking for the next crisis. I have personally witnessed this pattern for decades. These people live in a constant state of paranoia.
In 1998, a number of worried Seventh-day Adventists sent me e-mails. The Vatican had recently released an apostolic letter from Pope John Paul II entitled "Dies Domini." In this letter the pope extols the virtues of Sunday-keeping to his followers. Some SDAs conjectured that this might be the long-awaited beginning of the National Sunday Law. I read the pope's letter and found nothing to warrant any concern about forthcoming Sunday legislation. The pope briefly stressed the necessity for Catholics to ensure that governmental legislation respects their freedom to worship on Sunday:
Therefore, also in the particular circumstances of our own time, Christians will naturally strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy.5
Of course, Seventh-day Adventist leaders often encourage their members to do the exact same thing—support legislation that guarantees their freedom to worship on the Sabbath.
Even though there was nothing in the letter to cause concern, for a while there was a buzz of excitement among Seventh-day Adventists. Perhaps their prophet's words were finally coming true. But alas, after more than two decades, nothing happened and the fervor gradually fizzled out. It seems that some Seventh-day Adventists have become desperate, clawing for any validation of their National Sunday Law theory. For over a century they have been grasping onto any mention of Sunday by a Christian leader as an indication of the long-anticipated Sunday laws. Meanwhile, the likelihood of such laws is growing more and more remote.
While SDAs are fretting over a National Sunday Law, their Christian brothers and sisters seem to have no interest whatsoever in forcing Sabbath-keepers to worship on Sunday. It is true that there are some Christians who would like laws that would give them freedom to worship on Sunday without being forced to go to work. However, to imagine that Sunday-keeping Christians want to force everyone else in the world to observe Sunday as a religious day is preposterous.
The most avid group promoting Sunday observance in the United States is the "Lord's Day Alliance." The leader of that organization was asked if he intended to enforce Sunday
observance upon Sabbath-keepers. Here is his response:
I believe in the volunteer way of worship and I do not believe that there should ever be a state church and therefore do not propound any kind of a civil religion.
This is a typical response from Christian leaders. They have no interest in enforcing Sunday observance on Sabbath-keepers. Below is an example of how one typical non-SDA Christian church views the subject of enforcing religious laws on others:
Individual Soul Liberty
Nearly all non-SDA Christians agree with what the apostle Paul said:
One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.8
Most Christians would agree with Paul that the day of worship should be a matter of personal conscience and should never be an issue to divide believers. Most Sunday-keeping Christians would probably be shocked and outraged if they were told that Seventh-day Adventists teach that Sunday-keepers are going to be involved in persecuting Sabbath-keepers and restricting their freedom of religion. Most Sunday-keeping Christians would be appalled at any such action. They would most certainly fight against any legislation that would infringe upon the religious freedoms of other Christians.
The truth is that over the last century the SDA sect has never produced any substantial evidence that Christian leaders are planning or intending to enforce Sunday observance on Sabbatarian Christians. On the contrary, there is significant evidence that the U.S. Congress has no intention of passing any Sunday laws any time in the foreseeable future. For example, notice what the former United States House majority leader, Dick Armey, wrote:
I have not heard of any legislation in Congress which would establish a national blue law setting aside Sunday as a national day of worship.9
The only evidence Seventh-day Adventists can point to is the behavior of the Catholic Church in past centuries. Their theory is that the Catholic Church will once again regain supremacy in the world and will re-institute the inquisition and other religious persecutions of the past. This scenario appears increasingly unlikely. After spending recent centuries apologizing for its past failures, it is difficult imagining the Catholic Church re-instituting the very institutions it now admits were wrong. It is also difficult imagining the world community sitting idly by and letting the Vatican murder all the Sabbath-keepers in the world. When Hitler persecuted the Jews, the world rose up against him and destroyed him and his nation. After the holocaust, the Western world has regarded religious persecution as loathsome. If Catholicism ever were to attempt persecuting Sabbath-keepers, they would be regarded as worse than Hitler. If they ever attempted such an act, the whole world would likely rise up against them and destroy them just as it rose up and destroyed Hitler.
All the SDA speculative talk of Catholicism regaining control of the world is downright delusional. For centuries the Catholic Church has been on a steady decline of power. The Catholic Church has been rocked with scandals and accusations of sexual abuse from around the world. Public opinion of the Catholic Church has never been lower. The church is losing ground in many places throughout the world, including the United States:10
Pentecostal and other Protestant churches, including the SDA sect, have made tremendous strides in winning converts in the once Catholic strongholds of Central and South America. For example, even in Pope Francis' home country of Argentina, Catholics fell from 76.5% of the population in 2008 to 62.9% in 2019.11 The problem is even more pronounced in the younger generations, which does not bode well for the future of the church. If the exodus continues at present rates, the Catholic Church will soon become a minority in a number of these countries. In Europe the people are, for the most part, living in a secular, post-Christian world. Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, is no longer relevant to most Europeans. Furthermore, the Catholic Church has been struggling financially. It has been having difficulty attracting new priests and nuns. The Catholic Church has even gone so far as to meet with its one-time enemy—the Lutherans—in order to redefine its teaching on salvation so as to make peace with the Lutherans. The Catholic Church is reeling from charges of sexual misconduct of its priests. It is splintered by internal strife on a number of issues, such as the ordination of women and homosexual priests. Rather than being a super-power poised to take control of the world and enforce Sunday observance upon everyone, Catholicism is a sick and declining church, struggling to survive in a world that no longer grasps its relevance.
What about when Catholics and Protestants unite upon an issue? When they stand together, do they have the political muscle to enforce their will upon the people of the United States? Not at all. For over 45 years Evangelical Christians and Catholics have unitedly battled to stop the murder of innocent babies in abortion clinics. This is a passionate issue that evokes strong feelings from many Christians. Despite all the strong feelings, despite all the attempts by church leaders to get their flocks involved in the battle, very little has been accomplished. If Catholics and Protestants have united upon the abortion issue for over 45 years and yet have not managed to pass a law stopping it, then how does one expect them to pass a law regarding Sunday observance—an issue that most Catholics and Evangelicals have absolutely no interest in? Can you imagine a pastor standing up in his pulpit trying to get his flock motivated to go out and pass laws to kill Sabbath-keepers just because they prefer to worship on Saturday instead of Sunday? That is the height of absurdity! If any pastor got up and said such a thing to his congregation it would probably be the last sermon he ever delivered in that church!
The religious groups that are supposed to be so strong and so anxious to persecute Sabbath-keepers are in reality suffering from the same spiritual bankruptcy, malaise, materialism, confusion, corruption and internal divisiveness as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is suffering from. The Christian church is no longer making the rules in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, between 2009 and 2019, the percentage of Christians declined from 77% of the American population to 65%, while the religiously unaffiliated rose from 17% to 26%.12 In Canada, in 1991, 83% of the population identified as Christian, but that dropped to 67% by 2011.13 In the United Kingdom, in 1983, 66% of the population identified as Christian, but by 2018, that number declined to 36%.14 The Christian church is struggling just to maintain its position in an increasingly secular and materialistic society. In fact, the church does not even have the power to keep existing Sunday laws (called blue laws) on the books in the United States. According to Joseph Conn, a leader in the organization "Americans United for Separation of Church and State," new Sunday legislation is now highly unlikely in the United States:
I think there is little chance of Sunday legislation in the United States in the immediate future. Here the trend is in the opposite direction. Sunday closing laws are gradually being repealed or struck down by the courts.15
While Ellen White's prophetic end-time Sunday law scenario might have seemed somewhat plausible in the 1880s, it is so implausible today that it borders on absurdity. One would have to search long and hard to find a single Sunday-keeping Christian who desires to force Sabbath-keepers to worship on Sunday. In recent years some Seventh-day Adventists have suggested that the Sunday law movement is taking place covertly. They believe it is happening behind closed doors, under the covers of secrecy. Thus, the National Sunday Law has become the ultimate conspiracy theory. Who are these mysterious people who want to enforce Sunday worship upon the world? Where are they? What are their names? What are they possibly gaining by hiding? It is doubtful we will ever know the answers to those questions.
1. http://www.africanunionsc.org/2021/02/it-is-coming-usa-national-sunday-law.html, extracted Jan. 1, 2022.
3. Ellen White, The S.D.A. Bible Commentary, 7:976 (1897).
4. Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 37 (1893).
5. Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini.
6. Jack P. Lowndes, Executive Director, The Lord's Day Alliance of the United States, in a letter to Azenilto Brito, dated March 5, 1993.
7. Regular Baptist Ministries, The Baptist Distinctives.
8. Romans 14:5,6.
9. Dick Armey in letter to Paul Lorenz, October 2, 1992. To view a scanned copy of the entire letter, click here.
10. "Decline of the Catholic Church," extracted Jan. 2, 2022, https://thetruthsource.org/decline-of-the-catholic-church/.
11. "The Catholic Church in Decline in the Western World," FSSPX News, Jan. 2, 2020, https://fsspx.news/en/news-events/news/catholic-church-decline-western-world-53951.
12. "In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace," PEW Research Center, Oct. 17, 2019, https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/.
13. Gerry Bowler, "The Rise and Fall of Christian Canada," Impactus, Aug. 22, 2017, https://www.impactus.org/articles/the-rise-and-fall/.
14. Sean McShee, "A Decline of Christian Culture in the UK and Canada," The Wild Hunt, July 17, 2019, https://wildhunt.org/2019/07/decline-of-christian-culture-in-the-uk-and-canada.html.
15. Joseph Conn as quoted in the SDA periodical Liberty.
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