Contending For the Faith

The trial of Raphael Perez vs. the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists began March 13, 2000, and involves a lawsuit against Pastor Perez for illegally using the trademarked name, Seventh-day Adventist. This court case has attracted worldwide attention and is of vital interest to all who cherish their religious freedom!

Opening Statements

Both sides presented opening statements on Tuesday, March 14, 2000.

The prosecution (or the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists) contends that Pastor Perez and his organization are an offshoot church. They labeled him a “hate group” and claimed he was a breakaway church trying to use the mother church’s name.

Robert Pershes, attorney for the defense, claimed that the name “Seventh-day Adventist” is a generic term describing a belief system, a religion. He stated that the trademark law was being used in a religious context here, when it was intended to be used commercially. He stated if you are a believer in Seventh-day Adventism, and you believe in the writings of Ellen G. White as a prophet, and if that prophet said that the name Seventh-day Adventist was given to us by God, you believe it. At this point there were several “Amens” from the spectators. The judge admonished the spectators that this was a courtroom, not a church, and further comments would cause him to clear the courtroom of spectators.

The Prosecution

Witnesses for the Prosecution were then called.

George Reid, current director of Biblical research for the General Conference, was first. He stated his educational background as such: He received his BA from Lincoln Ministerial School, and his Masters of Divinity from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary.

Mr. Reid, who, at one time, served as head of the Religion Department at Southwest Adventist University in Keene, Texas was questioned as an expert witness on the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1860. It was his testimony that one must be a member of the General Conference to be a Seventh-day Adventist, “based on the understanding of unity.”

Attorney, Robert Nixon, stated Seventh-day Adventist does not refer to someone who believes in Seventh-day Adventism, but consists of Seventh-day Adventists in good and regular standing. They need to have membership in the Seventh-day Adventist organization.

The Survey

Harry O’Neill, researcher with Roper Worldwide, was paid $29,000 to conduct a telephone survey which took place between June 24 and July 2, 1999. The survey included a random selection of 1200 telephone numbers, (2% were Adventists) and asked the following questions:

  1. Have you ever heard or seen the term Seventh-day Adventist?
  2. What type or organization, if any, comes to mind when you hear Seventh-day Adventist?
  3. Do you associate the term Seventh-day Adventist with anything else? If so, what?

Responses to questions 2 and 3 were combined when presenting the final outcome.

70% of the 1200 respondents (or 840) had heard of Seventh-day Adventists.

44% of the 1200 respondents (or 528) responded that they thought of a church, a group, or a church organization.

56% of the 1200 respondents (or 672) responded that they thought of a religious group.

The Defense attorney objected to question number two of this survey as being leading. The fact that they used the word, “organization,” in their question, tainted the respondent’s answers, he claimed.

Dr. Standish for the Defense

The defense began their presentation by calling Dr. Colin Standish to the stand. Dr. Standish did a good job of defending our faith, and the judge, James Lawrence King, soon developed a good rapport with him. About fifteen minutes into Dr. Standish’s testimony, the judge asked the defense attorney to stand aside. The judge then began to question Colin directly about self-supporting work, the history of it, the name Seventh-day Adventist, and other things. The judge basically did all of the questioning for the defense with this witness.

After questioning Dr. Standish, the judge chastised the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for bringing this issue to trial, and quoted 1 Corinthians 6, about bringing your brethren to trial. The judge quickly recognized this to be a religious liberty issue and stated that it should never have been brought into his courtroom. He instructed both sides to get together and see if they could work out an agreement and let him know the following day. When the prosecution tried to present and label Pastor Perez and his group as a “hate group,” Judge King threw that out as not being relevant to this trial. He stated that he was only concerned with the trademark issue.

No Agreement

The prosecution and the defense attorneys, along with the General Conference men and Pastor Perez, sat down together and attempted to come to an agreement as they had been instructed by the Judge. Pastor Perez stated that he would be happy to put a disclaimer under the name Seventh-day Adventist, stating that he was not affiliated with the General Conference. This was not good enough for them. They wanted the work stopped, and Pastor Perez could not agree to that.

The trial was to continue as scheduled.

The courtroom was filled to capacity, with the court personnel having to bring in additional chairs to accommodate the crowd. In spite of the fact that there are dozens of “Conference Churches” in the area, there were no attendants from the “conference church” other than those who were there to give testimony.

The Defense Argues

Two of the main points that were drilled home by the witnesses for the defense were these:

  1. The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has consistently removed the name “Seventh-day Adventist” from its magazines, buildings, schools, and hospitals.
  2. Since we believe that Ellen G. White was a prophet, and the prophet states that this name was a God-given name denoting a people and their belief, we cannot give it up.

Witnesses for the Defense:

David Zic, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement testified to the necessity of using the name as it identifies them. He stated that a church consists of faithful believers, not the buildings.

Also testifying for the defense were John Nicolici, Dr. Russell Standish, Pastor John Grosboll, and one or two others.

Pastor Grosboll testified that, in order to keep peace, we would be happy to change our name if we could. But, since this name was given to us by God, Himself we cannot, dare not change it to appease man.

In a small anteroom off to the side of the courtroom, the pastors gathered to intercede in prayer as each and every defense witness was called. It was not unusual for the judge to gain admittance to the courtroom using this route, and he would walk through the room while the pastors were gathered in prayer. Especially was Raphael Perez’ name lifted before the Father’s throne.

Obey God Rather than Man

Raphael Perez was extensively examined and cross-examined for over an hour. When asked if his newspaper ads started after the Southeastern Conference had told him he could not use the name, Seventh-day Adventist, Raphael stated that he did not need authorization from human beings to use a name given by God. It is not a matter of waiting for permission—permission has already been established by God, and we are to obey God rather than man. (Acts 5:29.)

Many attempts were made to trip Pastor Perez up in his testimony, but God worked with him in a mighty way to keep him focused and to give him understanding of the English language, that he might not only understand, but that his reply might be clearly understood. He firmly defended the faith.

The Prophet Speaks

Please note the following quotations. Two from the Spirit of Prophecy and one from Scripture:

“We have far more to fear from within than from without. The hindrances to strength and success are far greater from the church itself than from the world. Unbelievers have a right to expect that those who profess to be keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, will do more than any other class to promote and honor, by their consistent lives, by their godly example and their active influence, the cause which they represent. But how often have the professed advocates of the truth proved the greatest obstacle to its advancement! The unbelief indulged, the doubts expressed, the darkness cherished, encourage the presence of evil angels, and open the way for the accomplishment of Satan’s devices.”Selected Messages, Book 1, 122. (1887.)

“This action, of appealing to human courts, never before entered into by Seventh-day Adventists, has now been done. God has permitted this that you who have been deceived may understand what power is controlling those who have had entrusted to them great responsibilities.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 302.

“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, ‘That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming’ and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:46-50.

Heartbreaking Verdict

Sadly, despite the promising outlook, Judge James Lawrence King rendered a verdict in favor of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. We must pray that the Lord might strengthen and sustain Raphael and his little church, as they plan their appeal to a higher court. We know that God is still in control, and that in the end His name will be uplifted, honored, and vindicated. We must also pray for each other. There are others out there who are also targeted by the General Conference. The following is a list of groups who have already had suits started against them by the General Conference:

  • Word of Faith Congregational Seventh-day Church

3505 Pulaski Pike
Huntsville, AL 35810

  • United Seventh-day Adventist Church

128 9th Street, N.W.
Mason City, IA 50401

  • The Ten Commandments Universal Saturday Seventh-day Adventist Temple

1509 Ray Road, Apt. #301
Hyattsville, MD 20782

  • Seventh-day Adventist

Congregational Church
Kona Hawaii

  • Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International, Inc.

PO Box 3840
Los Angeles, CA 90078

  • Trinidad Church of Seventh-day Adventist

1201 Staples Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20002

  • Tabernacle Seventh-day Adventist Church

3600 Martin Luther King Blvd., S.E.
Mason City, IA 50401

  • Eternal Gospel Church of Seventh-day Adventist

5419 Southern Boulevard
West Palm Beach, FL 33415

The Inquisition has begun!

(Emphasis the author’s.)