PARL Alert: Sunday Observance Bill Causes Stir on The Marshall Islands

"..there is a general feeling in the community that "the nation has been growing too secular and a Christian nation should encourage church attendance." There is also a concern of drunkenness on Sunday that is "causing problems when others are trying to worship."

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PARL (Adventist Today) | Feb 23 2010 – The North American Religious Liberty Association sent out this news report as a “PARL Alert” by e-mail today:

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is considering the passage of Bill No. 66 which if passed will be known as “the Sunday Observance Act, 2010.” The Act labels “Sunday to keep holy.” “No person shall engage in trading, practice profession or conduct commercial undertaking” on Sunday – but there are exceptions. It would allow hotels, restaurants, airport and its shops, and seaports to be open without restriction. “Mom-and-pop” shops that cater “purposely for sale of food” can be open from 12 noon to 8pm Sunday.

Individual violators face a fine up to $200 or up to three months in jail; corporations face fines up to $1,000.

Rob Erich, a High School Social Studies Teacher at the Delap Seventh-day Adventist School in Majuro, notes that there is a general feeling in the community that “the nation has been growing too secular and a Christian nation should encourage church attendance.” There is also a concern of drunkenness on Sunday that is “causing problems when others are trying to worship.”

Erich and fellow teacher Rudy Estanque attended the deliberation of the Bill in the Island legislature. “The main people brought together to discuss this bill were pastors from a variety of churches,” he said, ” – very few business owners or other non-religious individuals were in attendance. As the meeting began, the Attorney General stated that the law was unconstitutional, followed by many church leaders stating that it was a good idea (with the occasional leader against it). ”

Erich and Estanque were given the opportunity to make a presentation. They complimented the Nitijela on its desire to provide for both the nation’s physical and spiritual well-being and ended by wishing God’s leading in making the difficult decision.

The teachers argued that the bill went against RMI constitution. The Bible and God encourage a relationship based on love, not force. “Throughout history,” they maintained, “when religions and nations combine the results are often negative – the crusades, the inquisition, and many of the current events going on in the Middle East.” As Adventists the teachers noted that even if the law were to promote these activities on Saturday instead of Sunday, they would still be against such a law as they believe a forced worship is not what God desires.

The proper response to creeping secularism is not legislative, but spiritual,” said Alan Reinach, Director of Public Affairs at the Pacific Union Conference of the Adventist Church in California, “the clergy should come together and fast and pray for revival. We can recognize the legitimacy of the problem, but propose a more effective solution. Not all problems are susceptible to legislative fixes.”

Giff Johnson, Editor of The Marshall Islands Journal, notes that the legislative committee could report it out for second reading later this week (the parliament recesses next week until August) or shelve it until the August session. “By Friday,” he states, “we should have a better reading on whether it will move forward. I think it is unlikely to, but I could be wrong.”

“Obviously we are concerned,” noted Barry Bussey, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.. “One can certainly understand the social concerns that often lead to a desire for such legislation. But, as Erich and Estanque pointed out to the legislature, history is replete with examples that good motives do not necessarily make good law. There needs to be a coming together in the community so that there is mutual respect for all concerned. Certainly Adventists must be mindful of their Sunday-keeping neighbors treating all with the greatest respect and yet ensuring religious freedom is maintained for all citizens.” Bussey has requested further information from the office of Del. Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan, who represents the Northern Mariana Islands in Washington, DC.

Source: Adventist Today

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