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Will the Supreme Court Judge Sabbath Rest Again?

Posted on October 15, 2018
 Will the Supreme Court Judge Sabbath Rest Again?

For the third time in 55 years, a case involving an employee’s right to not work as part of his or her religious practice on the seventh day of the week, which is the Bible Sabbath spoken of in Exodus 20, may go before the Supreme Court of the United States.

At issue in the present case is whether or not the Walgreens drug store chain discriminated against Darrell Patterson, a Sabbath-keeping employee in the firm’s Orlando, Florida, call center. Since hiring Patterson in 2005, his employers have accommodated his request not to be scheduled for work between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday.

Such accommodations fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just a year earlier, in what is believed to be its first Sabbath-related case, the Supreme Court found that when Adell Sherbert was denied unemployment compensation after she was fired for not working on the Sabbath, it was a violation of Sherbert’s First Amendment rights.

In 2011, after six years of accommodations by his employer, Patterson was fired for “gross negligence” when he failed to show up on a Saturday for a mandated training session. His pleas for relief not gaining a response, he and his attorneys are hoping the Supreme Court will take up the case this term.

If the Supreme Court does so, it will be the first time in forty years that a Sabbath case has come before the panel. In 1977, the court ruled against Larry Hardison, an airline maintenance worker whose transfer from one workshop to another meant a loss of seniority and a Sabbath-off preference. Back then, the justices said Hardison’s employer, Trans World Airlines, and his union, had reasonably accommodated the employee.

Legal issues surrounding the rights of workers to not work on their religious day of rest have long plagued American society. In 2006, for example, the Rolling Hills Consolidated Library in Savannah, Missouri, was ordered to rehire a staff assistant who didn’t want to work on Sundays because of her Lutheran faith. Along with reinstatement, Connie Rehm was awarded $53,712 in damages by a federal jury.

Whatever happens in the case of Patterson, there is a court even greater than that of the Supreme Court of the United States. It will “sit” in the halls of heaven during the judgment period following Christ’s return to earth. And one of the things on which the living and the dead will be judged is how we treated the Bible Sabbath.

Even though some Christians search high and low, there is not a single verse in the Scriptures that says, “You shall now worship on the first day of the week.” Instead, the Bible is replete with instructions that it is the last day of the week that is the day of rest.

For instance, in Exodus 20:9–11, we read, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.”

That seems pretty clear, so why do so many Christians today believe that Sunday is the Sabbath day? Because ecclesiastical leaders—of almost every stripe—have said so. Then-pope John Paul II affirmed it in 1988 with an apostolic letter in which he proclaimed Sunday as the day to celebrate Creation. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, said families must “also aim at recovering the true meaning of celebration, especially on Sunday.” And almost every Protestant leader from the Reformation to modern times has accepted Sunday as the day of worship. Several, including well-known broadcast preachers, have gone to great lengths to reframe the Bible’s clear command.

But what does the Bible say of religious leaders who rebuff the word of the Lord? Ezekiel 22:26 says, “Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.”

This isn’t something most people would want God saying about their lives and profession. And if you’re a minister of the gospel, those should be rather sobering words indeed, especially when you read verse 31: “ ‘Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord GOD.”

The truth is, we’re all going to be judged on how we’ve responded to God’s laws, including the fourth commandment to “keep the Sabbath day holy” (Exodus 20:8). And while the apostle Paul wrote about the ceremonial sabbaths known as the Old Testament feasts (Colossians 2:14), a clear reading of the passage shows it is not intended to “wipe away” the weekly Sabbath, which is a memorial of creation.

The Bible gives us detailed instructions on how to “rest” on the Sabbath day, showing that it is a day of delight for us and for God. And Bible prophecy rveals that those who reject or change the Sabbath are on track to receive the mark of the beast, something no faithful believer would desire.

Patterson and his attorneys are waiting to learn whether or not the Supreme Court will hear their appeal. But Christians who seek to be faithful to the Scriptures would do well to make sure they are ready for the judgment of heaven’s final court!

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