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A Sabbathkeeping Victory in the COVID-19 Era

A Sabbathkeeping Victory in the COVID-19 Era

New legislation passed in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, long credited as the economic engine of this South American nation, will protect those who observe the Bible Sabbath from demands that they work at government jobs or, for students, that they attend classes, take exams, and turn in homework on that day. 

As an amendment to a bill spelling out a wide range of pandemic-related measures, it has since passed the state legislature and awaits the signature of Governor João Agripino da Costa Doria Júnior, the city’s former mayor who also once hosted Brazil’s version of reality television show “The Apprentice.”


Concern Over “Make-Up” Days

Brazil, home to nearly 2 million Sabbathkeepers, has moved steadily forward in recent years to protect religious freedoms. Thus, not even a massive, lengthy quarantine could deter the continued protection of Sabbath observance. 

In fact, the effect of the coronavirus was the very impetus for this defense of religious rights. Because so many government functions, including those of schools, colleges, and universities, faced hampered operations during the COVID-19 lockdown, state deputy Damaris Moura, who observes the seventh-day Sabbath herself, became concerned that “make-up” measures would impinge on the rights of observant Jews, Seventh-day Adventists, and others who follow God’s fourth commandment.

Deputy Moura explained how the amendment came about: “I inserted this chapter into the Bill 350/2020 based on article 5 of the Federal Constitution [of Brazil], which ensures that ‘no one will be deprived of rights due to religious belief.’”

She further disclosed, “It is also based on Article 7, the Law of Guidelines and Bases of Education (LDB), which ensures the absence [from school] motivated by freedom of belief, upon prior notice, and the replacement of the requirement in an alternative date by means of class, exam, or work duties.” In other words, students who can’t participate in exams or classes on the Sabbath can complete those requirements at another time.

Rogério Galvão, a student at the Federal University of São Carlos, Sorocaba campus, cheered the amendment’s passage: “I am very relieved to know that I will now have this support to be able to continue studying and following my religious principles.”


Why This Matters

United Nations Building

In 1948, most member states of the United Nations approved and signed the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” a charter of civil liberties deemed necessary after the horrors of fascist regimes in Germany, Italy, and Japan during the Second World War. The declaration was designed to codify the freedoms each person on earth should be able to enjoy. It includes the general acknowledgement that protecting your right to worship as your conscience dictates—or to not worship, if that’s your choice—is a vital part of keeping a free society free.

Article 18 of the UDHR, as the document came to be known, clearly stated: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Sadly, the nearly 72 years since the UDHR has been passed have shown such freedoms to be far from universal. Countries such as Cuba, which assented to the measure, later persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured Sabbathkeepers, although things have dramatically improved in recent years.

But the document’s wording, the “freedom … to manifest [one’s] religion or belief,” is essential. Not only can people hold a certain belief, they can also practice it. If you’re a Sabbathkeeper, it means you should be free to observe the Bible Sabbath without hinderance or oppression from the state.

One of the great issues of our time, it could be argued, is the question of belief versus practice. Many people are more than willing to allow Christians (and others) to hold tenets of whatever faith they choose, but when such principles are put into practice, society now often objects, especially when such practice occurs in the commercial marketplace.

Faith isn’t an abstract series of constructs to be leisurely discussed at a lemonade social. To those who hold a Bible-based worldview, Christian faith is a way of life that is to be implemented at home, at school, and in the marketplace, whether one is an employee or an entrepreneur. Transparency and consistency are—or should be—the hallmarks of a Christian life.

That’s why this “win” in Brazil is important. As with other Sabbathkeeping victories in Kenya and elsewhere around the world, it confirms both the right of religious expression codified in the UDHR and the fact that biblical faith is practiced in the real world.

That a Sabbathkeeper such as Moura consistently stands up for her beliefs and for the rights of others is commendable. As she put it, “This guarantee [affirms the dignity] of each human being and, consequently, our democracy. As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I know the struggle and daily pressure that many of our brethren face to keep the Sabbath in universities and in the job market.”

Perhaps it is just that, her personal experience, that makes Moura so effective in the realm of religious liberty. She has won this battle. But as events move towards the end of this world system, we believe the Sabbath will become an even greater point of contention in the political arena—not just in Brazil but throughout the entire world.

Two resources might be of use: “The Sabbath in Prophecy” explores what the Bible says about the role of the seventh day at the end of time. And our free online Bible study “The Sabbath and the Mark of the Beast” takes you step-by-step through the Bible’s explanation of what is soon to take place. While we celebrate the victory in Brazil, it is also necessary to know what lies ahead.

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