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U.S. Senator Says Adventists Lead in Protecting Religious Freedom

Orrin Hatch, speaking at an Adventist church-organized dinner, cautions that the religious freedom is under attack.

Story by Andrew McChesney, news editor, Adventist Review

A senior U.S. senator said religious freedom was under threat in the United States and around the world and praised the Seventh-day Adventist Church for playing a major role in defending it.

Senator Orrin Hatch, speaking at an annual religious liberty dinner sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, criticized the situation with religious freedom in countries such as China, Iran, Nigeria, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

He said people in the United States also have cause for concern, pointing to a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the past 50 years.

“This is a time of turmoil for religion and religious freedom, both here in America and abroad,” Hatch said in a keynote speech on Wednesday evening to about 160 ambassadors, religious leaders, and religious freedom advocates in a hotel in downtown Washington.

But, he said, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has helped protect religious freedom by working with U.S. legislators and mounting challenges in court.

As an example, he said that both the Adventist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of which he is a member, played key roles in the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected” and was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Hatch applauded a statement that the Adventist Church issued in support of the U.S. state of Arizona in 1999 when the local government enacted its own version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in response to Supreme Court restrictions on the federal law.

“Once again, the Seventh-day Adventist Church led the way,” said Hatch, 81, who has served as senator since 1977 and is the most senior Republican in the Senate, third in line in succession to the presidency.

Read the transcript of Senator Orrin Hatch’s speech (PDF)

Religious freedom has been a priority of the Adventist Church since its origins in the mid-1800s, and the church has long defended the rights of Sabbath-keepers and other religious minorities. Those efforts have been particularly visible in the past few decades as the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, has built up its religious liberty department, which co-hosted the dinner together with Adventist Church’s Liberty Magazine, International Religious Liberty Association, and North American Religious Liberty Association.



Feature Photo: Senator Orrin Hatch speaking at the April 29 dinner. (Mylon Medley / ANN)

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