October 2, 2020

Mission Unstoppable: Public Affairs & Religious Liberty (PARL)

Unstoppable is the word that comes to mind when you look at the early days of the church. Conflict and controversy threatened to take down the young group...

Unstoppable is the word that comes to mind when you look at the early days of the church. Conflict and controversy threatened to take down the young group but, instead of destroying it, the challenges fueled the fire that spread across the first-century landscape. 

And now, in these challenging times, we are reminded of our mission through the following stories from Lake Union department leaders what being the Church is really about — God’s people doing God’s work together by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Public Affairs & Religious Liberty (PARL)

Brandy1 had worked for a number of years as a substitute teacher and enjoyed her work, but it was only part-time so she had to supplement her job working as a security guard. But neither job offered benefits, so she continued to further her training, looking for that full-time job that would give her greater financial peace.  

Finally, her breakthrough seemed to arrive. She applied for a security officer position in the city jail. After an arduous process of testing, background checks, even special haircuts, she made it to the final round of interviews for this highly competitive job.   

  Brandy met with the Human Resource director for the city, who asked her if she had any limitations on her schedule. Brandy explained that she was a Seventh-day Adventist and needed to have Friday nights and Saturdays to observe her weekly Sabbath. This was no problem, the HR director assured her.  

However, when she was hired she was stunned to discover that she was the only one of the new employees to be scheduled to working the coming Saturday.  

“Surely there must be a mistake,” she thought. However, she was told the schedule was fixed and could not be changed. She even offered to work on Sundays but that request was denied. 

Shortly after this, Brandy called the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty office of the Lake Union where we heard her story and prayed with her for Divine guidance. Since the case had progressed so rapidly to termination, we not only sent a letter, but also called the city’s HR office to see if the decision could be reversed.  

We explained the Title VII protections that require Sabbath convictions and other religious beliefs to be reasonably accommodated. In most cases, a letter and a call is all that it takes to get an employer to offer an accommodation. But in Brandy’s case, we could not get them to budge.    

We were left with no choice but to file a complaint for Brandy with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Such a process can be successful, but takes a minimum of several months, and can sometimes extend for a year or two.  

Finally, about a year later, the federal investigator called, and we got back in touch with Brandy. “Where are you working now,” I asked. Brandy revealed that in the last month she had gotten a job with the state in the agency working to protect at-risk children. She was very excited about the position, as it combined her love of children with her security expertise, and it paid more than the jail position! Brandy was relieved and happy in her new job, and grateful that her faithfulness to God’s Sabbath had been rewarded. 

Standing for God does not always bring short-term success or applause. But we do know that, in the long run, it does pay to be faithful — usually in this life, but certainly in the life to come. In the meantime, the Church’s PARL Department will do its best to support its members who are facing difficulties and challenges for standing for their convictions like Brandy. 

Nicholas Miller, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty