Earlier this year the Adventist church captured news headlines throughout North America when two literature evangelists from Oakwood University were ticketed for conducting door-to-door solicitations without a permit in Alabaster, Alabama. The South Central Conference subsequently responded by suing the city of Alabaster, Alabama.
The lawsuit alleged that “the City of Alabaster has enacted two sweeping ordinances that unconstitutionally restrict the exchange of beliefs and religious principles within the Alabaster city limits,” according to Religion News Service.
Attorney Todd McFarland, an associate counsel for the General Conference Office of General Counsel, who represented the South Central Conference, filed suit in U.S. district court in Birmingham, and on July 18 the students were allowed to continue their solicitations, pending a hearing set for March 2013.
I commend South Central’s decisive action. Our church’s quick response kept the issue from escalating, and will, we hope, bring a review of Alabaster’s ordinances.
On a larger scale, the incident shows how precious our First Amendment right of free speech and the free exercise of religion are, allowing people from all faiths to witness and minister to friends and neighbors.
The event also serves as a stark reminder of the continuing threat to our religious freedoms in relation to gospel proclamation. As we become more serious about witnessing for the kingdom of heaven, forces opposing that kingdom will seek to stymie the spread of the gospel.
Christians today, as had those who suffered for their faith in New Testament times, may expect to encounter persecution, and many already do. But this should not dissuade us from attending to our Father’s business. We must work to complete the gospel commission, doing as much as we can while we still have the light of freedom.
Carlos Medley is online editor for the Adventist Review. This article was published September 20, 2012.