This We Believe: A Statement from Liberty and Health Alliance
To the Seventh-day Adventist Church
This We Believe: A Statement from Liberty and Health Alliance
February 18, 2022
I am a Physical Therapist. Was terminated from my job of 16 years today, 10-4-21, for refusing the covid vaccine. My employer denied my religious exemption request based on language they found on the SDA world ministry website regarding vaccinations.
This message came to Liberty and Health Alliance from a faithful church member. The below document is dedicated to this individual, and to all employees, students and others who have stood for their conscientious convictions, sometimes at great personal cost.
A number of months have passed since the founding of Liberty and Health Alliance, and it is possible that some people have forgotten–or perhaps have never heard about–the primary goals which the organization was founded to promote (see here and here for previous statements from Liberty and Health Alliance). Also, some public statements have been made recently that pertain to specific issues or events with which Liberty and Health Alliance has been involved. In order to lessen the possibility of misunderstanding and to clearly state our own position, the leadership of Liberty and Health Alliance would like to emphasize the following points.
Liberty and Health Alliance has a strong, unswerving commitment to the message and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. To question the wisdom of vaccine mandates that stand opposed to informed consent and to urge the church’s religious liberty leaders to advocate on behalf of those whose freedom of conscience is in jeopardy, is not to undermine the doctrines of the church or to distract from its worldwide mission. In fact, to be silent at such a time would be to abdicate an important spiritual responsibility in the area of religious liberty, which is a longstanding emphasis of the Adventist Church.
We believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a unique opportunity at this moment in world history to speak up for individuals who have sincerely held religious concerns about the vaccine mandates for two critical reasons. First, people are being threatened with losing their livelihoods and their educational opportunities, and in some countries, they face fines, involuntary detainment, and even mistreatment at the hand of law enforcement. Second, it is important because some governments and employers deny religious or conscientious exemptions, stating that no major church denomination has opposed Covid vaccine mandates. This is indeed an occasion for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to be recognized as an advocate on behalf of those who are oppressed and who feel as if they have no voice. The leaders of Liberty and Health Alliance have received expressions of heartfelt gratitude from thousands of people within our church family, as well as from those outside our faith community, for speaking on their behalf. These grateful people will remember those who advocated for their freedom of conscience, and are likely to be receptive to other aspects of Adventist faith. In light of this situation and the opportunity it presents, we make a firm but gracious request that the religious liberty leaders of our church step forward and provide heartfelt support and fervent advocacy in the public square for those who are facing challenges due to vaccine mandates. It is past time for this to happen.
We are persuaded that it is fully in keeping with the Seventh-day Adventist health message to promote a wholistic view of health, including the strengthening of the immune system, and to highlight the importance of early treatment for those infected with Covid. Such emphases do not in any way minimize the reality or the danger of Covid. To the contrary, this approach recognizes the seriousness of the situation and urges everyone to take proactive steps to improve one’s health in case of infection and to use effective and early treatments when infection occurs. Among the leadership at Liberty and Health Alliance are medical practitioners who have been involved in recommending a wholistic perspective, emphasizing prevention, and providing life-saving early treatment, and these emphases are needed by the world at large as cases of Covid continue to multiply.
We have noted that some public statements have been made offering assistance and prayer support from pastors or religious liberty leaders to those who have “personal” objections to vaccine mandates or who have “individual” religious liberty concerns about receiving an injection. The idea that comes through in these statements is that in the view of certain church leaders, the concerns that these members have with mandates or vaccinations are private or personal in nature and are not really related to their Adventist faith. This viewpoint is problematic in two respects. First, to consider this merely a personal issue is to deny the understanding of large numbers of faithful Seventh-day Adventists who have formally asked for a religious exemption. Leaders with Liberty and Health Alliance have been involved in this religious exemption process in a number of ways, and we have witnessed devoted church members highlighting their spiritual commitment as the basis of their exemption requests. Additionally, some may question the sincerity of the offer to pray for Adventist members who are experiencing challenges due to vaccine mandates when, at least in some cases, the Adventist Church’s public statement on vaccination has been used against church members to make their situation more difficult to resolve.
We simply pose two probing questions: First, is it wise for a statement on vaccination that was written in 2015, well before the present situation arose, to be promoted as the official Seventh-day Adventist position on Covid vaccinations, especially in light of the widespread concern about the safety and efficacy of these experimental vaccines by countless church members around the globe, and second, was it prudent to release the October 25, 2021 statement, endorsing vaccination mandates for the first time, when these very mandates are being used to terminate dedicated Adventists from their employment, exclude them from their educational institutions, and restrict their engagement in public life? We think not. These questions seems especially appropriate since neither the 2015 statement nor the October 25 statement have been voted by the Executive Committee of the Adventist Church at Annual Council or the General Conference at a duly called quinquennial session. We are convinced that these statements that are now being used to speak for a global church should be set aside until they can be discussed and considered by a large representative group with ample representation among both laity and church employees.
In conclusion, we, the leaders of Liberty and Health Alliance, would like to remind everyone of the long-held eschatological understanding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It seems to us unwise, and even to border on willful, spiritual blindness, for a movement which has repeatedly emphasized that Jesus is coming soon and has long taught that liberty of conscience will be severely curtailed in the last days, to refuse to see the restrictions of freedom taking place around the globe as a precursor or foreshadowing of climactic future events that will pose an even greater threat to freedom of conscience. It is clear to us, and to many other thoughtful observers, that we are on the verge of momentous, earth-shaking events. May God give us spiritual alertness to recognize the times in which we live and to declare the message of truth for our times, a message which offers freedom, wholeness, and abundant living while on this world and eternal fellowship with Jesus in the world to come.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
This statement is respectfully addressed to Seventh-day Adventists everywhere, including those in positions of organizational, institutional, and local church leadership. Its development has been organized by the Liberty and Health Alliance, a ministry of Seventh-day Adventist members promoting the health message of the Church and liberty of conscience in making specific health decisions, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
President: Lela Lewis, MD, MPH, Phoenix, Arizona
Vice President/Legal Affairs: Jonathan Zirkle, JD, Loma Linda, California
General Vice President: Scott Ritsema, Lakeview, Michigan
Vice President/Spiritual Affairs: Wyatt Allen, New Albany, Indiana
Vice President/Medical Affairs: Andrew Chung, MD, Clear Lake, California
Director of Media and Communications: Chris Chung, Avon Park, Florida
Telehealth Director: Alan Maycock, Phoenix, Arizona
Spiritual Advisor: Greg A. King, PhD, Collegedale, Tennessee
This statement has been written with the counsel and support of other Adventists who share the concerns of the Liberty and Health Alliance. That their names are listed below means only that those individuals are publicly affirming their support of this document, and that such support may not necessarily reflect the position or views of any entity or organization with which they otherwise may be professionally affiliated.
David Butler, MBA, Bakersfield, California
Jonathan Freed, MD, Auburn, California
Michael G. Hasel, PhD, Ooltewah, Tennessee
Ron Kelly, Berrien Springs, Michigan
Ronald A. Knott, Berrien Springs, Michigan
Gregory Nelson and Wendy Nelson, MD, Loma Linda, California
James Rafferty, North Fork, California
Gordon Skeoch, MD, Temecula, California
Margaret Song, MD, MPH Redlands, California
Conrad A. R. Vine, DMin, Berrien Springs, Michigan
Wes Youngberg, DrPH, Temecula, California