Pastor Walter McGill and Lucan Chartier of the Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church in Guys, Tenn., face arrest warrants from the U.S. Marshalls Service after refusing to comply with a court order regarding their name.
On its website, the church writes: In the year 1981 the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists enacted a civil law with the United States government, trademarking its name. From that time it has gone forward, taking faithful individuals and ministries to court who could not, in good conscience, either submit to the Conference's strategies or surrender the name "Seventh Day Adventist," believing it to be a mark of their faith. Where coercion and threats have failed, force has been employed by the leaders of denominational Adventism to accomplish their aims and "protect the church" from those it perceives as its enemies. However, "It is only when Christians mistakenly come to believe that Christ's kingdom is of this world that they resort to force in defending what they take to be its interests. [SDA Bible Commentary, Vol.5, p. 527] This fight over the trademarking of "Seventh-day Adventist" and its associated abbreviations has been going with this very small congregation since at least 2006.
In 2008, Religion Clause blogger and law professor Howard Friedman* wrote that in "General Conference Corporation of Seventh Day Adventists v. McGill, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45526 (WD TN, June 11, 2008) the court held that the trademark 'Seventh Day Adventist' is not generic and thus is protectable and that defendant illegally used the mark without permission. The court found however that that there is a material issue of fact as to whether the registered mark "Adventist" is generic and that plaintiffs had not proven that 'SDA' is a valid trademark." In 2010 after a petition for certiorari was filed, he noted, "The court refused to carve out a special exception for religious intellectual property. The petition for review filed with the Supreme Court focuses on a second part of the 6th Circuit's decision that rejected a claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to the case. The 6th Circuit held that RFRA applies only suits in which the government is a party." Previously the court has ordered the Creation 7th Day Adventist Church signs torn down and its website shut down, but the church's leaders have put them back up. It appears that as long as the courts hold that religious liberty laws are inapplicable in property disputes this small outshoot of Adventism will not have any right to its name.
*This post originally misspelled the name.