Brooklyn SDA Police Officer Sues Her Department for Denial of Sabbath Time Off
Johanne Saint-Jean, a Seventh-day Adventist cop from Brooklyn, New York, was labeled a “scammer” after she requested time off on Saturdays for worship purposes. “When she signed onto the job in 2016, Saint-Jean claims she was told she would be able to adhere to her faith. . . . Instead, she spent the next eight years being chastised by superiors who allegedly told her, ‘You’re not Jewish. Why are you practicing like you’re Jewish?’” writes Tina Moore for The New York Post.
Bosses told Saint-Jean “there is no place for her in the police department” because of her religion, according to the Manhattan Supreme Court suit. Saint-Jean . . . said she joined the NYPD at age 29 because it had been a dream of hers, but that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
She was granted religious accommodations to have her required days off. But bosses told her other cops were angry a newbie would get a weekend day and began criticizing her beliefs.
A supervisor also said her religion was “not for black people,” and she [started] being assigned to work Saturdays, she said. As a result, she was forced to use her own accrued time off for the Sabbath and has lost out on valuable overtime and transfers to specialized units, she claims in the legal filing.
Saint-Jean, who has three children—ages 6, 14 and 16—hopes the lawsuit will force the NYPD to change. “I’m asking for a change so nobody else who comes on has to deal with this, especially as a black woman,” she said. “Some days I get to work and I sit in my car and I think, Should I go in? I can’t do it.”
“Publicly, the NYPD champions its diversity as a tool necessary to protect the diverse population of New York City,” said her attorney, John Scola. “In practice, officers like Johanne Saint-Jean are denied advancement within the department and openly harassed for asserting their religious beliefs.”
The NYPD said in a statement it “does not tolerate discrimination in any form.”
—From the New York Post, “NYPD Mother of Three Slammed as ‘Scammer’ for Wanting off on Sabbath: Suit”
Americans United Continues Fight for Church-State Separation Despite Loss of Evangelical and Baptist Support
Religious leaders from Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Seventh-day Adventist churches formed a group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State in 1947. “The group . . . continues the fight 75 years later with the support of religious leaders even though it has lost the backing of many evangelicals and Southern Baptists,” writes Steve Rabey for Baptist News.
Rachel Laser, Americans United’s first female and first non-Christian president, grieves the fact that many evangelicals have lost faith in church-state separation. “It’s a huge loss,” she said. “These groups have done a good job of co-opting what Christianity is all about to oppose church-state separation and to reinforce the myth that church-state separation is anti-Christian or anti-religion.”
Southern Baptists and evangelicals supported separation—until they didn’t
In 1939, former SBC president George W. Truett, then pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, praised the U.S. Constitution’s insistence that “church and state, in this land, must be forever separate and free, and that neither must ever trespass upon the distinctive functions of the other.”
Americans United celebrates “Ten Epic Battles” it won during its first 70 years, including access to birth control, removing state-sponsored prayer and Bible reading from public schools, preventing tax dollars from going to religious schools, and keeping the Ten Commandments out of public institutions.
But these and other victories have since been reversed or fatally weakened, which increases the urgency AU feels now. AU is now suing to overturn Missouri’s ban on abortion, arguing that legislation based on the religious belief that the “life of each human being begins at conception” is a violation of church-state separation. The plaintiff in Rev. Blackmon v. Missouri is Traci Blackmon, a United Church of Christ minister.
AU also is suing Oklahoma officials who recently approved America’s first tax-supported and faith-based charter school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School. AU is defending faith leaders, public school parents, and public education advocates in the case, OKPLAC, Inc. v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.
—From Baptist News Global, “Abandoned by evangelicals, Americans United continues 75-year fight for church-state separation.”
Virginia Adventist Church Continues Using Online Worship Services to Bolster Attendance
The COVID-19 pandemic transformed church services throughout the Greater Richmond Virginia Region, like the rest of the United States. The virus led to social distancing and restrictions on large gatherings. “Some churches introduced drive-in services with congregants worshiping in their vehicles in church parking lots. Many churches shifted to online worship, streaming their services and sermons through platforms such as YouTube or Facebook Live,” writes Darlene M. Johnson for Richmond Free Press.
Still, further adjustments were necessary once the country shut down. At Ephesus [Richmond Seventh-day Adventist Church], Pastor Dr. Gary Banks and other church leaders realized a need to invest more in virtual broadcast services.
The church fully transitioned to online-only services in March 2020, said Dr. Banks, who has led Ephesus for the last six of his 31 years as a pastor. The transition prompted Ephesus’ leadership to buy new production software and shorten worship services from between two to three hours long.
While in-person Saturday services once drew up to 300 people, attendance for live streams were not as faithful initially, and the number of people went down, Dr. Banks said.
“There may have been 50 people online while I was preaching in real time,” Dr. Banks said. “By the end of the week, there were 300 to 400 views.” Dr. Banks realized that although some worshippers were still attending services, others preferred to worship online at their convenience.
In December 2020, Ephesus returned to in-person worship with a limited number of congregants. A big reopening was planned for January 2021, but in-person service was halted again when the COVID-19 omicron variant emerged, Dr. Banks said. Since then, Ephesus has conducted both in-person and online services.
—From the Richmond Free Press, “Churches continue to alter services in era of COVID-19.”
Herbert Blomstedt Honored with Deutsche Grammophon Lifetime Achievement Award
Adventist symphony conductor Herbert Blomstedt (96) was honored in absentia at the Deutsche Grammophon annual awards in Berlin on 8 October 2023 at the Konzerthaus. “The special award of the evening, an OPUS KLASSIK for lifetime achievement, went to the conducting legend and 'longest-serving conductor in the world,” states an article from Diverse Künstler.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement award was presented to a true “elder statesman of classical music” . . . The Swedish maestro’s debut DG album, on which he conducts the Gewandhausorchester in Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9, came out in time for his 95th birthday last July.
Blomstedt’s extensive discography ranges from the symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, Nielsen, and Sibelius to works by Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Berg. The conductor has spent over six decades working with the world’s leading orchestras. “The older you get, the more responsibility you’re prepared to take on,” he says. “You’re also willing to take more risks.”
—From Diverse Künstler, “OPUS KLASSIK 2023 – Deutsche Grammophon Artists Honoured with Ten Awards.”
Seventh-day Adventist Jamaican Pastor Given Governor General Medal of Honor
Jermaine Johnson, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, received a Governor General Medal of Honor for significant and exceptional contributions to their communities and nation as a whole, reports the Jamaica Observer.
Johnson, who pastors Moneague District of Churches in St. Ann, was presented with the Medal of Honor (Gold) in the category of Social Program Contributors for writing the head of state's I Believe Initiative (IBI) theme song titled “I Believe.”
“I am deeply honored to have received the Governor General's Medal of Honor for my contributions to the esteemed office and the advancement of our nation,” a news release from the Seventh-day Adventist Church quoted Johnson.
“This recognition is a testament to the indelible impact that pastoral ministry can have on matters of national import, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to make a meaningful impression on our country.”
—From the Jamaica Observer, “GG Gold Medal of Honour for pastor who penned I Believe Initiative theme song.”
Pennsylvania SDA Church Holds Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off
The Gettysburg Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pennsylvania held a Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off on church grounds and "invited the community to celebrate meat-free chili recipes and to enjoy a fun-filled evening with fellow chili enthusiasts,” according to the Gettysburg Times.
A variety of vegetarian chilis [were] prepared by talented cooks from throughout the community.
Participants [were] asked to bring their best chili in a crock pot ready to share. [Attendees were able to] not only sample the various chilis but also to have full-sized servings of their favorite chili and partake in the sides and homemade desserts.
The community was invited to ‘come-as-you-are’ and bring a lawn chair to sit by the bonfire. . . . Pumpkin painting and other activities [were available] for the kiddies. This event was free and family-friendly.
—From the Gettysburg Times, “Vegetarian chili cook off Saturday.”
Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.
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