These words were written by Alonzo T. Jones, one of Adventism’s most eloquent and effective religious liberty pioneers. In fact, it’s the first sentence of the first chapter of his 1889 book Civil Government and Religion.

As you turn the pages of this extraordinary book, it soon becomes clear that to be a Seventh-day Adventist in the time of A. T. Jones could be a risky business. Take the case of Pastor James Scoles from Springdale, Arkansas. He volunteered to help finish painting his congregation’s newly built church and decided to complete the work one quiet Sunday morning. “I went over to the church,” he said later, “and finished up a small strip of painting on the south side, clear out of sight of all public roads; and here I quietly worked away for perhaps two hours.”1 For this act Pastor Scoles was arrested and jailed. This was just one of many cases in which Adventists and other religious minorities were prosecuted under state Sunday laws.

Fast-forward to today, and perhaps we’ve grown comfortable—could it be complacent?—in the knowledge that being an Adventist in the United States carries very little risk indeed. There’s almost zero chance we’ll be arrested for attending a Sunday-morning church work bee!

But being comfortable can be dangerous. An attitude of vigilance, as Ellen White clearly foresaw, is by far the most essential tool we have in the fight to defend and protect religious freedom for all. Speaking about the threats to religious liberty in her day, she wrote to the church: “O awake, I pray you, awake! for you bear the most sacred responsibilities. As faithful watchmen, you should see the sword coming.”2

Today we must be vigilant. Recent events have shown us, once again, just how easily and willingly we relinquish civil liberties when safety and security are in the balance. And today even the idea of religious freedom itself is under attack as “discriminatory” or worse.

For almost 120 years Liberty magazine has spoken to lawmakers, public officials, and thought leaders. It shares a distinctly Adventist warning about the urgent need to guard this precious God-given right of religious freedom. Thank you for your generous and faithful giving, which is the bedrock of this mission. And thank you for your prayers as together we work to be faithful watchmen in these difficult times.

  1. A. T. Jones, Civil Government and Religion (Oakland, California: American Sentinel, 1889), p. 114.
  2. “An Address in Regard to the Sunday Movement,” Review and Herald, December 24, 1889.

*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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