A “Work-Free Sunday” and the need of legislation to enforce the concept was the topic of a conference held in Brussels, Belgium. Last year the European Parliament rejected such an attempt. This conference comes as a response. It is but the beginning of a more strategic movement to revitalize the discussion for a work-free Sunday. Daniela Weichhold attended the conference and reports that László Andor, the new Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, saw the conference as ” a new chapter.” As Weichhold points out the EU Commission can still launch the legislative procedure even if it fails. There is now a serious attempt to convince the hearts and minds of Europeans that Sunday legislation is necessary for the health of all citizens.
The conference was organized by a number of trade unions, political parties, Roman Catholic Bishops, and Protestant Churches including the Baptist, Methodist, Church of England, and Evangelical Lutherans. The supporting website www.workfreesunday.eu argues “More than any other day of the week a free Sunday serves the aim of reconciling work and family life: As childcare facilities, schools and universities are usually closed on Sundays, parents and children can spend time with each other. Sunday is, moreover, the weekly rest day for children and adolescents according to EU law. …. If the father has the weekly rest day on Monday, the mother on Wednesday and the children on Sunday, a situation is created that is contrary to the aim of fostering a reconciliation of work and family life.”
Karel Nowak, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Director at the Euro-Africa-Division of Seventh-day Adventists and Secretary General of the International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty, was also present at the Conference. He raised the question how this new proposed legislation would protect minorities who keep another day than Sunday. As Weichhold noted he didn’t get an answer.
“While we strongly support the right to rest,” states John Graz the director of the public affairs and religious liberty department at the General Conference, “we believe the individual should be permitted to choose which days to rest on – not the state in cooperation with churches. We view this movement as a grave danger to religious liberty.”
“Seventh-day Adventists have long encouraged members to keep a weekly rest day – as enjoined by the Ten Commandments – the Sabbath (which is Saturday or sábado in Spanish) and practiced by the early Christian Church,” states Barry Bussey who represents the Adventist Church to the US Government. “Throughout history we have seen these attempts to use state regulation to enforce a particular interpretation of the Sabbath Commandment. That is not the state’s role – ultimately it will cause hardship for minority faiths that do not accept the majority’s regulation of a Sabbath.”
“We will continue to monitor the situation,” says James Standish, who heads up the UN Relations for the Adventist Church. “This is a disturbing movement. Now is the time for us as a people to share with others the importance of maintaining religious freedom for all citizens.”