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“They’d Rather Fight Than Pay” 

A striking article with this catchy title appeared inLiberty, a magazine of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The article gives an account of two members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church who are fighting in court the requirement that they join the union or lose their jobs. The union was willing to “compromise” to the extent of demanding of them union dues without their becoming union members. The two individuals rightly refused to do this, for they reasoned that they were also then supporting the union. The union refused them work as “conscientious objectors,” paying the equivalent of their dues to some charitable organization. 

The Seventh Day Adventist Church, evidently, opposes union membership—much on the same grounds as we do. This church claims that its members have the right to be exempted from union membership requirements because of religious conscientious convictions against the support oforganized labor. 

One of the individuals in this struggle had himself been a union member earlier in life. He says, “I can still remember how we used to call those people finks, scabs, freeloaders, and a lot of unprintable obscenities. Tension ran high: Fist fights broke out over the name-calling, and I know that some of the things I did and said contributed to the violence.” 

The case came to Federal Court in the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, on April 11, 1974. This. court decided in favor of the union in a decision which suggested:

1. While the plaintiffs’ beliefs were granted to be sincere, the court did not feel that the union security agreement discriminated against them in the exercise of their religious beliefs and observances. They were not required to subscribe to any tenets or doctrines of unionism or to engage in any strikes or violence against their employers. 

2. The dues exacted from the plaintiffs were merely a “tax” to support the union’s collective bargaining activities, from which the plaintiffs had obviously benefited financially and in job security.

3. To urge that by paying the equivalent of union dues the plaintiffs were supporting violence against their neighbors and transgressing the commandment to love their neighbors was as specious as urging that the plaintiffs contributed to violence against their neighbors by performing their occupational tasks, namely, the assembly and manufacture of component parts for military aircraft.

The case was then taken to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans) on November 11, 1975. “The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission presented an oral argument in favor of the plaintiffs. The Attorney General of Ohio filed an amicus brief in favor of the plaintiffs. The court considered the case to be of such importance that no time limit was set on the hearing, as is generally done in appeals courts.” Then, according to this article:

In a stunning reversal, the Fifth Circuit held on June 9, 1976, that the religion clauses of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1972, protect “all forms and aspects of religion, however eccentric . . . except those that cannot be, in practice and with honest effort, reconciled with a businesslike operation.” The court said such protection extended to an employee’s religious-based beliefs that prohibited him from paying dues to a labor organization. 

The court remanded the case to the Federal District Court to determine whether General Dynamics and the labor organization can accommodate Howard Hopkins’ and Rita Coleman’s religious beliefs without undue hardship to the company’s business or the labor organization’s operations.

The article suggests that this case might go to the Supreme Court. It may well be a case worth watching. Many of our own people know what it means to lose a job rather than joining the union. One would hope that perhaps, for a time, some relief would be provided in this regard. 

“If at first you don’t succeed . . .” 

The old saying has certainly been taken literally by the Synod of the Reformed Church in America with regard to women serving in the ministry. For the fifth straight year, the Synod has voted its approval of women as ministers within their churches. This vote, however, requires the subsequent approval of two thirds of their classes in order to become a regulation of the denomination. Recently, and for the fifth consecutive time, the classes failed to approve by a two thirds vote. The final vote would be: 29 in favor, 15 opposed, and one tie (counted with the negative votes). So, legally, women may not serve in the ministry in the RCA. But, next Synod will present a sixth opportunity to try again. In the meantime, there is already one woman ordained into the ministry in the Reformed Church in spite of the present rule against this. 

“Receding common grace” 

Dr. Louis Praamsma, in Calvinist Contact, Dec. 31, 1976, is apparently approaching the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches who deny the existence of any “common grace.” Dr. Praamsma still is convinced that common grace was operative in past ages but, for some reason, is not as apparent anymore. He speaks of a “recess in common grace.” He writes:

Since that time much has happened, we have experienced two world wars, we have heard theologians say that there is no God, we have heard of an atheistic theology and of a new horizontalism. 

In the same time we seem to live in a time of a gradual withdrawal of God’s common grace. I was certainly struck by that thought when I read my daily paper in the last week of November. 

One headline read: “It was adultery but now it’s called swinging.” . . . . 

That was the judgment of present-day science. The judgment of the Word of God is different: “God will judge the immoral and adulterous.”

Hebrews 13:4

A recess in common grace. 

A great deal of common opinion judges that there is nothing wrong with adultery. 

A great deal of that opinion judges that there is nothing wrong with abortion. 

A great deal of public opinion judges that there is nothing wrong with nudism. 

A great deal of public opinion judges that there is nothing wrong with premarital sex. 

“In the last days there will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

II Tim. 3:1-4

When reading such an opinion, one can not wonder what the difficulty must be. If there is common grace, does God give less of it today than before? Or, is man increasingly able to resist it successfully? Or is it just possible that Dr. Praamsma is coming to an awareness that there is really no such thing as “common grace”? 

More Concern about Television 

In the Presbyterian Journal of Dec. 8, 1976, an article about the dangers of television presents timely warning to us also:

The increase of “soft core” pornography in television and the mass media is beginning to disturb even those who once fought to defend freedom of expression, according to recent news articles. 

“Having opened the door to sex for art’s sake, they have found that it is no longer possible to close it against sex for profit’s sake,” said Walter Goodman in a New York Times report. 

He said that “as pornography has proliferated across the land, from centers of sexual technology such as New York and Los Angeles to less advanced communities, a suspicion that something may be awry has begun to nag at even that enlightened vanguard which once strove to save Lady Chatterley from the Philistines.” 

In another Times article headlined “Soft-Core Porn is Sneaking into Prime Time,” John J. O’Connor echoed the observations of many TV watchers that an increasing amount of program material is verging on the pornographic. 

The Times’ critic noted that themes bordering on the pornographic “have become commonplace on the evening schedule, usually in the sincerity-laden guise of social concerns. . . .”

Independence for Canadian CRC? 

The Calvinist Contact of Nov. 26, 1976 reports on what it calls “a step toward independence” for the Canadian Christian Reformed Churches. This past November, the groundwork was laid for a Christian college in Ontario. But also, the Council of Christian Reformed Churches in Canada is seeking a full time, salaried, executive director. This Council is not “answerable to Synod. It will operate totally independent of the yearly meeting of Synod.” It appears that there is a deliberate effort to bring the Canadian CRC into closer union, hopefully to become “independent” at some future date, from the churches in the U.S.