- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has reached an out-of-court agreement with a splinter group of Adventists in Florida that bars it from using the official church name in anti-Catholic advertisements.
The Eternal Gospel Church, led by Pastor Raphael Perez in West Palm Beach, may use only its local church name in provocative ads saying the Roman pontiff is part of the Antichrists world-end scenario, according to an agreement filed in a Miami federal court.
Such ads, literature, billboards or radio programs by the church are limited also to saying the local church was "founded in (1990 or later) by Seventh-day Adventist believers."
The agreement ends a three-year trademark battle in which the denomination, with headquarters in Silver Spring, won a federal court ruling last year that barred Mr. Perez from using the church name or its acronym, SDA. The Feb. 15 settlement came after Mr. Perez appealed.
"His advertisements were perceived by many in a very negative manner," said Walter E. Carson, a lawyer with the SDA Church headquarters. "To protect the integrity of the church name, we asked Mr. Perez to stop using it," he said in an interview.
Having sued Mr. Perez three years ago, the SDA Church believes the agreement follows the judges 2000 ruling, allows religious liberty, and tells other splinter groups they cannot use SDA names in anti-Catholic publications.
"We remain a defender of religious freedom," Mr. Carson said. He also told the Adventist news service, "We would hope [independent groups] consider selecting names that would come within the fair use exception utilized in the settlement agreement."
The Eternal Gospel Church, which has about 50 supporters, began placing newspaper advertisements in 1994 in markets such as Miami, Washington, New York, St. Louis and Los Angeles, according to court documents.
They often showed a picture of Pope John Paul II with the Soviet Unions Mikhail Gorbachev, pointing to a global conspiracy.
The full-page advertisement ran in The Washington Times in June of 1997, spurring a letters-to-the-editor debate over free speech in advertising versus publishing offensive anti-religious materials.
As Catholic readers lamented the "blatant anti-Catholic venom" of the ad, the Seventh-day Adventist leadership wrote The Times, "the Adventist denomination seeks a positive relationship with other Christian churches and with other religions."
The SDA noted its cooperation on religious liberty with other Protestant groups and parallel relief work with Catholic charitable organizations.
The Adventist church was founded in the mid-19th century in the United States, but most of its membership is now outside North America. Many of the churchs teachings were elaborated by an early leader, Ellen G. White, whose writings emphasize Bible prophecy, the imminent second coming of Christ, and health. The church has built an extensive system of schools and hospitals.
The growth of Adventism in once-Catholic Europe has prompted secularists to warn of "dangerous sects" and Catholic Church leaders in Latin America have complained about "sheep stealing." On a 1992 visit to Latin American, Pope John Paul II called non-Catholic sects "ravenous wolves."
As with the West Palm Beach church, Adventists sometimes splinter over varied interpretations of prophecy. The Perez church tried unsuccessfully to join the Southeast and Florida conferences of the SDA denomination.
Mr. Carson said that the church will monitor Mr. Perezs activity to make sure he adheres to the court-approved agreement.


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