Des Moines Register
January 5, 2001

Ad criticized as



Register Staff Writer


A group has criticized a full-page advertisement in the Des Moines
Sunday Register as anti-Catholic.

The National Catholic League for Religion and Civil Rights wrote a letter to the newspaper asking it to "not accept any more of these bigoted ads." Officials with the Des Moines Catholic Diocese also expressed concern about the ad.

Register President and Publisher Mary Stier said the information was clearly labeled as a paid advertisement of the Eternal Gospel Church. "Their advertisement was not a position or policy of the Register itself, and it was not something our staff authored or originated," Stier said.

"We take our responsibilities seriously," she said. "Our role is not to silence speech even if we might disagree with its message. We also are respectful of those who disagree and take comfort in their ability to speak out. We will meet with leaders of the diocese in the near future to better understand their concerns."

The Eternal Gospel Church has paid for the ad to appear in 76 publications. After being approached by the Catholic League, some newspapers such as the Miami Herald and Dallas Morning News acknowledged the ad could be perceived as offensive and refused to print it again, the Catholic League said.

The full-page treatise contained references that appear to be critical of the pope and the Catholic Church, as well as Protestants.

The Eternal Gospel Church, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., is made up former Seventh-day Adventist Church members. The Eternal Gospel Church was ordered to leave the church's general conference because it created disturbances, said George Reid, director of the biblical institute of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference.

The main message in the advertisement is that people must worship on Saturday instead of Sunday.

"We try to warn people against what they do because it is against God," said Raphael Perez of West Palm Beach, Eternal Gospel Church leader. "The special day of the Lord is Saturday."

Perez anticipates national laws will be passed that require Sunday worship. He contends enacting those laws would be a sign of the end of the world. Adventists believe Saturday is the Sabbath.

Reid said there is no danger of Sunday-law legislation. He also called Perez's ad campaign "manufactured danger."

"He's a loose cannon on the deck," Reid said.

Hector Avalos, associate professor of religion at Iowa State University,
said he does not think the nation is moving toward Sunday laws. "I think we're moving away from them," Avalos said. "At one point the Supreme Court thought they were good, but legally and culturally we're far away from this happening."

Seventh-day Adventists agree with much of what is written in the ad, but believe the advertisements put the church in a position where it appears to attack Catholics. "We denounce that kind of tactic," said Reid.

Linda Ill, 50, who attends the Catholic Basilica of St. John Catholic in Des Moines, said she was upset that the Register published the ad.

"What made me mad is that the Register did not consider this hate speech," she said. If the ad had focused on Muslims, Jews or any other faith group, it would not have been published, Ill said.

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