Member feels alone in anti-Sabbath-discrimination campaign
By Bill Stough
LONEDELL, Mo.--A trial is to begin the last week in May in Sixth District Federal Court in Cincinnati, Ohio, that could have an impact on Sabbath-keepers and on freedom of religion in America.
Jan Creusere, a Cincinnati carpenter and Church of God member, thinks an American citizen should not have to choose between his job and his religion. He says Sabbatarians need to stand up for their constitutional rights even while many of them have already slipped through their fingers.
Requirements of time
The court case will pit Mr. Creusere against the Cincinnati Public School District, for which he once worked as a union contractor. He is suing to force the school to allow Sabbath-keepers to substitute Sunday work for Saturday work. The suit also involves issues of overtime pay related to work-time substitution.
Mr. Creusere, whose trial is to begin May 29, says the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws nine categories of discrimination.
"The only category that rubs against corporate America and business is religion because it has requirements of time," he told The Journal. "Race and disabilities don't affect time. But business wants the right to all of your time, and I say they don't have that right."
Mr. Creusere wrote a letter to Bill Clinton, who was still president, on Sept. 6, 1999, to itemize for Mr. Clinton three criteria Mr. Creusere says the government uses to determine if a class of people deserves "protected-class status."
"Sabbath-keepers fit the definition perfectly," said Mr. Creusere.
The criteria are as follows:
Mr. Creusere received a response to his letter to Mr. Clinton, but not from the president. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) wrote him back.
"But the letter they sent me was nonsense. It did not address the issues I raised."
A right to rights
Members of the Churches of God traditionally do not get involved in government matters, Mr. Creusere admits. "We merely accept what is done to us."
But "we have the right to be treated respectfully. We have the right to personal and collective dignity. The apostle Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen. In America we have the right to freedom of speech and religion. We also have the right to demand our rights."
Since religion and morals are "under attack," he says, the attacks will continue if no Sabbath-keepers stand up against them.
Some of his fellow Church of God members have accused Mr. Creusere of "sinning," he said, because of his involvement in politics. They have quoted Revelation 18:4 to him, which says, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins."
"But I don't see it to be sin to stand up for our legal rights, the rights upon which America was founded," he declares.
In principle, Sunday observers are also under attack, said Mr. Creusere.
"Sabbath-keepers are under great attack, and Sunday-keepers are beginning to feel the heat too. Both should have the religious freedom to follow what they believe is the Sabbath."
Speaking of Sunday-keepers, in February 2000 The Cincinnati Enquirer published an article about Karen Delue, who worked part time for the Butler County (Ohio) library. The library insisted she work on Sunday and would not allow her to change shifts with coworkers.
"I want to keep my job and want to keep my Sabbath," the article quotes her as saying.
When Mr. Creusere read of Miss Delue's plight, he picketed the library on March 5, 2000, which was the next Sunday Miss Delue was scheduled to work.
He first checked with the police department to make sure he complied with all laws. He carried a sign and offered brochures that he had prepared for everyone who walked past or entered the library.
Mr. Creusere says his protest caught library officials off guard.
"They expected nobody to stand up for that employee," he said. "Now the library faced an image problem. I protested against what I called tax-funded bigotry."
Joggers and people entering the library stopped to read his sign and accept brochures. Shortly afterwards the problem was resolved, but details were not made public. In any event, Karen Delue kept her job.
Inspired to defend
Mr. Creusere has been catching the public's attention for a couple of years now. In June 1999 The Cincinnati Post ran an article on his activities after a Post reporter read about him in the March 31, 1999, issue of The Journal (this newspaper).
The Post article, titled "Carpenter Crusades for Saturday Sabbath," covered why Mr. Creusere feels moved to defend religious freedom. It reported on the carpenter's-union contract, which was being negotiated at that time, which designated Saturday as part of union carpenters' regular workweek.
"What's more," said the Post writer, "Creusere has sued the Cincinnati Board of Education for allegedly passing him over for carpentry jobs because of his religious objection to working on Saturdays.
"Creusere's complaint, as unusual as it may sound, is quite common among Seventh-day Adventists and other Christians who believe that Saturday, not Sunday, is the true Sabbath day of worship, legal experts say. There is a large and growing body of law that specifically addresses the rights of Sabbatarians to keep Saturday as a day of rest, free from employment discrimination. Creusere belongs to the Sabbatarian Church of God movement."
Mr. Bush's America
The Journal asked Mr. Creusere if he thinks Sabbatarians are worse off under President George W. Bush, who took office three months ago.
"I hope not," he said. Mr. Bush "has made promises that religion will mean more. But he has to acknowledge religious minorities. Let's see if he puts his money where his mouth is. I've written him twice but haven't gotten any responses."
Mr. Bush has a chance to show he cares about religious "minorities," said Mr. Creusere. "Now is the time for the Bush administration to show it is truly sincere. He made campaign promises to make an America that's there for everybody."
Thank you, LCG members
Mr. Creusere says no organizations help him in his crusade.
"I've contacted Jewish organizations, Adventists, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Rutherford Institute, the United Church of God and the Living Church of God. None will get involved, although I've received cards of support from members of Living Church of God congregations from all over. They posted my prayer request on the Internet. Their response has been overwhelming and very, very comforting. I want to publicly thank them."
Mr. Creusere declined to comment on the pending court proceeding, because "it does have to do with accommodation for the Sabbath, equal amounts of overtime and what I consider to be retaliation."
He did mention he has asked permission to have the proceedings videotaped, although he is encountering "opposition" to that idea.
"I hope sometime this year to produce a video for public-access television that will explain what we Sabbath-keepers are facing. No one else in this country can be treated the way we are."
Mr. Creusere sees a bias against religious people among government bureaucrats.
"Betty Montgomery of the Ohio attorney general's office, which said I don't even have the right to even ask for religious accommodation, spearheaded the drive to overturn the Religious Freedom Restoration Act three years ago," he said. "I am gravely concerned at the antireligious spirit I find in Ohio and federal agencies."
Won't Mr. Creusere's activities cause trouble for Church of God members and other Sabbatarians if he loses his case? Couldn't a court precedent make things more difficult for Sabbath-keepers?
"The inertia of the courts is such that we are all going to lose as things now are," he said. "When people say you can make things worse, what am I supposed to do? Tuck my tail between my legs? I am not a member of the Doormat Church of God."
Black Americans succeeded in their civil-rights struggle, said Mr. Creusere, because they "got together as a family." Sabbath-keepers need to do the same thing "to get employment and social recognition."
When people ask him why he's so persistent in his push for civil rights of Sabbath-keepers, he hints that he thinks God may have something in mind.
"Could it be that this is something God is leading me to do? God has been blessing me so I can at least pay the bills, even with $20,000 in attorneys' fees and recurring joblessness. It takes time and much effort to turn evil around."
He takes inspiration from civil-rights activist Martin Luther King, who landed in jail 39 times for his efforts.
"It has been seven years now since I started standing up for equal rights for Sabbatarians," Mr. Creusere said. "I have only begun to fight. This is a noble and just cause."
Jan Creusere requests prayers from readers of The Journal regarding his May 29 trial. He regularly posts information about his crusade for religious freedom on his Web site, at www.sabbathequality.org.
Have you faced discrimination?
The Journal wants to know if Jan Creusere is right. Do Church of God members face constant job and school discrimination because of the Sabbath and feast days?
"If you have had employment problems in the last few years, we would like to hear your story," said Journal writer Bill Stough. "We would also like to know if your children have faced difficulties or discrimination in school."
He also wants to hear from church members who might disagree with Mr. Creusere's approach.
"Tell us if you think things are getting better," he said, "or have they taken a turn for the worse?"
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