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The John Marik Case

In 1984, John Marik, a lay-pastor, received a letter from an attorney for the General Conference, regarding his use of the name Seventh-day Adventist Congregational Church. In this letter, John Marik was asked if he could furnish the General Conference with information on this offshoot group, showing the "offensive usage of Seventh-day Adventist." Apparently this letter was sent to Pastor Marik by mistake, since John Marik was asked to report on his own church (as an offshoot group.)

Cease and Desist
A short time later John Marik received another letter in which the attorney corrected himself for having sent the previous letter. He stated the General Conference would be "moving to enforce our trademark registration … and will ask you and your congregation to agree to cease using the term Seventh-day Adventist in the name of your church."

The President of the Hawaii Conference of Seventh-day Adventists wrote Pastor Marik asking him and his eleven member church to cease using the name Seventh-day Adventist.

In 1985, John Marik received a letter from another General Conference attorney which stated in part, "therefore, assuming that your use of ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ was done without intent to create confusion, even though such confusion is manifested by your use of Seventh-day Adventist, particularly as in your church name, we trust that upon receipt of this letter you will immediately cease and desist from utilizing the expression or any names or expressions equivalent… We consider your use of ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ to be an infringement of the SDA Church’s trademark/service mark rights, and also to constitute unfair competition and false designation of origin."

Marik’s Reply
John Marik replied, "We are sorry that this situation has been such a cause of distress; that was certainly not our motives. We have had no intention or desire—neither do we now have—to confuse, mislead, or deceive anyone in regards to our congregational church and its reason for existing independently of the denominational church. We, just as you, are concerned about the prospect of people being confused. We do not at all want or wish that any Seventh-day Adventist visitor, who is from some other place and not knowledgeable of the difference, to be tricked or deceived into attending our church—being unaware of the fact that we are not associated with the denomination.

"We understand very well that our name and existence as an independent body of Seventh-day Adventists has been, is, and probably will continue to be an offense to the Denomination. This is not our desire, but this unfortunately, is the way it is. We also do not, in the least, feel that we are in the wrong! And this is the reason why: Our faith and beliefs are those of a Seventh-day Adventist as is described in the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White (who we also hold to be an inspired prophet of God). If we were to call ourselves by some other name, wouldn’t the general Christian community question our reason for not expressing what we really believe, wouldn’t that be concealing our true identity, and wouldn’t that give just cause for our Sunday-keeping brethren to consider our honesty in what we verily believe and who we truthfully claim to be?

"We do not apologize for our convictions in regard to the counsel that God has given us as a people who are honoring the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment of the decalogue, and who very much long for and believe in the near advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Hence the name, "seventh-day" + "adventist." We believe, and very much so, that the name “Seventh-day Adventist” is not a denomination name—it is a name or term which describes a particular Christian faith or body of beliefs. We also are convicted, even against our own judgment, that this name is especially approved and ordained by God as testified to in the inspired counsel given to Ellen G. White (Testimonies to the Church, vol. 2, page 223, 224.) And contrary to our judgment, we have yielded to what we solemnly believe to be in harmony with the revealed will of God. We have sought to obey His counsel on this matter, and by His grace we must continue to do so; and this can be our only reply to our brethren of the Denomination."

"Please consider our faith and conviction in this matter. We ask that you please read the inspired testimony mentioned above. Do we not have the liberty and the freedom to conscientiously follow what we, just as many other Seventh-day Adventists, believe to be the truth? Just because we are not under the authority of the Denomination, does that mean we have no right to live the message as given to those who wish to honor God’s commandments and anticipate His soon second advent, does that imply that we can’t seriously take to heart the counsel given in the writings of Ellen G. White?

Plea for Understanding
"…We would ask that you please be understanding; for these convictions involve our faith, beliefs, and conscientious study of the Word of God.…We, along with others, are rather amazed at the intentions of the Denomination toward our little self-sustaining church. Not too long ago, we would never have considered that the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination could resort to such things as this—to appeal to a secular court of law to force others to conform to their wishes! Dear brothers and fellow Adventists, this is the very thing true Seventh-day Adventists have stood against for years! These are the tactics the enemy will use against every conscientious Sabbath-keeper. Where is the great principle of religious liberty? What should the SDA department of Religious Liberty say about this kind of action? Moreover, what does God say about it?

"… Another thing which we find strange, is the idea of the church and its message being a business. Since when has that come to be? Is the church of God in business with the competition such that it needs a protected trade name? …Surely God will prosper His faithful people; if they are wronged He will make it right. Why can we not let God decide what is right? If we of the congregational Adventists are in the wrong and you of the denominational Adventists are in the right, then will God not reprove us and uphold you? We have ample testimony of God’s dealings pertaining to this.

"… We would like to have a friendly relationship with the Denomination. We realize that there is a tremendous work for all of God’s people to do; each has a sphere of influence which is special; certain souls will be won to Christ by certain individuals; and likewise certain people will be reached for Christ by certain churches.

"… We want peace if it is possible to be secured without having to compromise our convictions and conscientious understanding in regards to God’s testimony. We do not know what farther course you may pursue in this matter; but we are standing on the clear counsel of God."

The reply to this letter of appeal was that the matter was put in the hands of the General Conference law office or legal counsel.

A General Conference attorney wrote to Marik, "We would recommend and will favorably consider your using, for example, the name 'Seventh-day Congregational Church.'"

In 1987, John Marik wrote a pastoral letter explaining their position in regard to this lawsuit, and the General Conference attorneys submitted a formal, legal complaint. A court order was given, and a Scheduling Conference was set for July 1987.

In April 1987, John Marik sent a letter to friends telling them that he had just been informed that the General Conference had filed suit against him. He then wrote a 4-page letter to the General Conference giving Bible and Spirit of Prophecy reasons why they could not do as they had been asked.

Several years ago, after the Merikay Silver case, the General Conference set down a new ruling that if anyone initiated a lawsuit against the General Conference, or any church entity; he was subject to being disfellowshipped. Since the leadership at the General Conference is involved with suing local Adventist believers, should they not then be subject to their own laws and suffer the penalty of being disfellowshipped?

Some of the complaints against John Marik were:

1. "'Defendants' conduct of selecting and commercially using the Seventh-day Adventist name for defendants' services and goods in direct competition with the Plaintiff was done willfully, wantonly, and maliciously for the purpose of unjustly enriching themselves and injuring Plaintiffs good will and trade identity rights …

Wherefore, Plaintiff prays for judgment against the defendant … from using, promoting, or in any way displaying any name or mark which includes the term Seventh-day Adventist, or any term that is confusingly similar to 'Seventh-day Adventist' or is a colorable imitation thereof…"

2. That each of them deliver up to Plaintiff for destruction, all labels, signs, prints, advertising materials, and other literature…bearing the term Seventh-day Adventist and all plates, molds, matrices and other means of making same."

John Marik argued that the phrase Seventh-day Adventist described a system or set of Bible-based Christian beliefs, doctrines, and standards. One was a Seventh-day Adventist because of what he believed, not what organization he belonged to.

If each local church was not duly incorporated, then losing a lawsuit might strip every member of their property.

John Marik did not go into court with an attorney, and because of this, the General Conference submitted a paper to the court requesting no court trial be held, but that the court proceed directly to issue judgment. In July 1987, a hearing was held in the Judge’s office. Since John Marik, nor his church members had obtained legal counsel , a “Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or in the Alternative, Motion to Strike” was submitted. Since John Marik did not object before or during the hearing, it was accepted by the judge and became official—no trial would be held, only a court judgment that would be based on the legal papers the judge received. Therefore, without realizing it, John Marik had just waived his right to trial.

In a lawsuit, whenever either party files a legal paper with the court, they are required by law to send a copy of that paper to the other party in the suit. The second party must then sign and date that they have received it. It is called a "Certificate of Service." This certificate is then attached to the legal paper and filed with the court. In this case, John Marik claimed that he had not received this action paper, before or after the hearing. The General Conference claimed they sent it, and they filled out the “Certificate of Service” to guarantee this fact to the court. All the while, John Marik and his membership were praying for guidance and awaiting a chance to defend their faith at a trial that would never happen.

In August 1987, the group prepared a paper stating why they could not give up the name Seventh-day Adventist, and submitted it to the judge, and in September he filed a paper with the court declaring that the group would prefer not to enter into litigation with the General Conference.

An Order granting Motion on Judgment for Pleadings, given by the court, accepted the Motion that had been submitted by the General Conference attorneys, and in December 1987, the Federal Court handed down a verdict prohibiting the defendants from using the name Seventh-day Adventist and enjoined them to remove the sign from their church and hand over to Federal Agents all of their personal books, magazines, and other property with the name Seventh-day Adventist on it. The Federal Judge handed down his decision. There would be no trial.

A major position paper was submitted to the court by Max Corbett, now acting attorney for John Marik’s group. He requested that the Judgment be set aside, or dismissed, with the possibility of having a new trial. The small group submitted a paper explaining that they considered the December 8 court Order invalid "because of lack of jurisdiction" in religious matters, while the General Conference submitted a paper asking that the court decision be carried out immediately. The defendants must comply or be visited with civil penalties.

Attorneys for the General Conference requested that the court order the group to explain why they should not be considered in contempt of court for not complying with the judge’s decision, and requested that the hearing be held speedily. The court granted a date in February 1988.

In February 1988, John Marik’s attorney, Max Corbett, appeared in court and reminded the General Conference attorney about this problem of their stifling an open court hearing. This judge observed that the first judge may have made a wrong decision—but he felt duty-bound to uphold it. He counseled the General Conference to seek to come to a mutual agreement out of court to avoid the jailing of someone who believed the same thing the General Conference believed.

For the next two months papers continued to be filed by both sides of the suit, and in May 1988, the Federal District Court of Hawaii entered an Order for John Marik’s arrest, and a $500 a day penalty for every day of non-compliance. The Bench Warrant stated Mr. Marik, once jailed, was not to be released until the fine was paid and the books and related possessions bearing the name Seventh-day Adventist had been seized. This request was not for what they printed—but for what they possessed. It included:

1. Adventist song books

2. All Spirit of Prophecy books

3. Back issues of denominational journals, and many more.

4. Possible out of print books or papers dating back to 1800s.

All would be confiscated by the government agents and destroyed at the General Conference request.

The Southwestern Union Record, May 13, 1988 stated, "The church does not sue the offending organization for the purpose of obtaining damages or punitive judgments." Yet the General Conference requested the judge "for an accounting to be determined, the damages that Plaintiff has suffered and the profits that were derived as a consequence of defendants acts as aforesaid; for an award of the damages suffered by Plaintiff and the profits derived by the defendants, as determined by the accounting, and that the award of profits be trebled (or 3 times as much) all pursuant to 15 U.S.C. Section 1117 and other applicable Law. For costs of suit herein."

John Marik was subsequently arrested, and lost everything. Later he was a fugitive running from place to place, kept in hiding.

There are many others that the General Conference has pursued; Raphael Perez is just the latest. It is not needful for us to be prophets to understand motives; the actions speak for themselves without further comment.

Sources: The John Marik Case, by Vance Ferrell


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Unless otherwise noted, all original material on this ExposingAdventism.com website is 2007-2008 by Gilbert Jorgensen. Careful effort has been made to give credit as clearly as possible to any specific material quoted or ideas extensively adapted from any one resource. Corrections and clarifications regarding citations for any source material are welcome, and will be promptly added to any sections which are found to be inadequately documented as to source.