Freedom of religious expression

On the highway near my home, a monumental sign reads: “The Sabbath is the True Day of the Lord.” I find it very interesting but also quite puzzling.

On a first impression, this sign can be interpreted as an example of a religious group exercising its right to freedom of expression. It’s likely a statement that is important to this group which it wants to communicate to all the people passing by. This is absolutely legitimate. Any religious group should have the freedom to publicly express its convictions (although some recent cases in France and the United Kingdom seem to look at this differently…).

What is strange about the sign, however, is that it does not mention the group that put it up (a part from a vague email address), nor does it include any call to action or even an indication how this statement should be translated into one’s life.

It’s strange. The sign merely restates one of the ten commandments, which both Jews and Christians agree with, be it with varying interpretations. (Most religious Jews are Sabbath observers, whereas most Christians, with the exception of Seventh-Day Adventists, generally consider the Sunday can also be considered as the Sabbath.)

The sign could also come accross as provocative or even judgmental. It seems to implicitly say: “This is the right thing to believe, and if you don’t honor the Sabbath the right way, like we do, than you’re wrong.” But this is just guessing on my part. The sign doesn’t give more information.

Again, it’s legitimate for any religious group to exercise their right to freedom of expression. But is this a good use?

How do you interpret this sign?

Dennis P. Petri
Dennis P. Petri is Director of Plataforma C, Platform for Christian Politics. A political scientist by training, he specializes in comparative politics with a specific interest in Latin America. He is currently working on a dissertation about religious freedom at VU University Amsterdam.

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