Seventh-day Adventist religious liberty proponents are monitoring a proposal from a European Parliament member who wants businesses in Europe to close their doors on Sundays.
Parliament member Martin Kastler of Germany is urging for the passage of continent-wide laws similar to those of his home country, which encourage employees to take a day off work to be with their families, the New York Times reported.
Though parliamentary rules bar most members, including Kastler, from introducing legislation, a recently enacted citizens petition function would require the 736-member body to draw up such legislation if supporters raise 1 million signatures from across member countries, the Times reported.
While many Adventists in Europe now live and worship in countries with similar laws, the church has traditionally opposed such laws, citing possible religious discrimination.
"We agree that people need a day of rest, but we want to be sure those who don't have Sunday as a designated religious day of rest will be respected and accommodated," said John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) director for the Adventist world church and secretary-general of the International Religious Liberty Association.
"We hope that those behind the proposal will understand the pluralistic dimensions of European society today and the importance of respecting different religious beliefs," he said.
Church officials in the denomination's Switzerland-based Euro-Africa Division said they are monitoring the situation. This autumn they plan to hold consultations with local leadership regarding a possible response to any progress on Kastler's initiative.
"If [it] was just this question of shops opening on Sunday, our members would not see it as a problem," said Karel Nowak, PARL director for the church in Euro-Africa. "This is [already] the current situation in many West- and Central-European countries."
Nowak's key concern is the possible arguments supporting the initiative. He said some people want to "strengthen 'traditional European values,' meaning 'traditional Christian' values and lifestyle."
"In my opinion this development is concerning and could lead to escalation of tension among different groups," Nowak said.