'Mark of beast'
a legal message

Billboard draws complaints, but paid in advance; company can't remove it

By Melanie B. Smith
DAILY Religion Writer


(CLICK HERE for an in depth look at the MARK OF THE BEAST)

A Florida church's controversial billboard towering along Danville Road Southwest isn't coming down any time soon despite complaints from local residents.

The ad paid for in advance for a year by Eternal Gospel Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., appears to criticize Sunday worship and link it to "the antichrist" of the New Testament.

A billboard on Danville Road Southwest, the work of a Florida church, has upset some local people who worship on Sunday. It is not connected to a local Seventh-day Adventist Church. 
DAILY Photo by Corey Wilson
A billboard on Danville Road Southwest, the work of a Florida church, has upset some local people who worship on Sunday. It is not connected to a local Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"Saturday the 7th Day is God's Sabbath. Sunday law is mark of the beast. Daniel 7:25 Revelations 13:5-8," reads the billboard.

The Rev. Raphael Perez, senior pastor of the Florida church, said the message isn't meant to denounce people who worship on Sunday instead of Saturday, the day his church teaches is the Lord's day.

He said the billboard condemns laws to enforce Sunday worship, laws he believes are coming.

"In no way are we saying that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast at this time. Only when it becomes law will it be the mark," he said.

The words on the sign upset some readers, however.

Kathryn Barriault of Decatur said she is offended and thinks other Christians should be, too. She wrote an e-mail that circulated locally, calling for the sign's removal.

"If I put on a billboard something about Islam, there would be such an outcry it would be down in a minute," she said.

Barriault said she and others she's talked to view the message as a slam against Jesus Christ and against all who worship on Sunday, the day Christ arose. She said she first saw the ad when going home from a service at her church, Decatur Presbyterian. Barriault is encouraging people to call the billboard owners, as she has, to ask them to remove the message.

Dealing with controversy

H.M. Nowlin, one of the owners of Interstate Outdoor Advertising LLC, said he received three complaints, including one from Barriault. He said the church paid for a yearlong contract, and the company can't legally remove the ad.

"Our company never thought we'd need to censure anything a church would put on a billboard," he said.

Nowlin said he and the company do not support the church's teaching, but First Amendment rights are involved. He said he and others did not see the ad's words beforehand.

Glenn McGann, another Interstate owner who also said he doesn't back the message, said a company sales person took the ad from a woman in the Shoals. The woman paid the $6,000 fee with a personal check. He said she represented herself as linked with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The billboard on Danville Road was vacant at the time, and the buyer picked it although she first wanted a Beltline location, he said.

"We've rented stuff to churches in the past and they advertised their churches. We had no idea it was going to be like this," said McGann. "We learned a valuable lesson on this deal. "

He said the company will approve the ad copy in advance next time. Because it was sold as a rotating ad, the church message could be relocated if someone else wants the Danville Road billboard, said McGann.

More billboards

Elder Andy Roman of the Florida church said three more billboard ads are up in Alabama, including one near Birmingham, plus others in Southeastern states.

"Basically, as the billboard said, we want to call attention to an issue that we believe will have an important role according to Bible prophecy," said Roman.

The elder said that about two-thirds of callers to the church phone number on the sign are unhappy with the message. He said those who complain may exercise free speech as the church has and put up their own billboards.


The Eternal Gospel Church isn't officially connected with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The SDA Church sued the congregation over its use of the denomination's name without permission. A settlement allows the Eternal Gospel Church to use the phrase, "founded by Seventh-day Adventist believers," according to news accounts.

The church has about 350 members in four Florida congregations, said Perez.

Members of a Decatur congregation of Seventh-day Adventists, part of the national denomination, said they wondered who put up the signs, according to the pastor.

The Rev. Richard Palmer said he has been out of town and did not see the Danville Road sign until Thursday. He said members haven't told him of any backlash.

Palmer stressed that the sign has nothing to do with his church, Alpha Seventh-day Adventist.

"As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe the Sabbath is on Saturday but not to that extreme," he said of the sign's message.

Ad meaning

Perez said the link between Sunday worship and "the mark of the beast" is based on verses in Ezekiel and Daniel, as well as Revelation. He said Ezekiel 20:12 describes the Sabbath as a sign or a mark between God and his people. A verse in Daniel describing a beast changing laws and times refers to the switch from Sabbath or Saturday worship to Sunday worship, he said.

Perez and Roman blame the Roman Catholic Church for the change.

The Eternal Gospel Church drew the ire of Roman Catholic leaders in several cities after the congregation placed full-page ads criticizing Catholicism and the pope in newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Roman said some accuse members of being bigoted, but he said the church bases its beliefs "on the word of God."

The elder said that as funds come in for the project, more billboards will go up.

The church has placed at least one other billboard in Decatur. An ad appears on another company's sign on Alabama 24 east of Beltline Road Southwest.

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