Orange County – A Tennessee Pastor was arrested for violating a court order related to a trademark infringement lawsuit with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Walter McGill was apprehended in Loma Linda California on July 13th and turned over to San Bernardino County Law enforcement.
McGill initially drew the attention of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when he named his small Tennessee church “Creation Seventh Day Adventist Church”. At the same time, McGill claimed that he was an Adventist pastor. However, after various checks, this claim could not be substantiated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. Consequently, legal counsel for the church sent a cease and desist letter in 2005 asking McGill to discontinue using the Seventh-day Adventist name on his church buildings and associated websites. McGill took no action. A year later, the church filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against McGill in Tennessee District Court. The trademark was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1981 and all uses must be approved by the world church headquarters, which keeps a detailed list of all approved uses.
During the course of litigation, McGill declined to attend a court-ordered settlement conference and the case was subsequently dismissed. McGill appealed his case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that his was not a case of trademark infringement, but rather it was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The court ruled that the act did not apply and McGill lost his appeal. Shortly thereafter, McGill filed a writ of certiorari to have his case heard by the Supreme Court. This request was also denied. During the course of McGill’s appeals, the court ordered the removal of signs using the Seventh-day Adventist trademark and sent marshals to McGill’s property to enforce the order. The Tennessee pastor immediately put the signs back up.
In May 2012, McGill was found to be in contempt of court for his failure to comply with the court’s order to remove the offending signs and a warrant was issued for his arrest. McGill was subsequently arrested at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. Seventh-day Adventist officials have emphasized that McGill was not arrested for freedom of speech or religion, but for his violation of a court order to cease his unauthorized use of the Seventh-day Adventist trademark.