Appeals court rules Adventists must work on Saturdays

Moldova's appeals court ruled that workers in this former Soviet republic can be fired if they refuse to work on religious holidays, a court official said Friday.

The court overturned a verdict by two lower courts which ordered a railway station to rehire four Seventh Day Adventist workers it had fired last year after they refused to work on a Saturday.

The Adventists had claimed that the company and the government violated their religious rights by ordering them to work on a Saturday, a mandatory rest day in their religion.

Mihaela Copot, a spokeswoman for the Seventh Day Adventists Church, said the administration of the Basarabeasca railway station fired the four Adventists for failing to show up at their work place last year on May 18, a Saturday declared by the government as a working day.

According to Copot, the four workers had requested to work the next Sunday instead, but the administration denied their request.

Railway officials claimed the Adventists breached labor laws, which are mandatory for all citizens regardless of their religion. Labor legislation in Moldova has not changed since the Soviet days, when freedom of religion was not recognized.

But Sergiu Iatco, director of the State Service for Cults Affairs, said that legislation which grants religious freedoms allows workers of all faiths to respect religious holidays.

Iatco has called on the company to rehire the workers.

The appeals court described the Adventists' complaint in its ruling as groundless, but did not elaborate. Under current legislation, the court must justify its decision within 15 days.