Telling the truth, however, has been threatened recently in cases of internet censorship. And with that censorship comes a loss of freedom.
Larger companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and YouTube are guilty of some form of religious censorship these past few years.
In response, the National Religious Broadcaster's Association has launched a new project called the John Milton Project to address this dangerous censorship of our free speech and to propose alternative solutions. See their charter report released last fall.
A previous report put out by the John Milton Project expressed the need for an investigation of freedom in our nation's media. The report, titled "True Liberty in a New Media Age," noted the following astounding facts:
"In one instance, Google refused to place a Christian pro-life advertisement on its search engine, resulting in litigation in England. On another occasion, Google was alleged to have blocked a Christian oriented website; allegations we will examine later in this report. Other past practices of Google show a disturbing tolerance of viewpoint discrimination and a past willingness to participate in information blacklisting. Facebook has pledged to eradicate anti-gay comments on its platform, and its partnership in pro-gay programs raises the specter that statements of Christian orthodoxy on the issue of homosexuality may not be tolerated on that social networking site."
Perhaps the most well-known instance of religious censorship recently is Facebook's removal of Mike Huckabee's site calling for support of Chick-fil in 2012 (Huckabee was supporting Chick-fil's stand for traditional marriage). His page was removed for 12 full hours before it was reinstated.
Sadly, it seems many of these groups are bending to outside pressure. For example, Apple quickly removed the Manhattan Declaration App in 2010 after previously approving it. Why the switch? I ask. What motivated their change of mind? A few months later Apple censored Exodus International, a group which provides help to individuals, families and churches who are impacted with LGBT issues, including those who want to leave the homosexual lifestyle. (See page 14 of this report by the John Milton Project.) I find it strange that it's okay for someone to leave a heterosexual lifestyle to become gay, but it's somehow deemed impossible and hypocritical to leave the gay lifestyle to return to a heterosexual one?
The examples go on. YouTube's evidence is still visible. After removing a video of a pastor who put forth a message about homosexuality, they left the message with this link: "This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube's policy prohibiting hate speech."
Now, I have not seen the video myself. Perhaps it did include real messages of hate toward groups of people. But from what I've gathered of our culture, all it had to do was offend someone to be listed as "hateful."
Certainly there are guidelines around "free speech" to ensure its goodness. We cannot be allowed to speak anything without hindering other freedoms. The United States Supreme Court has recognized a limited list of exceptions to the First Amendment. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, speech may be limited for the following reasons: obscenity, broadcast indecency if accessible to minors, fraud, incitement to violence, and criminal or unlawful conduct speech. For these reasons only may speech be censored. So far the Supreme Court has not expanded this list. (See the report from the John Milton Project, page 6.)
But others want to expand it- primarily special interest advocates who want to silence the Christian viewpoint toward homosexuality. The Biblical view toward sex is not obscene, dangerous nor illegal. It's simply, according to many, undesirable. If this speech is added to the Supreme Court's list, what other "undesirable" viewpoints might be censored?
JMP's report said only Twitter's censorship policies in 2011 had passed the free speech guidelines as outlined by the Supreme Court. Other social media sites designed their own biases.
In all fairness, however, the media companies mentioned in this article are under no obligation to mirror the U.S. Supreme Court's guidelines. These companies are private corporations, not government agencies. But like a community newspaper, they hold a lot of power. Newspapers have fought for years to operate unhindered by any outside agency in their ability to report truth. Sadly, many of the big internet companies don't seem to care. They'd rather appease the voices shouting the loudest than protect healthy and fair free speech.
Let's make sure we're aware of those biases and take action when we can.
"Americans of all religious, political, and social views need to be concerned about the movement afoot to stifle ideas just because they make one segment or another of our culture uncomfortable… After all, nowhere in their vision of America, or in the Declaration they drafted, or in the Constitution they ratified is there any guarantee that certain people or institutions should be protected against hearing or reading ideas they don't agree with," said an editorial released by the Evangelical Press Association.
Our country's beginnings include Pilgrims who searched for freedom of religion. If our culture chips at freedom of speech, our ability to freely worship is directly impacted. John Milton is quoted as saying, "This is true liberty, when free-born men, having to advice the public, may speak free…" When censorship exists, the public can never be assured of the whole story, or of total truth.
The inability for people to communicate freely is a dangerous turn in a once-free nation. In fact, those who abide in such a nation are no longer truly free. Like crossing an invisible state-line border, its people may have just crossed from freedom into slavery-- and if they aren't watching the road signs, they won't even know it.