During Christmas week, Facebook blocked the account of one of the most prominent evangelical Christians in the world, Franklin Graham. Graham is the president and CEO of both the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and the global charity Samaritan’s Purse. While Facebook removed the block and apologized, many Christian leaders see this move as yet more evidence of Big Tech’s bias and censorship against followers of Jesus Christ.
“When FB blocks a Christian with as high a profile as Franklin Graham, it amounts to an undeclared war on Christian faith,” Robert A.J. Gagnon, a professor at Houston Baptist University with a Ph.D. in Pauline theology and sexuality, told PJ Media in an interview Monday.
Gagnon added, “I’m glad to hear that they rescinded. Still, to continue the military metaphor, it’s a FB shot across the bow for all Christians.”
Gagnon, whose book “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics,” is widely considered one of the best resources on Christian doctrine regarding homosexuality, has himself been blocked on Facebook numerous times for expressing his scholarly opinion on the social media platform. His expression of the traditional position on Christian sexuality has been branded “hate speech.”
Similarly, Franklin Graham’s account was blocked over a 2016 post defending North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law that reserved public restrooms on the basis of biological sex. Graham called H.B. 2 “a good law … to protect women and children.” Perhaps the Facebook employee interpreted this statement as an attack on transgender identity, but the law did protect the privacy of women and children from male voyeurs posing as transgender, regardless of what the law did to people who actually do struggle with gender dysphoria.
Redefining speech as violence has become hip on college campuses, but liberal groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) brand conservative and Christian groups as “hate groups” — and pressure Big Tech to censor this kind of “hate.” Gagnon has connected this activity to his experience being blocked on Facebook.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC) — which suffered a terrorist attack due to the SPLC’s “hate group” label — urged tech companies like Facebook to champion the “free flow and exchange of ideas.”
“America is only strong and America can only prosper when there is the free flow and exchange of ideas. Our nation is divided – but silencing Franklin Graham’s biblical views, which are shared by at least half the country, is not going to bring America together. It will only further divide,” Perkins told PJ Media.
“We’ve welcomed Facebook’s outreach to conservatives to discuss censorship concerns but it’s time for those conversations to translate into tangible progress,” the FRC president added. “The frequency of accidentally silencing conservative speech by the social media giants points to either a significant weakness in the application of technology or a hostility to the free flow of and exchange of ideas.”
National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), a Christian organization with 60 million members, has encouraged Big Tech to adopt a free speech charter and pledge to stop censoring speech. NRB President Jerry Johnson set a deadline of December 31, 2018 — a deadline that has now passed. Since Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have not adopted this kind of charter, NRB will encourage its 60 million members to pressure Congress and remove legal immunity from Big Tech, unleashing a torrent of lawsuits.
“I’m glad Facebook recognizes it made a mistake with the Franklin Graham ban and has apologized to him. Nevertheless, that the ban happened at all illustrates the pattern of censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints by Facebook, which the company has failed to acknowledge and apologize for — a pattern shared by other Big Tech platforms,” Johnson told PJ Media on Monday.
“How many similar bans have happened to Christians without the profile of Franklin Graham who have never received their apology?” he pointedly asked.
James A. Smith Sr., NRB’s vice president of communications, insisted that the Franklin Graham ban is only one of many examples of Big Tech censorship.
“Franklin Graham’s Facebook ban is certainly one of the most egregious examples of Big Tech censorship — and one about which we are alerting NRB members and others to via our Internet Freedom Watch initiative,” Smith told PJ Media. “Unfortunately, Graham is not the only example of NRB members who have been censored by Big Tech.”
Smith listed a few key examples: “Todd Starnes (Facebook), Alliance Defending Freedom (Amazon Smile), NRBTV (YouTube), Dennis Prager’s PragerU (YouTube), and D. James Kennedy (Amazon Smile).”
Like the Family Research Council, many of these organizations — particularly Alliance Defending Freedom and D. James Kennedy Ministries — have been branded “hate groups” by the SPLC. The SPLC has also attacked PragerU, which has experienced censorship from Google-owned YouTube and Facebook.
While Johnson and Smith did not describe Facebook’s block on Franklin Graham as an “undeclared war on the Christian faith” or a “shot across the bow,” their mobilization shortly after this historic Facebook ban will resemble a form of political warfare. NRB set a deadline for the censorship to cease, and now that deadline has passed. The coming wave of activism is not directly related to the Franklin Graham ban, but it just so happens to coincide with one of Facebook’s most egregious temporary blocks.
The conservative Christian community is gearing up for battle against Big Tech censorship, and on these issues 2019 will be even more eventful than 2018.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.