Whistleblower: Google HR Slammed Christian YouTube Ads as ‘Homophobic'
Early Wednesday morning, Google software engineer Mike Wacker went public with an incident showing anti-religious bias among the company's Human Resources (HR) division. HR slammed Christian YouTube ads as "homophobic" and "very counter to our mission" in a newsletter that goes to 30,000+ employees at the company.
Wacker previously published the remarks of a Google manager who blamed "fake news" and "hate speech" for President Donald Trump's election. On Wednesday, he tweeted, "Let me give an example related to religion this time, one where HR is involved in describing sincere religious beliefs as 'homophobic'."
The comment came in the "Yes, at Google" newsletter, which reaches 30,000+ employees, Wacker said. While the newsletter was once run by employees, HR took over in May 2018. He identified "Yes, at Google" as a "curated ... newsletter of anonymized incidents of micro-aggressions and micro-corrections." The newsletter has enabled a "call-out culture."
Last June, LGBT YouTube users complained that Google (which runs YouTube) was allowing "anti-LGBT" organizations to advertise their videos, which would run before LGBT videos.
They complained about two videos in particular, which Mike Wacker included in his tweet. The Michael Brown video "Can You Be Gay and Christian?" and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) video "Barronelle Stutzman's Story" came under fire.
The Michael Brown video explains the Bible's position on homosexual activity: that homosexual sex is considered sinful but not a sin worse than other sins. However, a truly repentant Christian cannot take "pride" in identifying with and acting on same-sex attraction.
The ADF video explains the story of Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers. Stutzman gladly serves LGBT people in her shop, but she refused to lend her artistic talents to endorse a same-sex wedding.
People may object to the messages in these videos, but they represent the sincerely-held religious beliefs. After the backlash, however, Google ruled that Michael Brown's video violated its policies for advertisements. Brown was no longer allowed to pay money to promote his video on YouTube. The video may not run as an ad before any other video on YouTube.
"In both videos, people were expressing sincere religious beliefs in a respectful way," Wacker explained. But Google's "HR published a 'representative submission' calling these ads homophobic, and their own editorial note called these ads homophobic as well."
"Finally, HR misused its authority and influence by publishing this phrase: 'This seems very counter to our mission,'" the Google engineer concluded. "It definitely sent a strong signal to some employees that their sincere religious beliefs seem 'very counter to our mission.'"
Google did not respond to PJ Media's request for comment. The company did not explain how it avoids alienating Christians, other traditional religious believers, or even secular people who adhere to traditional sexual morality.
Both Michael Brown and ADF strongly condemned Google's actions.
"This is yet another wake-up call for Christians," Brown, a Messianic Jewish radio host and professor with a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages who goes by "Dr. Brown," told PJ Media. "Google most certainly has a mission, and it is a mission dead set against our beliefs. And make no mistake about it: Google’s battle is with the Bible."
"My video compassionately lays out the biblical position on homosexual practice, yet Google/YouTube has banned it from being advertised," Brown added. "That’s why I asked before if YouTube will next ban the Bible."
The Christian radio host urged Christian employees at Google to speak out.
"Christians should feel very uncomfortable at Google, but the solution is simple. Now is the time for all of them to speak up and speak out," he said. "Now is the time for all them to shine like lights. Now is the time to expose the extreme intolerance of the Left – which most of the society recognizes as wrong."
Brown put these attacks on Christian faith in perspective. "Throughout history, our faith has been stigmatized. After all, our Savior died a criminal’s death and faith in Him was considered a mockery. This is nothing new," he said.
"But our faith is the true faith, the faith that liberates and transforms. Let’s share the beauty of Jesus with others – with grace and kindness and compassion – and when we are mocked and ridiculed, let’s remember He was too. To be mocked for our faith is actually a privilege (Matthew 5:10-12)," the radio host concluded.
Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel and vice president of U.S. advocacy, also responded to Google's attacks.
"While ADF has not yet been censored on Youtube, the impulse of a major speech platform like Youtube and its parent company, Google, to bully speakers they disagree with into silence is a troubling one," Tedesco told PJ Media. "If we want to have freedom for ourselves, we need to extend it to others."
"These powerful tech companies have an important responsibility to guard their users’ freedom to speak and persuade viewers to a peaceable position, even on controversial subjects," he added. "The answer is always more speech, not less—and that’s especially true for big tech companies who advertise their commitment to free expression."
As for the sincerely held religious beliefs for traditional marriage and sexuality, Tedesco emphasized that "tolerance is a two-way street."
"Millions of Americans and billions across the world — including Christians, Jews, Muslims, and even those of no professed faith — believe that marriage is between one man and one woman," the ADF lawyer said. "You don’t have to agree with another person’s view on sexuality to respect their freedom to peaceably speak their mind on a public platform."
Reports on the "anti-LGBT" videos uncriticially cited the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) "hate group" smear against ADF. The SPLC has been sued for unjustly defaming individuals like Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz. Its list of "hate groups" inflates the numbers of such organizations three times over. In one case, the SPLC cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church in marking a nonprofit a "hate group," effectively demonizing the beliefs of 1 billion people in a single stroke. In fact, its "hate map" plotting "hate groups" actually inspired a terrorist attack in 2012.
Yet Google employees are likely to believe the SPLC's smears, Wacker argued. "Many employees will believe something is true if the SPLC says it's true," he tweeted.
Google considers the SPLC a "trusted flagger" on YouTube. The conservative education nonprofit PragerU is suing YouTube for restricting access to its videos.
As Tedesco pointed out, this anti-religious animus is not limited to Christians, but in this case, the attack on sincere biblical beliefs is painfully clear. Christians at Google should speak up, and the company should work to embrace people of all backgrounds.
After all, tolerance is a two-way street. It's long past time Google act like it.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.