During Christmas week, Facebook suspended the account of Christian evangelist and philanthropist Franklin Graham — son of the late evangelical giant Billy Graham — for a 2016 post about North Carolina’s bathroom bill. Facebook blocked him for 24 hours, but rescinded the ban and apologized. Even so, the action is likely to spark an uproar across the Christian community.
“I think it was a personal attack toward me,” Graham, president of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse, told Fox News on Sunday morning. He noted that the post in question was defending North Carolina’s House Bill 2, “a good law… to protect women and children.” The bill would have prevented men from masquerading as transgenders to access women’s spaces — but transgender activists claimed it would have violated the rights of transgender people.
“If you disagree with their position on sexual orientation, then you can be classified as [having posted] hate speech or that you are a racist,” Graham declared.
“Facebook’s a private company and they can certainly do what they want,” the evangelist added. “But the president of the company, Mark Zuckerberg, when he spoke before Congress — I think it was April — he said Facebook is a platform for all ideas. Well, it’s obvious his staff hasn’t got that memo.”
Graham encouraged Facebook to “have a standard that doesn’t move.”
When asked for the Christian response to this censorship, the evangelist jumped immediately to forgiveness.
“First of all, I accept Facebook’s apology and I appreciate them stepping up and doing that,” Graham said. “But I think as Christians we don’t back down and we don’t change who we are and what we say and what we do. We represent the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, and Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the Truth, and the Life and no man comes to the father but by me.’ All truth is in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I would encourage Facebook and for Christians to stand on God’s word and His truth.”
“I’m certainly against hate speech,” Graham insisted. He clarified, “I’m certainly against people using Facebook to incite violence against somebody like that… that’s terrible. But just having a different opinion other than somebody at Facebook, and then to be labeled as hate speech… that’s sad.”
Facebook defines “hate speech” as “a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics,” including gender identity.
Graham’s original post responded to Bruce Springsteen’s decision to cancel his North Carolina concert over the notorious “bathroom bill,” H.B.2. “Bruce Springsteen, a long-time gay rights activist, has cancelled his North Carolina concert. He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms is going ‘backwards’… Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God,” Graham posted.
Graham being blocked over this specific post seems rather odd, since he did not attack anyone in particular for “protected characteristics.” He merely defended a law, H.B.2, that transgender activists opposed. While the law prevented men who identify as women from using public restrooms and locker rooms, it did in fact also prevent perverted men from doing so. Graham did not suggest that men who suffer from gender dysphoria are perverts — he did not discuss “transgender women” at all.
Facebook rightly apologized for the ban. “A page admin for Franklin Graham’s Facebook page did receive a 24-hour feature block after we removed a post for violating our hate speech policies,” the company said in a statement. “Upon re-reviewing this content, we identified that the post does not violate our hate speech policy and has been restored.”
Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have encouraged tech companies like Facebook to define “hate speech” as broadly as possible, to push all “hate” off the Internet. The SPLC is notorious for branding mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups” if they disagree with progressive views on issues from sex and gender to immigration and Islam’s relation to terrorism. Their “hate group” labels inspired at least one terrorist attack in 2012.
Redefining “hate speech” along the new Orwellian lines that “speech is violence” can lead tech companies to silence anyone — even an evangelist as prominent as Franklin Graham, whose page has 7.5 million “likes” on Facebook.
This is not the first time prominent Christians have been blocked on the site. Jenna Lynn Ellis, a spokeswoman for the James Dobson Family Institute, had her article removed from Facebook “because it looks like spam and doesn’t follow our Community Standards.” Robert Gagnon, a prominent scholar on the topic of biblical sexuality, has been blocked numerous times because he espouses traditional Christian doctrine on sexuality.
In August, Facebook deleted videos posted by the conservative video nonprofit PragerU and “shadow banned” the organization’s page. While Facebook later apologized, the employee who personally carried out the censorship was given a slap on the wrist.
Responding to these and many other episodes, Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, sent an ultimatum to big tech companies. Unless Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter adopt a free speech charter and stop censoring conservative and Christian voices by December 31, 2018, he pledged to lead his 60-million-strong Christian organization to pressure Congress to drop Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, unleashing a torrent of lawsuits.
In the wake of Franklin Graham’s suspension, Johnson is almost certain to follow through on this, and even more.
This episode should open the eyes of all Christians everywhere, but it should also chill non-believers and anyone else who prizes a platform on social media. If someone as mainstream as Franklin Graham can be blocked for a post two years in the past, no one is safe. Facebook may be censoring Christians and conservatives today, but who’s to say they won’t be censoring LGBT activists tomorrow? Indeed, many on the far Left have also complained about censorship.
Watch Graham’s interview below.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.