A new National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) initiative represents a return to its mid-1940s roots to now protect freedom of religion and speech in a digital age, NRB President Jerry A. Johnson said in his report at Proclaim 18, the association’s International Christian Media Convention.
Johnson, speaking at NRB’s 75th annual meeting in Nashville, said Internet Freedom Watch seeks to curtail discrimination against Christian and conservative content on the internet. NRB unveiled the initiative at a December news conference in Washington, calling attention to censorship by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple.
Jerry A. Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, exhorts attendees at NRB’s Proclaim 18 annual meeting to take a stand for First Amendment freedoms against instances of online censorship by social media platforms Facebook, YouTube, Apple and Twitter.
“[I]f conservative and Christian content is taken off of social media, digital media, the gospel will be muzzled, the Word of God will be muzzled,” Johnson told the audience Feb. 27 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
It is the NRB’s job to protect First Amendment freedoms, and the association of Christian communicators “is uniquely positioned” to do so, Johnson said before quoting part of the U.S. Constitution’s initial amendment.
The First Amendment’s “first three elements – religion, speech and press – that’s NRB,” Johnson said. “This is our world, and I want to say to you: If not you, who? If not this, what? If not now – when we are being demonetized, blocked, taken off and censored – if not now, when will NRB stand for First Amendment principles?”
Internet Freedom Watch, Johnson said, marks a return to the reason for NRB’s founding, when Christian broadcasters met at Moody Church in Chicago in 1944 after the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches) convinced the national radio networks to adopt regulations that exiled evangelical communicators to independent stations with a limited audience.
Johnson said the NRB declared at its founding: “We’re not going to take a back seat. We want a level playing field. We want a place in the public square. Let’s go to D.C. Let’s go to the Congress. Let’s go to the [Federal Communications Commission]. And in a few years, Christian broadcasters were back on Christian radio once again.
“We have to go back to that,” Johnson said, “and we have to say, ‘The new media today is digital media. It’s social media. It’s Facebook. It’s Twitter. It’s Google. It’s YouTube.’”
The NRB campaign 75 years ago “wasn’t a political question. It was a gospel question. It was a freedom of religion question. It was a freedom of speech question. It was a First Amendment question,” Johnson said.
“We have again private enterprise in the communications world discriminating against conservative and Christian content,” he stated, citing various examples of online censorship by private companies, some of which sparked a media flare-up and were resolved.
“Does it bother you that Dr. D. James Kennedy was taken off of the Amazon [Smile] gift program?” Johnson asked. “Does it bother you that a sitting member of the U.S. Congress, Marsha Blackburn, was taken off of Twitter when she announced her run for the U.S. Senate because she mentioned the sale of human body parts?
“Does it bother you that Dennis Prager’s videos – videos on Israel, for instance – have been blocked and taken down and demonetized by YouTube? Does it bother you that Todd Starnes has been taken off of Facebook? Marjorie Dannenfelser has been taken off of Twitter?”
The Amazon Smile program, against which the Kennedy ministry filed suit last August, enables consumers to specify the charities of their choosing to which Amazon will donate a percentage of the cost of their purchases. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., whose campaign announcement was blocked by Facebook, chaired the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives that recommended the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood as a result of evidence that the country’s largest abortion provider took part in the trade in aborted baby parts. Prager U produces educational videos with a conservative perspective, 40 of which have been restricted by YouTube. Starnes is a Fox News Radio host and Dannenfelser is president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, both of whom have had social media posts blocked.
Johnson urged NRB attendees to join him in protecting First Amendment rights. “This isn’t a pleasure cruise,” he said. “We’re running a battleship here.”
Information on NRB’s new initiative is available at InternetFreedomWatch.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode, of Fredericksburg, Va., assisted with the coverage of the NRB annual meeting.)