The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), a fellowship of Christian media outlets, has joined a lawsuit challenging a California law that mandates social media companies publish their policies for eliminating “hate speech” from their platforms.
Troy Miller, NRB’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement: “In an environment where much religious viewpoint expression is considered ‘controversial’ speech, NRB is acting to stop the weaponization of new laws against Christian communicators.”
After signing AB 587 last September, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom declared in a statement that “California will not stand by as social media is weaponized to spread hate and disinformation that threaten our communities and foundational values as a country.”
Under the new law, companies must disclose in detail how they remove content, including hate speech, disinformation, extremism, harassment and foreign political interference. Companies face a Jan. 1, 2024 deadline to submit terms of service reports to the California attorney general. Fines for noncompliance are up to $15,000 per violation per day.
Internet freedom and tech lobbying organizations, as well as the California Chamber of Commerce, have opposed the bill since it was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel. The Anti-Defamation League has advocated for the law, saying the measure would be key to combating online hate speech.
By adding its name to the lawsuit, NRB joins the Babylon Bee, a conservative satirical site, and Tim Pool, a conservative podcaster who has been labeled a bigot by the left-wing Media Matters organization.
NRB asserts that by having to directly comply with the statute, members “would become agents of the state for First Amendment suppression.”
“This is something that NRB is unwilling to allow,” the NRB statement read.
According to the lawsuit, NRB was formed in 1944 in response to the major radio networks adopting regulations that barred the purchase of airtime for religious broadcasting, “which resulted in the networks effectively banning all evangelical Christian radio broadcasters.”
The lawsuit contends that NRB was “instrumental in securing outlets for evangelical Christian broadcasters and overturning the ban,” and that “NRB continues its work to protect the free speech rights of its members by advocating those rights in governmental, corporate, and media sectors.”
NRB, whose members operate various social media platforms, also claims that hundreds of its members use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to network and connect with their audiences.
For example, NRB member Salem Media Group owns GodTube.com and TeacherTube.com, both of which allow users to create public profiles, subscribe to other users’ channels and post video content, according to the suit. GodTube and TeacherTube have users in California.
Addressing the NRB’s annual convention meeting this week in Orlando, Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, warned Christian broadcasters that their commitment to faithfully sharing the Gospel will make them a target for persecution.
“We are living in a cancel culture that wants to destroy Christian organizations,” he said. “They want us to shut our mouths, they don’t want to hear from us. If you’re not going to preach the Gospel, you don’t have anything to worry about. If you’re not going to talk about sin, you’re not going to have anything to worry about; but if you’re going to proclaim the Gospel, they’re going to try to shut you up.”
Graham exhorted Christian organizations to prepare to defend themselves against cancel culture’s advances in business, insurance, banking, and technology, while recommitting themselves to Gospel proclamation.
“When you try to tell a person they are a sinner, it’s offensive,” he said. “When you tell someone that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there is no way to heaven or God except through Him, you offend people.
“Just tell it the way it is. Preach—don’t back up, don’t make excuses. We cannot back up, we can’t retreat, don’t apologize for the Gospel—just declare it, just preach it.”
Photo: Thomas J. Petrino / BGEA