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March 1, 2018

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Johnson: New Internet Freedom Initiative a Return to NRB’s ‘Roots’

Jerry JohnsonNASHVILLE (NRB) – A new National Religious Broadcasters initiative represents a return to its roots to protect freedom of religion and speech in a digital age, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson said in his report Tuesday, February 27, at Proclaim 18, the association’s International Christian Media Convention.

Speaking at NRB’s 75th annual meeting, Johnson said Internet Freedom Watch is the organization’s effort to curtail discrimination against Christian and conservative content on the internet. NRB unveiled the initiative at a December news conference in Washington, D.C., in which the association called attention to censorship by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple.

“[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 in the evening session 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, he 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,” he 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 marks a return to the reason for NRB’s founding in the 1940s, Johnson said. Christian broadcasters met at Moody Church in Chicago in 1944 to form NRB 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.

The initiative “is returning to our roots,” Johnson said, citing the NRB’s effort for radio 75 years ago in which it said, “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 FCC. And in a few years, Christian broadcasters were back on Christian radio once again.

“We have to go back to that, 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.’”

Johnson said of the NRB campaign in the 1940s, “It 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.

“We have again private enterprise in the communications world discriminating against conservative and Christian content,” he told the audience. 

The NRB leader cited several examples of recent online censorship by private companies.

“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 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.) was chairman of the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives that recommended the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood as a result of evidence the country’s largest abortion provider took part in the trade in aborted baby parts. Prager U produces educational videos with a conservative perspective. Starnes is a Fox News Radio host, and Dannenfelser is president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.

Johnson urged Convention 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

By Tom Strode

About NRB

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth, promote media excellence, and defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at www.nrb.org.

About the NRB Convention

The annual NRB International Christian Media Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications. The dynamic Exposition consists of around 200 companies and is an active marketplace for those seeking tools and services to expand their organizations. The next Convention, Proclaim 18, will be the 75th annual Convention and will be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, February 27-March 2, 2018. For more information, go to www.nrbconvention.org.

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