Next Tuesday, May 15th, NRB’s John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech will host an unprecedented discussion on Capitol Hill, one that will intersect the extreme frontiers of public policy, law, and freedom of speech. The question under discussion will be this: How will America resolve the coming conflict between free speech on one hand and free enterprise on the other when it comes to the Internet? As American citizens, including Christian communicators, continue to use the web-based platforms of such new media giants as Apple, Google and Facebook, will they continue to face censorship when they post a message, for instance the biblical view of marriage, which runs counter to the politically correct policies of those new media corporations? On the other hand, how can we insure that kind of freedom of religious speech without jeopardizing at the same time the fundamentally important free market right of private media companies to decide their own policies?
The event will begin with comments from the office of Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and from Dr. Frank Wright, NRB’s President & CEO. I will have the privilege of joining an impressive panel of experts as we try to untangle this constitutional dilemma, which will include the Honorable Robert McDowell, Commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission; Ryan Anderson, William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation; and NRB member Kelly Shackelford, President & CEO of the Liberty Institute, a First Amendment legal group that argues religious liberty cases before the Supreme Court.
Last September, at the National Press Club in Washington, we released our white paper report, True Liberty in a New Media Age, illustrating the shocking pattern that has developed among web communication companies like Apple, Google and Facebook, where politically incorrect ideas – often typified by ideas which reflect traditional, Judeo-Christian values – have been censored off some web-based platforms. At the same time, however, we have to recognize that free market principles have contributed significantly to the growth and success of web-based communications technology and that they are a basic principle of liberty in our Republic; heavy-handed government regulations aimed at solving the Internet censorship problem could well stifle further innovation and threaten the free market. At our roundtable discussion next week, we hope to focus on ways to insure a voluntary recognition by new media companies of a First Amendment paradigm to guide their practices and policies, while at the same time, preserving free market principles. That is a tall order, of course. But, with the increasing integration of web-based technology into every aspect of the Christian Church, this may prove to be one of the most important communication issues in our lifetime.
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Senior Vice President & General Counsel