HOME > NEWSROOM > ARTICLES > The New Inquisition

The New Inquisition

Free SpeechRecently, 12 members of the House of Representatives signed on to H.R. 3878, a bill that would launch an investigation into any “role” that might be played by radio, television, and the Internet to supposedly “encourage” the commission of hate crimes. I have been following this issue, in all its various forms, for several years in Washington, and I have no hesitation in saying that this proposal is not only audacious, but it would, if passed, be downright dangerous. Such an “investigation” would be a prelude to proposed free-speech-infringing regulations that would be almost certain to follow.  

Here is the convoluted background of this First Amendment-oppressive proposal. In 1993, the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), which was directed to conduct the same kind of investigation as is outlined in H.R. 3878, came out with its report. In its findings back then, however, the NTIA found itself fumbling for an adequate definition of the kind of “hate speech” that could theoretically lead to “hate crimes.” The best it could do was to conclude, essentially, that such hate speech is “speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice.” As we can see, that gives no guidance to broadcasters whatsoever, let alone to citizen bloggers on the web. I am sure that any similar investigation by the NTIA will yield definitions that are no clearer. But lack of clarity is not the biggest problem. In 2009, advocacy groups, following up from the NTIA report, asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate conservative talk radio and television commentators for alleged incidents of “hate speech.” Though that petition was never acted on, within the communications culture the use of misplaced “hate speech” labels to squelch expression by conservatives, proponents of traditional values, and Christians has occurred so frequently as to become legendary.

“Hate” labels (or their semantic equivalent) have been used by Facebook to shut down the Facebook pages of FOX News & Commentary pundit Todd Starnes and Gov. Mike Huckabee because they posted viewpoints consistent with conservative Christian principles. Apple used the same excuse to strip the late Chuck Colson’s Manhattan Declaration, a statement of orthodox Christian conscience, from its iTunes App Store. And Google, in its running of YouTube, has blocked legitimate religious content for similar “hate speech” reasons. This scourge of free speech censorship has widened to the point of abject silliness: in one recent incident, Facebook decided that the posting of a fitness expert had to be blocked as hateful and her account taken down because she criticized the use of plus-size models in advertisements and had argued that such ads encouraged obesity. 

It must be pointed out, though, that H.R. 3878 does add a caveat: any NTIA recommendations that issue from its investigation, the bill states, must be “consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution.” If that is really true, then we are all safe, because that would necessarily mean that there would be no politically motivated inquisition into radio, television, or the Internet as proposed, and there would be no more wrong-headed proposals about “hate speech;” in other words, America, there should be no H.R. 3878. 

By Craig Parshall
Senior Vice President & General Counsel, National Religious Broadcasters
Director, John Milton Project for Free Speech    

Click here to read more articles written by Craig Parshall.

Published: January 30, 2014

Latest News

NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson to Participate in Values Voter Summit 2014

Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, will lead a powerful dialogue about recent attacks to our freedoms of religion and speech during next month’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC.

Hope for Hurting Hearts Continues to Touch Lives and Win Awards

Hope for Hurting Hearts, a documentary film produced by Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, recently added another distinction to its running list of awards and accolades – this time for Best Editing from the Pan Pacific Film Festival.

Pure Flix's God's Not Dead Tops Home Video Sales Charts

God’s Not Dead, a film from NRB member Pure Flix Entertainment, debuted earlier this month at No. 1 on the Nielsen Christian Videos sales chart and No. 2 on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks overall Blu-ray and DVD combined sales.

Do You Want to Highlight Your Organization in NRB Today - For Free?

We are soliciting descriptions about NRB members to feature in our weekly e-newsletter, NRB Today, and on the NRB website. If you are a member of NRB and are interested in being featured ...

NRBMLC Files Comments to DOJ on ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees

The NRB Music License Committee (NRBMLC) filed comments with the U.S. Department of Justice last week in response to its plans to review the “consent decrees” that govern how the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) license songs for public performance in the United States.

National Radio Day: A Look Back at the Early Days of Christian Broadcasting

When radio emerged as a public medium in the early 1920s, preachers were fascinated but cautious.

Christian Advocacy Group Protests Offensive Cartoon Network Program

The Christian Film & Television Commission® (CFTVC), an advocacy group promoting quality Christian entertainment, is organizing a protest against Black Jesus, the Cartoon Network’s new controversial program.

CBN’s Superbook Partners with Newton Media

Newton Media has been selected to partner with CBN’s Superbook to brand market their award-winning animated Bible series and build their continuity program via DRTV, barter syndication, and digital platforms.

4 FEBC Volunteers Martyred in Ukraine

Four young FEBC volunteers who were recently captured by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine were brutally beaten to death simply for being Christians, according to a report from the organization last week.

Answers in Genesis: Ark Encounter Will Not Be Built with State Funds

Answers in Genesis, the apologetics ministry of Ken Ham, is working to make it clear that the full-scale Noah’s Ark that it plans to build in Williamstown, KY, will not be constructed with state funds.

More News