(CP) Facebook has now restored the pages of Christian ministries it says were "incorrectly removed" from its platform amid a purge of content that offers "services that aim to change people's sexual orientation or gender identity."
The head of Help 4 Families, a Christian ministry and its sister organization called Living Stone Ministries, which aim to help individuals and families seeking to live in accordance with Christian sexual ethics, said Facebook removed the organizations' pages from its platform at the behest of LGBT activists.
Denise Shick, the director of Help 4 Families and Living Stone Ministries, both of which Facebook recently removed, said in an email to The Christian Post on Monday that the pages were taken down after a report was released by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism that compiled a list of groups and organizations that minister to and counsel people struggling with unwanted sexual attractions or gender confusion. GPAHE has been pushing for social media giants like Facebook to ban these organizations — many being Christian — from its platform.
Although the GPAHE report acknowledged that the two Christian ministries create "safe places for individuals and families to openly share their grief and pain about homosexuality" and transgenderism, they were still deemed too controversial to remain on the platform, Shick told CP.
The GPAHE report argues that the views espoused and promoted by these ministries and other groups, such as so-called "conversion therapy," which, according to the United Nations, is tantamount to "torture" and an "egregious violation of rights."
From Feb. 2-8, Shick couldn't access her account, and her pages were taken down without notification.
Eleven years' worth of pictures are now gone, she lamented to CP after the ministries' pages had been taken down.
"If we are offering 'safe places' to 'openly share,' how is that hateful or extremist?" she asked. "We offer opportunities for people to share their struggles without condemnation. That is the definition of love and acceptance."
Shick is the daughter of a man who told her when she was 9 years old that he wanted to be a woman.
"This implies that what my father believed to be true was true for him. But my dad actually said that he wanted to be a woman. The word 'believe' means 'to consider to be true.' The word want, on the other hand, means 'to have a strong desire for.' My dad didn't believe he was a woman. He knew he was a man, but he wanted to be a woman. That desire became an obsession, and that obsession led to much pain for him and his family," she explained.
The social media giant no longer believes in the right to freedom of speech without censorship, Shick said. Her ministries notified their supporters and readers via email of the latest developments and have also moved their online communications on social media to MeWe.
"For over 200 years, people in the U.S. were free to hold differing beliefs and to speak about them without censure," Shick added, noting that this has changed because of the efforts of LGBT activists.
"Our voices need to be heard by contacting our congresspersons and senators," she added.
Following two inquiries from CP, late on Tuesday, a Facebook employee with knowledge of the matter said Shick's pages were "incorrectly removed and [have] been restored."
Shick confirmed Tuesday night that both Facebook pages had been restored.
CP was earlier informed that Facebook bans pages that contain the following:
- Our policies prohibit content explicitly providing or offering to provide products or services that aim to change people's sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Under our policies, this includes products or services with the goal of changing an individual's sexual orientation; or changing the gender identity of a questioning or transgender person to being cisgender (i.e. match between their gender identity and assigned sex). Examples would include: Providing or offering to provide products aimed at offering or facilitating conversion therapy (e.g., books, apps, audiobooks, etc.). Providing or offering to provide services aimed at offering or facilitating conversion therapy (e.g., talk therapy, conversion ministries, clinical therapy, etc.).
In October 2020, Facebook, which has since been formally renamed Meta, removed without explanation the page of Restored Hope Network, a network of parachurch organizations offering therapeutic options and pastoral counseling resources for those desiring to leave the LGBT lifestyle and follow their convictions pertaining to sexual ethics.
Anne Paulk, the executive director of RHN, said at the time that the tech giant's move was an example of viewpoint discrimination.
"Their dismissive action — canceling our page as if it never existed, leaving a vague 'the link may be broken' message in its place — is shameful. Not even extending us the courtesy of a notification, a chance to offer our side of the very politicized story, is unconscionable."
She added in a follow-up interview Monday that the tech giants are silencing the voices they disagree with no matter how reasonable or compassionate those voices are.
"Truthful content is being removed that is outside of their approval zone — outside of the LGBT talking points," Paulk said.
"It is only a matter of time before the censors also get censored as well. This move to silence views leads directly to totalitarianism, speech control, and criminalization of speech that is unpopular of any kind. Courage is needed to counter these demands, to resist cancel culture, to speak despite pressures and outcomes no one likes. We at Restored Hope Network will continue to speak truth kindly."
The removal of RHN from Facebook came on the heels of Paulk's books and other authors who formerly identified as LGBT having their work taken down from online retail giant Amazon in 2019. The latest Big Tech scrubbing appears to be more of a deliberate and thorough effort to weed out and take down any perspectives that adhere to historic, theologically orthodox standards on gender and sexuality issues.
"Tech companies say they have taken steps to ban harmful content related to conversion therapy. But they have to do more, especially in non-English languages," Wendy Via, president and co-founder of GPAHE, said last month, according to Forbes.
Via, who is also a co-author of the report, went on to say that until online searches "lead people to only authoritative, trustworthy information about the dangers of conversion therapy, tech companies are complicit in spreading anti-LGBTQ hate."
"This disinformation causes mental and physical harm for individuals, and furthers societal harm."
Some of the ministries that have since been taken down have managed to evade detection by Facebook's algorithms because of the language being used in their materials. But that is not stopping GPAHE's efforts to remove them.
"Too much harmful misinformation is slipping through, especially in non-English languages," Via said.
Stephen Black, who leads First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and who was previously banned from using the platform and believes he's still being shadow-banned, told CP in a Monday interview that the Big Tech censorship tactics are as forceful as they have ever been, and they are not limited to Facebook.
"The level of aggression against free speech, choice, and self-determination is at a fury of assault unlike any other time in recent U.S. history. I have personally been shadow-banned, limited for many weeks, and scrubbed from social media at different times over the past five years," Black said.
"This secular humanistic faith is demanding censorship of sincere Christians believing in a choice to change and repent from sexual sin. Locally, here in Oklahoma City, we have gay activists who have called for the burning down of churches that will not affirm LGBTQ+ behavior as normal."
Black shared with CP a screenshot of a now-deleted Facebook post from activist Sara Cunningham of Free Mom Hugs promoting an upcoming Lifetime documentary about her story, saying that she hopes one of the effects of the movie will be "to burn the main-stream evangelical conservative non-affirming church doors DOWN. To the ground."
"Facebook and other social media outlets are being used broadly and unfettered to promote LGBTQ+ activists' messages of real hate and even calling for violence, while the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love is being called hate speech," Black said.