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Religious Broadcasters Seek to Reverse California Hate Speech Law

By Alejandra Molina
NRB National Religious Broadcasters Robert Jeffress
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, speaks at the 2022 National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn. (Source: Video Screengrab)

The National Religious Broadcasters, an association of Christian media outlets, has joined a lawsuit seeking to block a California law that requires social media companies to publish their policies on removing hate speech from their platforms.

“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,” said Troy Miller, the NRB’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

NRB Troy Miller
NRB President & CEO Troy Miller (Source: Twitter)

Signing AB 587 last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom said 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 law, companies must disclose in detail how they remove content, including hate speech, disinformation, extremism, harassment and foreign political interference. They are also required to submit terms of service reports to the state attorney general by Jan. 1, 2024. Fines for noncompliance were set at 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. 

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But faith-based and culturally conservative groups have also objected to the law. In adding its name to the lawsuit, NRB joins the Babylon Bee, a conservative-leaning satirical site, and Tim Pool, a conservative podcaster who has been labeled a bigot by Media Matters.

NRB said this law affects its members “by having their speech repressed,” adding 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 statement read.

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,” according to the lawsuit.  

The suit states 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 also claims that hundreds of its members use social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to connect with their audiences. NRB members also operate social media platforms. 

NRB member Salem Media Group owns and, 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.

The Anti-Defamation League and other groups advocated for this law, saying the measure would be key to combatting online hate speech.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

alejandra molinaAlejandra Molina is a national reporter for Religion News Service.



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9 thoughts on “Religious Broadcasters Seek to Reverse California Hate Speech Law”

  1. NRB fired Dan Darling for being pro Covid-19 vaccine and called it being insubordinate. Because they wanted to keep a neutral stance. But remember, when we don’t act or say anything we’re still making a stance.

    I’ve always been skeptical of NRB and this article makes me even more! Creating safe spaces and having accountability to someone other than our is something we should run to, not resist or sue to avoid.

    1. Forgive me if I am not understanding your last point. So we should run to legislation and entities that incorrectly declare the truth of scripture to be hate speech? I don’t believe we (those who pick up our crosses daily to follow Him) should be filing lawsuits over frivolous things, and I don’t know much about the NRB. But I do know that social media platforms, and the leaders of many state governments, including my state of NY, falsely accuse those of us who speak the truth as spewing hate speech. Facts matter, and the Gospel is offensive only to those who don’t received it. So I guess I can’t blame the NRB for fighting for their right not to be silenced. From this brief article it seems as if the issue is not as much about a lawsuit to avoid accountability as much as it is an attempt to preserve the ability to speak truth. And neither government nor social media companies get to define that.

    2. Glenn, a private organization firing a spokesperson for not towing the company line, which is basically what he is paid to do, is quite different from the state using the force of the law to stifle speech. And I say this as someone who, despite my own general social and religious conservatism, finds plenty to critique in the NRB and what they stand for.

      As to constitutionally questionable laws and legal interventions intended to try to stop them, whatever happened to all the liberals I grew up with, especially on the west coast, who were free-speech absolutists back in the day? Has multi-generational one-party rule in places like California made them forget the full implications of civil rights, including the right to hold and express unpopular opinions?

  2. every social media platform has content policy that bans “hate speech”, but none of them actually define what that means. their policy is extremely vague so that anything can be defined as “hate speech” by the platform. the same thing goes for “disinformation”. it’s very difficult to participate on social media today because getting banned from the platform is very easy. furthermore these sites have no transparency, due process or accountability. if you run afoul of the policy you’re kicked off with no explanation. they usually have an appeal process but it means nothing as every appeal is always denied. imagine if our justice system was run this way? my guess is that the moderators on the popular social media sites would like exactly that. and since these same moderators are not christian and even anti-christian in many cases, the christian view is always deemed “hate speech”.

    1. Marin Heiskell

      Agree that hate speech needs to be defined – or at least clarify if we are going by the legal definition. Same for “disinformation”. I see this on both sides: disagreeing with Christians or not believing in the Bible is not “anti-Christian” anymore than disagreeing with homosexuality is homophobic.

      And the major social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc) have terms and conditions that they update and email out at least once a year; these include consequences for violations and how to appeal (I have successfully appealed more than once). Very few people I know have actually read them.

  3. Stanley Goodwin

    So when reading aloud Romans 1:27 in a church service, this would be identified as “hate speech”?

  4. Rabindranath E Ramcharan

    On the one hand, if there are going to be rules, the people who act under those rules deserve to know what they are. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of the California State Assembly as currently constituted.

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