|EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
World News Service (2 items)
University of the Cumberlands (2 items)
Hardin-Simmons University (2 items)
A Christian broadcasters group warns of a troubling trend of online censorship
By Daniel James Devine/World News Service
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (World News Service) -- On Nov. 7 a women's advocacy group, the Uprising of Women in the Arab World, complained Facebook had deleted one of its photos and suspended five administrator accounts for its Facebook page. The apparently offensive photo showed an unveiled Arab woman in a sleeveless top, holding, in a call for liberation, a passport photo of herself wearing the hijab.
Among other content Facebook temporarily censored in 2012 was an image and caption criticizing President Obama for his handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The social media platform also took Mike Huckabee's "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" event page offline for 12 hours during the summer media firestorm over Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's support for heterosexual marriage.
In each of these cases, Facebook later apologized and claimed the content had been removed by mistake. But Craig Parshall, director of the John Milton Project for Free Speech at National Religious Broadcasters, says such incidents have become all too common. The John Milton Project published a report in September detailing examples of censorship from new media companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. The companies' policies allow them to remove user-generated content the companies deem offensive, Parshall says, including so-called "hate speech, or controversial political or religious content, even if it would be otherwise lawful."
More examples: In 2010 and 2011, responding to complaints from homosexual activists, Apple permanently removed from its App Store applications from two groups—Manhattan Declaration and Exodus International—that promote heterosexual marriage. Google's video-sharing service, YouTube, last May blocked as "hate speech" a youth speaker's video that warned against gay "marriage." Earlier in 2012, Ryan Faust, senior pastor of Grace Church in Seattle, told me Facebook had censored lengthy comments he posted regarding the Bible and gay "marriage."
Parshall is concerned these social media platforms may develop a habit of censoring any speech, Christian or otherwise, they consider controversial or offensive. The John Milton Project has published a framework calling for media platform providers to adopt content policies aligning with First Amendment rights: Criminal, obscene, or sexually explicit material that might be seen by children can be censored, but not speech that merely offends some person or group.
Parshall admits the First Amendment probably doesn't apply to private businesses, but offers the analogy of a phone company that might disagree with a church's beliefs: "What if your church go into work one day at the local church and they pick up their phones and they're all dead?" That would seem unfair to most people, and federal regulations already prohibit utilities from such discrimination.
Like a phone company, Parshall argues, YouTube, Facebook, and iPhones are "platforms" that enable users to publish content. The users ("content providers") are video makers, phone users, or Facebook members. Users should be free to publish whatever they choose, like newspaper editors. Platform providers, on the other hand, should serve all customers even if they disagree with the content provided.
"We are not looking for government regulation," says Parshall. His group isn't ready to call social media companies "utilities" yet, but hopes public awareness about censorship—and awareness on Capitol Hill—will pressure companies to adopt a First Amendment approach voluntarily: "We think we can strike a balance between free enterprise and free speech."
Reprinted by permission from World News Service.
Hobby Lobby punts free campus to foundation
By Leigh Jones/World News Service
ATLANTA (World News Service) -- After two unsuccessful attempts to give away a 217-acre campus in Massachusetts, the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby retail chain, has turned the property over to the National Christian Foundation (NCF) in the hope it can find a new owner.
The Atlanta-based foundation helps individuals and businesses donate property and sets up giving funds that maximize tax deductions. NCF describes itself as the largest Christian grant-making organization in the world, with $590 million in distributions in 2012.
"We had hoped to be able to find a qualified recipient of this property ourselves and made great efforts to do so," said Les Miller, Hobby Lobby's real estate analyst. "When we were unable, we decided to enlist the help of NCF, an organization with which we have had a long, successful relationship. We are confident they will be able to find a long-term owner for this property."
The Green family estimates the rural campus, near the New Hampshire and Vermont border, is worth $20 million. It was home to a prep school founded by evangelist D.L. Moody in 1879 but has remained vacant since 2005. The Green family purchased it with the intention of giving it to a new college named for C.S. Lewis. When the school's founders failed to raise the money needed to maintain the property, the Greens started looking for a new recipient.
The nationwide search gained widespread attention from Christian colleges and ministries, who sent representatives to tour the campus early last year. But opposition from nearby residents, who said they didn't want a conservative Christian organization in their backyard, prompted several groups to back out.
In the end, the Greens had two finalists: Arizona-based Grand Canyon University and the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board (NAMB). In September, the family announced Grand Canyon as the winner after the NAMB decided it couldn't afford to accept the gift.
Although the campus is free and the Greens invested about $5 million in improvements, it still needs extensive maintenance and upgrades. Utility bills alone could cost as much as $1 million a year.
Grand Canyon announced plans to pour $150 million into the property, which it hoped eventually would serve 5,000 students. But leaders in nearby Northfield, a town of just 3,000, balked at the proposal and insisted the school make additional infrastructure improvements that added $30 million to the overall investment.
Three weeks after accepting the campus, Grand Canyon gave it back.
Northfield Town Manager Tom Hutcheson said the community wants to see the campus occupied again, but town leaders want to be a part of the process to select a new owner.
"That was one thing that we didn't have last time," Hutcheson said. "People were interested in the campus as a campus and, as we saw, were not entirely well informed as to the community into which they would be moving. A dialogue would be useful."
Reprinted by permission of World News Service.
Patriots Women's Basketball helps Samaritan's Feet
CAMPTON, Ky. (University of the Cumberlands) -- On Tuesday, Dec. 18, University of the Cumberlands (UC) women's JV basketball team joined with the University of Kentucky (UK) men's basketball team and head coach John Calipari in Campton, Ky., to help Samaritan's Feet pass out socks and shoes to children in need. The shoe distribution was part of Samaritan's Barefoot for Bare Feet movement.
"Samaritan's Feet has been great for this community and all the kids are enjoying this tremendously," said Campton Elementary principal Sam Dunn. "This brings the community together as a whole because some of these kids don't get new shoes every year. Having the shoes donated and the teams come in gets everyone excited."
Students from Rogers Elementary and Campton Elementary -- identified as those most likely in need of new shoes -- sat one-by-one as UC and UK basketball players, Coach Calipari and other volunteers bathed their feet and clothed them in the new socks and shoes. Approximately 600 children were served as they witnessed the kindness of others.
"It was a great experience to participate and get to talk to the kids about getting new shoes," said Cumberlands basketball player Karlie Blackburn. "When teams come together like we and UK did today it shows we were willing to help. Hopefully with the kids seeing others help them it will leave them wanting to help those less fortunate when they get older."
Shelby Powell (Winchester, KY), Olivia Farmer (Hyden, KY), Karlie Blackburn (Corbin, KY), Gine' Nichols (Horse Cave, KY) and Kayla Shelton (Artemus, KY) participated in the event. The Patriots spent the day washing feet, gathering shoes and running clean water to fill the footbaths.
"These kids helped me today to realize that we don't need to take things for granted because there are people out there that need our help and are having a rough time right now," said Farmer.
"It's amazing to see all the people in this community and from the outside helping these children today," said Samaritan's Feet founder and CEO Emmanuel Ohonme. "This tells them 'you're special and you are somebody. Just because you went through hard times doesn't mean this is all for you, you can still do great things.'"
UC participated with the event to help learn the shoe distribution process and to be a part of the difference it makes in the lives of many -- including those who volunteer. On Jan. 24, UC women's basketball head coach Melissa Irvin and her team will host their second annual Barefoot for Bare Feet Game at 6 p.m. against UVA-Wise. The team has set a goal of reaching $3,000 in total contributions so that a shoe distribution can be setup in Southeastern Kentucky to help local children.
Anyone wishing to participate or make a donation can contact Shane Anglin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Coach Irvin's Barefoot website at http://samaritansfeet.myetap.org/fundraiser/fundraisingpage/individual.do?participationRef=3214.0.164691047.
Cumberlands outreach holds annual Midnight Shopping Spree
WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (University of the Cumberlands) -- On Friday, Nov. 30, the University of the Cumberlands Mountain Outreach program held its 7th annual Midnight Toy Shopping Spree at Walmart in Williamsburg, Ky.
In all, 48 students, eight faculty/staff members, five high school students and three staff members' children participated in the toy shopping experience. Toys bought on the night were for infant children up to 14 years of age for both girls and boys. By the end of the night, there were 802 toys purchased to be passed out to families so that their kids could receive a gift.
The night was very special for all those involved including the university's golf team which decided to lend their services to the shopping spree. The golf team helped collect toys, bag them at the register, and load the gifts into a U-Haul truck to take to storage.
"Our program was honored to work with Mountain Outreach again this year with Midnight Shopping," said golf head coach Chris Kraftick. "Our players really enjoy the opportunity helping out young people in the community."
The local Walmart also gave a helping hand, having prepared for the shopping spree. Walmart placed sale items out along with items that were low on stock at reduced prices.
Hensley expressed gratitude and appreciation on behalf of Mountain Outreach for those that either helped shop or raise funds for the event. "Can you imagine 4 or 5 people trying to choose 800 gifts for children ages infant through 14? The event would not have been possible without those who reached out a helping hand to Mountain Outreach." Continued...