Dr. James Emery White

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

The New Discrimination: Facebook, Academia and HB2

The headline was shocking, but not surprising:

“Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative Views.”

It was from an article on May 9 on Gizmodo.com detailing how Facebook workers kept stories of interest to conservative readers (or those who might be swayed to a conservative viewpoint) from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, even though they were “organically trending” among the site’s users.

Even when a story that had nothing to do with a conservative viewpoint was trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm, if it was from a conservative news source, Facebook’s “news curators” would still exclude it unless more liberal sources, such as the New York Times, covered the same story. 

Speaking of the New York Times, over the weekend journalist Nicholas Kristof made a confession that speaks to the Facebook revelation:

“We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table – er, so long as they aren’t conservatives…. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.”

This is particularly acute within academia.

Kristof notes that this is driven by discrimination. “One peer-reviewed study found that one-third of social psychologists admitted that if choosing between two equally qualified job candidates, they would be inclined to discriminate against the more conservative candidate.”

The discrimination becomes worse if the applicant is an evangelical Christian. According to George Yancey, a sociologist at the University of North Texas, the overwhelming majority of professors he surveyed would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.

This is the new discrimination. It’s intolerance in the name of tolerance, bias in the name of being unbiased, blatant discrimination in the name of being anti-discriminatory. 

We live in a day where conservative (and specifically Christian) perspective and ideas, lifestyle choices and stands, are either systematically airbrushed from public consumption, ridiculously caricatured in ways that make them unrecognizable by their Christian proponents, or legally attacked in a manner that forces compliance.

All in the name of being tolerant, unbiased and non-discriminatory. Translation: tolerance, a lack of bias, and non-discrimination except for conservatives, and specifically, conservative Christians.

Which brings us to HB2, which in a matter of a few short weeks has erupted onto the cultural scene. (I’ve written most recently on transgender issues here.)

Here’s a précis on the timeline:

Acting on the urging of local LGBT leaders, on February 22 the Charlotte City Council added protections to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, granting protection in places of “public accommodation.”

On February 23, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore called for the legislative action on “the bathroom piece” of Charlotte’s ordinance.

(It should be noted, though it is seldom reported, that North Carolina already has previously instructed state agencies to reasonably accommodate the use of single occupancy restrooms for those who don’t feel comfortable using restrooms designated for their biological sex.)

On March 23, lawmakers called a special session to discuss the ordinance. From this session, the N.C. General Assembly passed HB2 (House Bill 2), now known as the “bathroom bill.” Governor Pat McCrory then signed it into law. Specifically, the law requires bathrooms in public facilities to be used by people based on the gender listed on their birth certificate. It also prohibits local governments from enacting non-discrimination laws.

On March 29, the American Civil Liberties Union and other parties filed a lawsuit asking the courts to overturn HB2 on the basis of its constitutionality. Soon, a backlash erupted from celebrities and sports organizations. Major companies pulled out of business deals in the state.

Throughout the firestorm, surveys repeatedly indicated that the majority of the population of North Carolina, and Charlotte specifically, say transgender people should not be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, but that there should be general nondiscrimination laws in place for sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Which, of course, there had been.

Governor McCrory, sharpening the language of the bill, signed an executive order on April 12 ensuring those very nondiscrimination clauses (state employees cannot be fired or disciplined for being gay or transgender), while holding his ground on bathroom use.

Then, on May 9, Governor McCrory filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to declare that HB2 is not discriminatory. The Justice Department then filed its own federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina, stating that it was seeking a court order declaring that HB2’s restroom restriction is “impermissibly discriminatory.”

But again, who is being discriminated against? 

To compare the bathroom law to earlier measures that mandated different bathrooms and water fountains for black and white people is deeply disingenuous. Supporters of the bill said that the Charlotte ordinance could have allowed sexual predators to exploit the “non-discrimination” policy, endangering women and children, as well as forcing business owners to comply with behaviors contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs.

It’s strikingly similar to laws requiring individuals to serve gay weddings against their religious conscience. It isn’t enough that gay marriage is allowed; involvement in, and enablement of, that marriage is attempting to be mandated. The prevailing ethic is that acceptance must become synonymous with affirmation, thus silencing any and all dissent.

So welcome to the new era of discrimination. You are free to believe anything you want and protected to pursue any lifestyle you want,

…as long as your beliefs are not Christian, and your lifestyle choices are not Christ-like.

James Emery White


Sources

Michael Nunez, “Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News,” Gizmodo, May 9, 2016, read online.

Nicholas Kristof, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance,” The New York Times, May 7, 2016, read online.

Mark Berman, Sarah Larimer & Sari Horwitz, “North Carolina, Justice Dept. file dueling lawsuits over ‘bathroom bill’,” The Washington Post, May 9, 2016, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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