In late 2010, Apple removed from its app store the Manhattan Declaration iPhone/iPad app. (The Manhattan Declaration, in case you don’t know, reaffirms the moral teachings of the Christian faith on the sanctity of human life, marriage and sexual morality, and religious freedom and the rights of conscience.) Apple told Manhattan Declaration sponsors that the app’s content was considered “likely to expose a group to harm” and “to be objectionable and potentially harmful to others.”
Did Apple violate the principles underlying the First Amendment when it took this extraordinary and unprecedented step? Should the government step in and require private companies to respect free speech values? If not, what else might be done to encourage new media companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google to have a healthier understanding of the value of free expression?
A panel of experts convened by the National Religious Broadcasters addressed those and similar questions Tuesday on Capitol Hill. After opening remarks by NRB President & CEO Dr. Frank Wright and Jacki Pick, Counsel for Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the panel discussion featured FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, Craig Parshall of NRB, and Kelly Shackelford of Liberty Institute. Parshall discussed “True Liberty in a New Media Age,” a report published by the NRB’s John Milton Project for Religious Free Speech. The panelists agreed that government ought not to — and probably could not – force new media platforms to respect free speech values. They discussed alternative means by which companies like Apple might be encouraged to avoid unjustified restrictions on religious express, including both competition and voluntary commitment to respect even unpopular viewpoints on hot button cultural and political issues.
This post originally appeared here.