Over the last two years, Advocates for Faith and Freedom has been hearing from social media users about Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube’s censorship of conservative social media posts. Unfortunately, there has not been much we could do about this because discrimination based on political views is not unlawful. However, we finally have a great case based on unlawful religious and sexual orientation discrimination, and we are taking action.
The case involves Pastor Jim Domen’s Christian non-profit organization, Church United, which has been organizing pastors throughout his state to engage in California’s culture and transform California’s government for Christ. To do this, Church United frequently used Vimeo’s video sharing site to convey Pastor Domen’s vision and successfully equip over 900 affiliated California pastors to positively impact our culture.
However, Thanksgiving weekend in 2018, Pastor Domen alerted us that Vimeo sent him an email, notifying Church United that its account would be shut down and all of their videos would be removed. In that email, Vimeo explained that Church United’s videos spread harassment, hatred, discrimination, and defamatory speech. But the content Vimeo stated was harassment was, in actuality, footage discussing Christian perspectives on sexual orientation – expressions of opinions and beliefs well protected by the California Constitution. Pastor Domen is a former homosexual who preaches a message of hope and redemption through Christ to people struggling with same sex attraction. By shutting down the content with their claims of harassment and hatred, its clear Vimeo wants to silence that message. Thankfully, the law protects Church United and Pastor Domen from the type of religious and sexual orientation discrimination that Vimeo is engaging in.
This month’s newsletter, #3 on our list of top 5 attacks on our Constitutional Rights, features edited excerpts from the legal letter I wrote to Vimeo on behalf of Tyler & Bursch, LLP, the law firm that represents Advocates for Faith & Freedom's pro bono cases, requesting the restoration of Church United’s account.
Church United – Discrimination and Censorship
“On November 23, 2018, Vimeo sent an email to Pastor Domen, the administrator of Church United’s Vimeo account, informing Pastor Domen that a Vimeo moderator marked the account for review. The email explained that “Vimeo does not allow videos that promote Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE),” and it listed five videos “that espouse this theory.” One of the flagged videos was a documentary by NBC.
“These five videos centered on Church United’s Christian principles and Pastor Domen’s sexual orientation as a former homosexual. Specifically, the videos involved an effort by Church United to challenge California Assembly Bill 2943, which would have expanded California’s existing prohibition on “sexual orientation change efforts.” That bill was eventually pulled by its author Assembly Member Evan Low because of the vocal opposition of organizations like Church United and personal testimonies of former homosexuals like Pastor Domen.
“Neither those five videos about AB 2943, nor any of Church United’s 89 videos, harass, incite hatred, or include discriminatory or defamatory speech. Rather, Church United’s account was deleted in an effort to censor Pastor Domen from speaking about his sexual orientation and his religious beliefs. The alleged violation of Vimeo guidelines was merely a pretext to justify restricting and censoring Church United’s videos.
“Vimeo has denied Church United and Pastor Domen’s full and equal accommodations, advantages, privileges, and services by terminating Church United’s Vimeo account. This denial was based on discrimination against Church United’s religious beliefs and Pastor Domen’s sexual orientation, in violation of the Unruh Act.”
Pursuant to my request to respond by April 10, 2019, or risk a lawsuit, Vimeo responded, denying that it terminated Church United’s account based on discrimination towards religion or sexual orientation. That means we are headed to court! We will soon file a lawsuit against Vimeo for discrimination against Church United’s religious beliefs and Pastor Jim Domen’s sexual orientation, as well as violating California’s Free Speech Clause.
*Read my entire letter to Vimeo, as well as Vimeo’s written response, in the links provided at the close of this post.
Advocates would appreciate your faithful prayers as we move forward with this egregious case of censorship and defend the kingdom work of Pastor Jim Domen and Church United.
In His Service,
P.S. If you are able, we would be grateful for your donation to our ministry to allow us to fight this upcoming, costly court battle. Without your partnership and generous support, we would not be able to take on cases like this.