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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Science and Theology in the Public Square

Is there undue regulation of free speech on Youtube? I learned that an interview conducted by two doctors out of Bakersfield, CA may have been taken down. Apparently, some can still post it so that it is still available. The justification however was provided that this interview constituted a violation of community standards. In fact, they simply presented scientific evidence that brings into question some of our public policies—including policies that are regulating gatherings for public worship. Their findings were startling because they called into question many of the practices now in place and by so doing, these findings were helping to advance a better conversation that might help us make prudent adjustments. Yet they may have been taken down as misinformation. This was the same justification given to me by Facebook over my posts on prayer in that forum. I was told that my posts about the spiritual life did not conform to community standards. I am surprised that there should be a connection between theology and science on Facebook and Google—that the administrators of these commercial products feel that they must suppress both. This would seem, however, to be a betrayal of the very values that they have allied themselves with in public. To be clear, I believe an abundance of caution is called for in our public policies because this is a dangerous virus. We should protect one another - for the common good of our society is at stake. But that common good cannot be served in so far as efforts to discern the truth are suppressed. Some disagree with this position. At a time of crisis, they believe that any dissent is irresponsible speech. They believe the expression of ideas should be regulated on the internet as it is in China: https://www.theatlantic.com/…/what-covid-revealed-a…/610549/ As the culturally powerful crush dissenting opinion, our ability to discern the truth as a society is compromised. That is why it is very important for Catholics to bring their voice and perspectives into the public square - for religious freedom is not a private right, but a public good. Alerting the public to new evidence and discussing it, even if it calls into question current policy, is a responsible use of social media and should be affirmed in the community standards of Facebook and Youtube. The whole history of the 20th century tells us that freedom to religion and the access to truth are public goods that are easily lost—and when lost, it is always to the detriment of humanity. In California, the governor has dictated a plan by which Churches will remain closed for months on end. Apparently, it is the feeling - not of the people—but of policy makers that religion is too dangerous for society—a belief held by totalitarian regimes. What kind of society do we live in? Whether or not the governor has dictated a good plan we will never know because, thanks to the totalitarian tactics of Facebook and Youtube, voices of science and religion are being suppressed.

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