Social Media Platform Refuses to Restore Church United Account
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Desare Ferraro, firstname.lastname@example.org
June 27, 2019
Attorneys for Church United, a national religious nonprofit that helps pastors and churches respond to cultural issues, have filed a complaint on behalf of the California-based organization and its founder, the Rev. Jim Domen, against the online social media platform Vimeo.
Church United’s Vimeo account, storing 89 of the organization’s videos, was terminated in November 2018 after Vimeo decided five videos violated its guidelines against “videos that harass, incite hatred, or include discriminatory or defamatory speech.”
Early this year, Nada Higuera, an attorney for Tyler & Bursch, LLP / Advocates for Faith & Freedom, sent a letter to Vimeo requesting the restoration of Church United’s account on the basis that Domen was censored for his sexual orientation and religious beliefs. Vimeo refused.
On June 25, 2019, Tyler & Bursch, LLP filed a federal sexual orientation and religious discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Church United in U.S. District Court.
The content in question are five videos in which Domen, a former homosexual and a Christian pastor, discusses the issues surrounding Assembly Bill 2943, proposed legislation banning any sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), therapy, or publications.
Other Church United video segments included Domen as well as other ex-homosexuals (“formers”) sharing their experiences with SOCE and attesting to how it has positively impacted their lives. None of the media content speaks negatively about the LGBT community.
“They claim we are promoting hate and bigotry but none of our videos espouse any of that,” Domen said.
Vimeo denies religious or sexual orientation discrimination against Domen or Church United, stating that SOCE content has been prohibited on the site since 2014 because it “disseminate(s) irrational and stereotypical messages that may be harmful to people in the LGBT community.”
“How can this be happening in America, just because I’m different or have a different viewpoint?” Domen said. “Why are Church United and me being ostracized and unfairly targeted? It makes me sick to my stomach that in America — where you have freedom of religion — these freedoms are being taken away.”
Tyler & Bursch asserts that Vimeo’s treatment of Domen is a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the act established to provide protections from any discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation.
“All Americans, secular and religious, gay or straight, deserve the right to engage in public discourse, free from the type of censorship Vimeo is engaged in,” said Higuera. “Vimeo’s actions of deleting Church United’s account is discrimination and censorship, based entirely on an unspecified ideological objection to the message, or on the perceived identity and religious viewpoint of the speaker.”
Pastor Domen said he was hopeful a resolution could have been reached but is grateful to “live in a country where at least we have the opportunity to seek justice when an injustice has been done.”
He said he’s “seeking justice not only for me but the thousands of Formers who are continually discriminated against. As well as pastors and people of faith who truly want to help people transform their lives.”
Church United has more than 700 members representing a broad spectrum of Christian traditions. It exists to inform and support leaders on a range of social and ethical issues from a historical biblical perspective.
“We’ve already experienced repercussions from those who espouse tolerance but refuse to reciprocate when the viewpoint is different from their own,” said Domen. “But instead of focusing on hate-filled responses, I choose to focus on the transformational power of Jesus Christ and His grace, His mercy, His love. That makes it worth being a target.”
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