Christian-right activist David Barton said on his radio program last week that “net neutrality” was against the biblical principle of the free market.
“Net neutrality sounds really good, but it is socialism on the internet,” said Barton, president of Wall Builders and former co-chair of the Texas Republican Party.
“Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online,” according to the SavetheInternet.com Coalition. “It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies.”
During his radio program, Barton said the principle of a free market was a biblical principle. He also said he had free-market quotes from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and that the Pilgrims and Puritans brought the free market to American shores.
Indentifying net neutrality as the Fairness Doctrine, which requires broadcasters to provide equal time to different viewpoints, Barton said, “This is the Fairness Doctrine applied to the Internet, and I’ll go back to what I believed for a long time is: fair is a word no Christian should ever use in their vocabulary.”
He called net neutrality “wicked stuff.”
Barton said that broadband providers had a right to charge more for services used. He also objected to government interference.
“This is crazy stuff,” said Barton. “This is redistribution of wealth through the internet and it really is redistribution. This is socialism on the internet.”
Other Christians disagree with Barton’s position.
SavetheInternet.com Coalition members include the Christian Coalition of America, Covenant College (a conservative Presbyterian school in Chattanooga) and Common Cause.
Saying that net neutrality will protect consumer rights, the coalition said, “The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies – including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable – want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all.”
The coalition accused these companies of wanting to “reserve express lanes for their own content and services – or those of big corporations that can afford the steep tolls – and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.”
The net neutrality advocacy group said that “without Net Neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu.”
The Christian Coalition said net neutrality has “helped build and maintain a free, open and vibrant Internet. These policies have been in place since the beginning of the Internet and have ensured fairness for all people and points of view.”
In a January 2011 letter to Congress, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote: “As the Internet continues to grow in its influence and prominence in Americans’ lives, we support legislation and federal regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet for all, including religious and non-profit agencies, as well as those in more sparsely populated or economically distressed areas. True net neutrality is necessary for people to flourish in a democratic society.”
The National Council of Churches passed a resolution supporting net neutrality in October 2010.
As for Barton, Fox News host Glenn Beck once called him “one of the most important men in America.”
At a March 2011 “Rediscover God in America” conference in Des Moines, Iowa, former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee said of Barton, “I just wish that every single young person in America would be able to be under his tutelage and understand something about who we really are as a nation.”
Huckabee said: “I almost wish that there would be like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced – forced at gun point no less to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it.”