Facebook apologized for temporarily suspending evangelist Franklin Graham over a 2016 post defending North Carolina’s infamous law barring transgender people from using public restrooms that matches their gender identity.
Graham, a prominent anti-LGBTQ right-wing religious leader, was banned by Facebook for 24-hours last week after flagging one of his 2016 posts criticizing Bruce Springsteen from canceling one of his concerts over North Carolina’s discriminatory law, according to the Charlotte Observer.
A member of the social media giant’s content review team determined the post violated one of its policies banning “dehumanizing language.” The rule prohibits “excluding people based on sexual orientation, race and other factors,” the newspaper reported.
Facebook considers hate speech attacks on a person’s gender identity. But a Facebook spokesperson told the Charlotte Observer that taking down the post and banning Graham had been a “mistake” and that an apology would be extended to the administrator of the evangelist’s page.
I thank @Facebook for their apology and I accept it. All truth is in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” I would encourage all Christians—as well as Facebook—to stand on God’s Word and His truth. pic.twitter.com/rgEsOZna3C
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) December 30, 2018
“A page admin for Franklin Graham’s Facebook page did receive a 24-hour feature block after we removed a post for violating our hate speech policies,” Facebook spokesperson told Fox News in a statement.
It is the latest development in a long-running controversy over the notorious bathroom bill. Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed HB 2 into law in 2016 after the city of Charlotte extended nondiscrimination protections to the LGBTQ community.
HB 2 forced people to use public restrooms that correspond to their “biological sex,” putting transgender people at risk of harassment, discrimination, and violence. It also banned cities from extending similar nondiscrimination protections for trans people.
North Carolina amended the law following massive backlash that resulted in boycotts from artists such as Springsteen, led the NCAA to threaten pulling its championship games from the state, and prompted tech companies to pull business from the state. However, the amended law still left trans people in danger of discrimination at public restrooms.
Graham back in 2016 criticized Springsteen’s boycott: “He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms is going “backwards instead of forwards.” Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense. Mr. Springsteen, a nation embracing sin and bowing at the feet of godless secularism and political correctness is not progress.”
It is unclear why Facebook flagged a 2016 post, nearly three years after the fact.
It’s also not entirely clear whether Graham was trying to specifically misgender trasgendered people in the post by saying the law prevents “men from being able to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms,” which is considered dehumanizing language to trans people, or following a common, debunked right-wing talking point that such nondiscrimination laws allow biological men to prey on women in restrooms.
Graham described Facebook’s policies as a “secret rulebook for policing speech” and said the company is trying to “define the truth.”
In his appearance Sunday on Fox News, Graham said Facebook has thousands of people reviewing billions of pieces of content that is streamed over the social network each day and baselessly speculated that it was a “personal attack” against him.
“The problem with Facebook… If you disagree with their position on sexual orientation than you can be classified as hate speech or that you are a racist,” Graham said.
“The Bible is truth and I would hope they would look at the Bible and get some instruction on God’s word.”