NRB President Heralds Supreme Court Decision, Denounces SOPA

NASHVILLE – National Religious Broadcasters president on Monday praised the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous decision to protect ministries' employment rights and urged action against online piracy legislation.

Frank Wright, NRB president and CEO, heralded the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling favoring the religious liberty of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School as a "rare" but welcomed occurrence during an interview with The Christian Post.

"The Hosanna-Tabor case was an amazing affirmation of what we've always felt were First Amendment rights guaranteed," he said.

Last month, the Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's argument in the lawsuit against Hosanna-Tabor for firing a former religious teacher.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the case was more than a mere employer-employee dispute. Rather, it "interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs."

NRB Senior Vice President Craig Parshall also heralded the decision as "a warning to those who call for increased government intervention into the internal affairs of faith groups" in a statement.

Wright told CP he believes the decision will open the door for future ministry protections.

"Hosanna-Tabor, at the end of the day, I think, will be looked back [on] as a historic decision that will impact our culture in some dramatic ways going forward because the tide had been going against us," he said.

However, Wright warned religious non-profits and church ministries about becoming too comfortable. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) threatens the future of religious broadcasters, he warned.

SOPA legislation would give the government the power to "suspend the operation of, and lock, the domain name" of a website deemed guilty of "infringing activity," according to the bill's description.

Wright summarized, "The first thing SOPA does is that it establishes a new federal police power to go out in the market place of ideas and close down websites and close down media organizations that they believe are violating intellectual property rights."

The proposed legislation, he said, would also allow the government to define what infringing activity would merit website closure.

Additionally, Wright said SOPA does not allow for due process, the chance to refute piracy allegations brought against an individual or organization. If passed into law, Wright said it would only be a matter of time before the law would be used to shut down the websites of religious non-profits.

Many organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, share NRB's objection to the SOPA bill. However, some people, like Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, oppose SOPA but still believe that there is should be some kind federal law punishing online misdeeds.

Wright told CP that the courts already provided a remedy for piracy victims.

"If someone's stealing your property, you take them to court and sue them and that's the way things are resolved," he said.

The NRB head said they are working with lawmakers to address these concerns.

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