A Massachusetts pro-life Catholic man claims that Facebook censored a peaceful quote from the theologian St. Augustine of Hippo as “hate speech.”
According to LifeSiteNews, Dominic Bettinelli published the St. Augustine quote on his Facebook page after two priests with whom he was friendly were allegedly censored by the social media platform for publishing the same words, arguing they violated “community standards on hate speech.”
The quote, which originates from one of the saint’s homilies, essentially repeats Jesus Christ’s command in Matthew 7:3 for people to focus on their own sins instead of focusing upon the sins of others.
“Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon,” says the Augustine quote. “But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.”
To most reasonable people, the quote seems the exact opposite of “hate speech.” In fact, it condemns “hate speech” by admonishing people for accusing others instead of worrying about their own problems.
“Hate speech?” Bettinelli asked in regards to the censoring. “It’s the opposite of hate speech. It’s calling for people to stop focusing on others’ sins and concentrate on their own. Augustine is just re-formulating Jesus’ own words from the Gospel: ‘Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?’ (Matthew 7:3).”
At first, Bettinelli believed the censorship originated from a mistaken computer algorithm; his assumptions were dashed when even a human review deemed the quote violated community standards of “hate speech.” In response, Bettinelli openly asked Facebook if the censoring implied that the Gospel promotes “hate speech.”
“I still don’t understand why this is hate speech,” Bettinelli told Facebook. “It’s a quote from a Catholic saint who expresses the opposite of hate speech. He is essentially restating the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to stop worrying about what the other guy is or isn’t doing and worry about your own flaws. Is Facebook saying that the Gospel is hate speech? But what’s worse is that I have no more understanding now of what is a violation of your community standards than I did before. I cannot for the life of me figure out why you label this hate speech.”
Speaking with LifeSiteNews, the pro-lifer said that friends of his have received similar notices from the social media platform for posting religious posts — none of which focus on particularly hot-button issues.
“A friend posted ‘men are hopeless creatures’ and that got banned, so that seems to be the relevant part that is hate speech,” he said.
The censoring has not stopped Bettinelli from talking about St. Augustine; he has vowed to blog about it, instead.
“If FB doesn’t want me to post it, then I’m going to blog about it and then I’m going to podcast about it and I’m going to make a stink about it until someone with some power gets FB to admit that quotations from early Church fathers is [sic] not hate speech,” he wrote on Facebook.