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Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The word “censorship” normally conjures images of Nazis burning books or modern China’s refusal to allow Google or Facebook to operate in the country without extraordinary concessions and government approved filters. Silent censorship, however, has been on the rise in the United States especially on the internet. Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets have restricted conservative or Christian posts and pages for either no clear reason or under the guise of so-called “hate speech.” Google drew fire when it ensured that certain opinions and conservative or Christian views do not appear in its search results. YouTube is gaining notoriety for blocking or demonetizing conservative or Christian videos. Now, it appears that Apple may have jumped on this worrying bandwagon.

James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Illinois hosts a popular iTunes podcast called “Walk the Word.” The series frequently appears in the list of the Top 25 Religion and Spirituality podcasts on iTunes. Despite it consistent and incredible popularity, “Walk the Word” abruptly vanished from not just the list of the top 25 podcasts but from the list of the top 200. Dan Sumpter, the global creative director for Harvest Bible Chapel, said that they are trying to avoid “jumping to conclusions” and want to give “Apple the benefit of the doubt,” but it is impossible to ignore that the sudden disappearance of “Walk the Word” from iTunes podcast charts came within 24 hours of MacDonald asking for Christians to pray “for wisdom for our President as his next SCOTUS nominee is chosen.”

This is hardly the first time that big names in the electronic and internet business have attempted to silence conservatives and Christians, but Apple has so far managed to largely escape notice. While Sumpter remains hopeful that there is an innocent explanation for the podcasts abrupt demotion, he admitted that he is “running out of plausible, alternative explanations” besides deliberate censorship. He stated that, according to the church’s internal analytics, the podcast’s performance had only increased recently. As such, the situation raised questions that “that only Apple can answer.” Any hope for an innocent explanation, however, was strained by the avoidable fact that “the [demotion of the podcast] correlated almost exactly with [the] Facebook post made by Pastor James calling for Christians to pray for the president as he selected his nominee to replace Justice Kennedy.”

When asked about the suspicious timing and inexplicable demotion of “Walk the Word,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said that he “wasn’t surprised” and felt it was another blow from the “left-wing initiative effort to silence conservatives.” Two years ago such a statement would have sounded like the ranting of a conspiracy theorist. Now, however, it is nearly impossible to deny that there is truth to the statement and that Silicon Valley giants are testing to see how much of their weight they can throw around when dealing with Christians. One can only hope that backlash and pressure from Christian groups succeed in restoring the podcast to its rightful place as such groups did in other similar cases and tell the powers of Silicon Valley that the answer to how much censorship they are allowed to exert is a big, fat “none.”