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Pro-life arguments banned by HeraldTimesOnline

By Scott Tibbs, May 23, 2011

Back in January, I posted about the Herald-Times' quirky religion rules, when the H-T told me that I had to remove a Bible verse from the letter to the editor I submitted about the 2011 Rally for Life. I was told that if I did not remove the verse, it would be published on the religion page instead of as a LTTE. I pointed out that my LTTE was well within the guidelines and it was published as written.

Now, it is really getting strange

A number of polls over the years have shown that a majority of the American people say that abortion is murder. In a June 2000 Gallup poll, 57% said that abortion is murder. Tens of millions of people nationwide and tens of thousands in Monroe County believe that abortion is murder. Obviously, I agree with that position. I do not see how one can view the results of abortion and see otherwise.

On Wednesday night, I made a comment on a letter to the editor about Planned Parenthood losing taxpayer funding. In this comment, I quoted Governor Daniels' statement that "any organization affected by this provision can resume receiving taxpayer dollars immediately by ceasing or separating its operations that perform abortions."

My comment was: "In other words, stop murdering babies and you can have the money."

Because of this statement, my post was deleted.

So what happened? The H-T took some heat for its moderation policies after a Democratic activist accused former Republican city council member David Sabbagh of felony voter fraud for voting in the Democratic primary. One anonymous commenter whined that the H-T allows me to "claim that Planned Parenthood commits felonies" and yet my posts are never censored by the HTO moderators. (See pages 21, 22 and 23 of that thread.) In an e-mail last week, H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg referenced that controversy:

We (and the Associated Press style we follow) believe "murder" is a legal term that refers to an actual charge in a court system. This is consistent with the dictionary definition which is the "unlawful and malicious or pre-meditated killing of one human being by another."

After a recent HTO exchange in which one commenter said another committed a felony based on that commenter’s point of view and not actual law, we discussed this use of the term “murder” and decided it was in a similar ballpark.

So, the new policy of HeraldTimesOnline.com is that statements such as "stop murdering babies" are suddenly a violation of the HTO terms of service agreement, despite the fact that such statements have never been a violation at any time in the last four years since comments were enabled. The Herald-Times has decided that it is now against the rules to articulate the basic premise of the pro-life movement.

Obviously, the H-T has the right to publish or not publish whatever it wants and HeraldTimesOnline.com is free to impose whatever rules it wants on its website.

It is beyond shameful, however, for the primary news source in Monroe County to censor a commonly-held viewpoint about a controversial social issue such as abortion. Banning statements that abortion is murder is an underhanded and cynical attempt to tilt the rhetorical battlefield in favor of abortion rights. After all, most abortion opponents would not oppose abortion if we did not believe it was murder. This type of heavy-handed censorship is antithetical to the free exchange of ideas that should be the cornerstone of debate and discussion in the comments.

The HTO comment guidelines forbids posters from using "obscene, libelous, harassing, racist, hateful or violent language or images." Had I named the abortionist at PP and said "X is a murderer" then I could see why the comment would be deleted - even though that individual is a murderer. I did not even name any specific abortion provider in my comment. Any suggestion that my post even approached libel is laughable.

This is a shameful decision by the Herald-Times. If this policy remains in place, there can be no further doubt about the level of integrity at 1900 South Walnut.