The battle for truth against error rages throughout the world today, and recent events during the past month are especially instructive. We might begin with a look at the repressive government in China, and then see that our own freedoms in America are under a similar assault. The Wall Street Journal reported (1-20-12, A7) regarding Chinese author Yu Jie, “a threat …leveled at him–that the government could round up all significant dissidents and ‘bury them alive’–quickly became a catchphrase on the Chinese internet.” How would he be buried alive? Although this Chinese author no longer lives in mainland China, “Mr. Yu’s name remains blocked in searches on Sina Weibo, which blocks searches for sensitive terms in anticipation of the government’s wishes.” (ibid.) Thus in China the term, “buried alive,” refers to government actions to prevent free expression. We would not have to fear such things from our own government in the U.S., would we?
Actually, yes! Similar efforts have been made by the U.S. government to gain control over the internet, and literally bury or send to oblivion those that it deems a threat to its agenda, ideas or power. Two years ago, a conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority in the “Citizen’s United” ruling overturned a government law banning corporate involvement in politics. This issue has been a cloudy one for many people, but in fact, “The U.S. Government argued in Citizens United that it had the right to ban the publication of books, pamphlets and movies…” (WSJ 1-23-12, A19). We should be aware that even innocent or morally-sounding new laws can often hide a hidden agenda and go far beyond their stated intent. By the way, should not church corporations have similar rights as secular corporations to advocate for morality in government and politics? Incorporated churches in the U.S. are still banned from any such involvement in politics, although the law is typically only exercised against conservative Bible-believing churches in order to attempt to reduce their influence in society.
This past month the U.S. Congress attempted to pass the SOPA Law
This past month the U.S. Congress attempted to pass the SOPA law for the supposed good purpose of preventing internet piracy, but it was stifled by a massive citizen uprising with millions of emails and phone calls to representatives. The law would have allowed the government to force search engines to delete selected websites from the web altogether. As columnist L. Gordon Crovitz stated, “These intrusive remedies, which would have been at the discretion of the Justice Department, included vague rules that could have affected U.S. websites.” (WSJ 1-23-12, A17) The Wall Street Journal summarized the issue well in stating that “Copyright violators should be punished, but not by turning over the Web to Washington.” (ibid.)
Should Christians be concerned about government censorship and control? During this past month of January, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a government attempt to overturn what is called the “ministerial exception,” defined as “meaning they [i.e. churches] are exempt from some government laws, such as anti-discrimination laws. Such an exception allows the Catholic Church to ban women from being priests, for example.” (WSJ 1-12-12, 6A) This legal case struck home for me, because the defendant in the government suit, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church, is located near my boyhood home and was long attended by my next-door neighbors. Despite what you might think, it is definitely not what would be considered a large church, nor do they have a budget of millions of dollars to defend themselves against a government lawsuit; in fact, it is really a classic case of David against Goliath. The pastor, Rev. Paul Undlin, is to be congratulated for standing up against the government onslaught against his religious rights and freedom. He stated, “Praise God for giving the justices the wisdom to uphold the religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution.” (ibid.)
According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, “The Justice Department argued that the same First Amendment analysis should apply to church as to social clubs…As in so many of its policies the Obama Administration’s position reflected both its default preference for government control and its secular indifference to American religious sensibilities.” (ibid., A14)
The frontal assault upon our right of free expression takes on many forms. During this past month, our Canadian British-Israel website www.israelite.ca was brought down due to hacking by unknown parties and remained off the internet for three days while we discussed with the hosting company what had happened and how to proceed to restore our files. Fortunately, we not only back up our files to an external hard disk, but back them up to the “cloud” as well, in case of a physical break-in of our offices. Yet such a hacking incident is disruptive, and our website listing had temporarily dropped several pages in Google until sometime after we restored the site.
This was not an isolated incident. Only a week after this intrusion, our book site at www.migrations.info was also the subject of an unsuccessful attack which was intercepted by our hosting company. Our book site was down for only about thirty minutes on this occasion. We had thought we were safe using a random eight-digit password, which the hosting provider had considered “very strong.” We learned, however, that there are a number of computer programs which allow hackers to run through thousands of password combinations in order to gain entry to a website.
In addition to that, a feature article in the Wall Street Journal (1-23-12, A14) was entitled, “Hackers-for-hire Are Easy To Find.” It discussed not only readily available “off-the-shelf hacking help” but listed services originating in China that offer to hack into websites for as little as US$400. Some of the websites hacked recently include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the large French energy company Electricite de France. Our friends in Great Britain are well aware of the hacking allegations that caused the closure of the large tabloid, News of the World, last year. Although the Journal article stated that China is a major source of web attacks, news organizations have reported that the Israeli government was purportedly behind the “stuxnet” virus that disrupted Iran’s nuclear program. Viruses can be devastating and we are very cautious about opening any email attachments received from unknown sources.
Many large U.S. corporations now use a sixteen-digit password composed of a random set of numbers, letters, and symbols. This allows millions of possible combinations and makes it much harder for hackers to break in. We have now done this to further secure our websites and email from future attacks, and are thankful to report that there have been no further breaches into our accounts since we have put this new heightened security into place.
We have not heard of any similar attacks upon other B.I. organization websites as yet. Why were we singled out? As someone here told me, “we must be doing something right!” Our websites have been ranking very well and thus achieving a high visibility. Yet this should be a wakeup call to other B.I. groups who should take steps now to secure their sites from such attacks in the future.
There is no question that truth is under assault, and that the enemies of righteousness will use every opportunity to attempt to “bury us” by any means possible. As the Apostle Paul admonished, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)