In Chile, judges intervened against comments regarded as offensive to a whole religion—allegedly based on “shunning” practiced by Evangelicals.
by Massimo Introvigne
Should tweets stating that “Evangelicals in politics are repulsive” be deleted? Yes, said the Court of Appeal of Santiago, in Chile, in a decision dated February 4, 2021, whose full text has just been published. And, if Twitter refuses to cancel the tweet, the Court can and should compel the user to remove it.
The defendant in the case was a municipality councilman of Providencia, a wealthy suburb of Santiago, called Jaime Parada Hoyl. He is nationally famous as a LGBT activist, and as the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in Chile. The plaintiffs were three Evangelical politicians.
Parada Hoyl had published a series of tweets stating that “Evangelicals in politics are a danger,” “They are a cancer for the Republic,” “There is evidence in all countries of Latin America of how they are destroying democracy with their interpretation of the Bible. They should go back to their temples.” On September 25, 2020, he tweeted: “For some two years, I have argued that Evangelicals in politics are dangerous. Today, I would say more: Evangelicals in politics are repulsive.” This prompted other Twitter users to add comments to the effect that Evangelicals should be prevented from running for office and even from voting. Parada Hoyl also tweeted that, “I couldn’t care less if my comments are regarded as discriminatory.”
Although some users reported Parada Hoyl to Twitter, the company did not take action. Hence, three Evangelical politicians took him to court. Parada Hoyl tried to convert the case into one where some Evangelical practices would be put on trial. He insisted that Evangelical churches promote and practice “shunning” against those in their community who come out as gay. They are ostracized even by their close relatives, he said. Indeed, Parada Hoyl argued that one of the plaintiffs, Kevin Valenzuela Arroyo, released statements implying that shunning those advocating for “sin,” including LGBT activists, is in accordance with the Bible. These statements, unlike Parada Hoyl’s own tweets, had been censored by Twitter.
Parada Hoyl also insisted that Evangelical politicians put women in danger through their opposition to abortion, and filed documents about some Evangelical MPs who had been found guilty of corruption.
The court refused to follow Parada Hoyl’s line of argument. The trial was not about the practices or statements of some Evangelicals, the judges said, nor about some tweets of plaintiff Valenzuela Arroyo, against which Parada Hoyl had already filed successful complaints to Twitter. What the judges should determine is whether a blanket indictment of Evangelicals active in politics as “repulsive” and “dangerous” amounts to religious discrimination. The court concluded that Parada Hoyl’s tweets referred to Evangelicals as such, identified by their religious affiliations. He didn’t limit itself to call “repulsive” homophobic opinions expressed by some Evangelicals, but stated that Evangelicals in general are a “cancer” when they exert their right to run for political office.
The court concluded that Parada Hoyl was guilty of religious discrimination. It ordered him to remove the offensive tweets and not to post similar contents on social media in the future.