Skip to Content

Free Expression

Washington Post: Facebook wouldn’t let a Catholic priest use the title ‘father.’ Now he’s fighting back.

Washington Post:

“For members of the clergy, how essential is that aspect of their public selves? And who gets to decide that?

On Facebook, it’s the company that decides, a policy which has set off renewed public debate in recent weeks after a prominent D.C. Catholic priest – who also is a national columnist – was locked out by Facebook because his clerical title was listed as part of his name on his personal page.

The fresh debate about what titles are allowed on Facebook reflects two intense, complex issues of American life in 2015: the place of institutional religion in the public square and the question of identity online. In this case, the two aren’t related but overlap.


Nuala O’Connor, president for the Center for Democracy & Technology, said there is a lot of thought going into questions today of “digital dignity,” and that Facebook has a team of people working on the issue.

“When people are identifiable on line, there is a higher quality of speech, more respect, less hate speech, and these real name policies are an intentional outgrowth of that, which is a laudable goal,” she said. “But it’s not perfect in its implementation. How do we create both a safe place for free speech but also respectful dialogue, communities of care and respect, and that is hard.”

Link to full article.