A group of Bible scholars is concerned about free expression on the internet.
VIDEO: Promotional video by the American Bible Society on the new “.Bible” top-level domain
Specifically, they object to the way the American Bible Society is running its recently acquired .bible domain name, which they say strictly limits a wide range of faiths and essentially excludes any group with a scholarly or secular orientation.
“The internet is public space,” said John Kutsko, executive director of the Society of Biblical Literature, the oldest and largest learned society devoted to the critical investigation of the Bible, with about 8,500 members, mostly scholars. “It’s our understanding that .bible was registered to be public space and not have the kind of restrictions that you would expect of a domain that was proprietary or brand-oriented.”
The question became urgent after the American Bible Society acquired the .bible top-level domain name — an identification string like “.com” or “.org” — and then applied restrictive policies on who can use it.
Those policies, critics say, strictly limit a wide range of faiths and essentially exclude any group with a scholarly or secular orientation. Further, they are inconsistent with the open-ended nature of the web, which is intended to be more democratic and to allow for free inquiry.
The ABS has been managing the domain since 2016 and has so far granted about 1,190 groups the .bible domain name.
But until a few weeks ago, the ABS prohibited registrants from posting any material that “espouses or promotes a religious, secular, or other worldview that is antithetical to New Testament principles, including but not limited to the promotion of a non-Christian religion or set of religious beliefs.”
After scholars with the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as some Jewish organizations, protested, the ABS modified its policies last month, inviting the participation of Jews.
But the scholars said this does not go far enough. In a commentary published by Religion News Service last week, Marc Zvi Brettler, a professor of Jewish studies at Duke University, said the restrictive policies of the ABS raise concerns about its suitability as sole custodian for the .bible domain.