What the Fuck Just Happened at Patheos?

Start here at Gods & Radicals with a reblog of John Halstead’s latest blog post on Patheos Pagan. You’ll have to view it at Gods & Radicals because Patheos has since removed the post and blocked Halstead from accessing his blog.

As Halstead explains, Patheos writers very recently received new contracts. In addition to his legal analysis of the contract amendments, a friend of mine in corporate law reviewed the contract I received as well, and both of them confirmed the suspicions of some of us that vague terms like “related companies” can be liberally interpreted to mean whatever Patheos’ managers decide they mean later.

There are numerous issues different writers have with the contract. In the censored piece, Halstead discusses changes to the pay structure, permitted tone, and editorial control. The one that stands out to me is the prohibition of “disparaging remarks” against Patheos or “or any of its related companies.”

Who is Related to Patheos?

In September, Patheos was acquired by BN Media, a group that also owns Affinity4 and Beliefnet. Bloomberg identifies the chairman of BN Media as Joseph R. Gregory, who is a founding partner of an investment banking firm connected with Affinity4, chairman of Beliefnet, and founder/chairman of the NRA’s Ring of Freedom Foundation, among other accomplishments.

If you check out the Beliefnet management page, you will see that there is significant overlap between BN Media, Affinity4, the charities Affinity4 raises money for, and Beliefnet. For instance, Steve Halliday is the President/CEO of both Affinity4 and Beliefnet, as well as CEO of BN Media according to another source. And Jay Sekulow is both a board member of Beliefnet and chief council for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group Affinity4 is partnered with.

Affinity4 is a company that essentially raises money for non-profits. On their website, they identify several groups that have received their help. Among them are the ACLJ, the NRA, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In summary, Patheos is owned by BN Media, which also owns a significant funding channel for what people of conscience might consider some of the most noxious anti-Queer, anti-abortion, and anti-Muslim radical Christian groups in the world. And swimming in the midst of both BN Media’s subsidiaries and evangelical right-wing culture are men like Jay Sekulow, who through the ACLJ has been connected to efforts at criminalizing homosexuality in Africa, anti-Queer conversion torture in Brazil, and numerous rightwing antics in the States.

Nevertheless, none of these connections are particularly new. What is new is that Patheos wants its writers to sign a contract that prohibits them from disparaging “related companies.”

Who is a “related company”? Well, according to both of the lawyers I know who have read the contract, arguably anyone Patheos determines to be “related” at a later date. This could be non-profits Affinity4 wants to partner with, or anyone they already are partnering with. It could be any of the foundations or groups associated with any of the board members of Patheos, BN Media, Beliefnet, or Affinity4.

The vagueness benefits Patheos more than it benefits their writers, and if the verbal assurances about free expression were authentic, the contract would be clarified. Additionally, when Halstead identified several groups that could be reasonably called “related companies” to Patheos, his post was not only removed, but he was blocked out of his account. So much for waiting to see if they enforce this shit or not.

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By No machine-readable author provided. Nordelch assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=730892

Writers Won’t Kiss Ass

I don’t know what other Patheos writers are thinking. Many I know seem comfortable with the contract changes. Others I have heard, aren’t.

Those of us who routinely push back against the social constraints placed on sexuality, gender, theology, and politics are right to express concern about censorship and whether or not we will log in one day to discover that Patheos has blocked our account access, as literally happened just today.

Additionally, as both an activist and writer, I feel I owe my readers and the face-to-face communities I serve commitment to the values I write about. That is why I am not only refusing to sign the new Patheos contract but terminating my original contract with them. I have archived all of my work that has been published there and may republish select pieces here or elsewhere in the future. Either way, I ask that my readers stop visiting Patheos or any blog they publish.

Writing in support of Queer people is pointless if the site that publishes you is funding* the fight against our lives at the same time. While I appreciate the efforts to renegotiate the contract, I cannot in good conscience continue to allow my work to be associated with Patheos. I am grateful for the editorial and reader support I have earned through my work there, however, this is the necessary end to that chapter of my life as a writer.

I hope that other writers of conscience will join me in refusing to create content that produces profit for the men who also direct a major source of funds for right-wing politics. I hope Patheos readers will join me in a general boycott of the website, and in encouraging their favorite bloggers to migrate somewhere with better ethics.

The faux-tolerance and Christianist politics of Patheos’ owners belong with their sites’ clunky, ad-littered, and outdated web layouts: back in the 90s. It’s 2017 now. There are so many better sites to write for, and so many accessible resources to aid writers in publishing and promoting themselves. We don’t owe shit to people who want us criminalized or dead.

*Updated to clarify: as I specified in the next paragraph (“I hope that other writers…”), our content at Patheos produces some form of gain financial or otherwise for the company’s owners, who are openly associated with various right-wing causes and funding them. This is crucially different than stating that Patheos itself is directly funding the NRA, AFA, ACLJ, etcs.

© Pat Mosley, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pat Mosley with an active and specific link to the original content

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16 thoughts on “What the Fuck Just Happened at Patheos?

  1. Thank you. I stand with you, John and whoever else is opposing the new contract and new ownership. The writing has been on the wall for a little while. Time to read it closely now.

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  4. Oh my god(s), Trump then this!? I would suggest…no, beg Patheos writers to launch a new forum and disparage the cap or of their former host. I feel for the writers that have so far tried to remain non-political that might find themselves torn between maintaining their readership or their moral integrity. I hope the latter wins out.

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    • I didn’t finish reading before I commented, you already suggested it. So I just want to say thank you for this.
      My 2 more cents…Patheos obviously doesn’t respect democratic principles, which are necessary for ‘hosting the coversation…’ on faith, imnsho.
      Thanks again!

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  5. Thank you for reporting on this. I have not read Patheos much since I suspended my writing of the “Queer I Stand” column there several years back, and now I have that much more reason to not read anything posted there ever again.

    While I can’t say that I saw any writing on the wall there that far back, nonetheless the ways in which all of the pagan portal’s authors were treated rather contemptuously on a regular basis by the other portals’ authors, and our negative comments on their pieces (even when phrased constructively) were blocked or deleted whereas theirs were not on ours (and I was never given full access to my own account there–everything I wrote for them had to pass through at least one editor, I couldn’t block or delete comments or edit my own pieces, etc….interesting double standard, innit?) were certainly things that did not please me very much at the time.

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