American Bible Society draws criticism for applying restrictive policies on use of .bible domain

The American Bible Society (ABS) is being criticized for applying restrictive policies on the use of its recently acquired .bible top-level domain name.

The .bible domain has been managed by ABS since 2016 and at least 1,190 groups have acquired the domain name.

Some scholars, however, have raised concerns about how the ABS is running the domain name, with some complaining that the organization had applied restrictive policies that limit a wide range of faiths and essentially exclude any group with a scholarly or secular orientation.

Religion News Service reported that ABS had recently enacted a policy prohibiting 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, raised their objections, the ABS backtracked and modified the policy to include the participation of Jews.

However, some scholars have complained that the policy reversal did not go far enough. The revised policies reportedly forbid content that “advocates belief in any religious or faith tradition other than orthodox Christianity or Judaism.” It also does not allow “any content that communicates disrespect for God as He is revealed in the Bible” as well as “[a]ny content that communicates disrespect for the Bible.”

“The policy remains at its core insufficient,” said John Kutsko, executive director of the Society of Biblical Literature. “The ABS excludes those critical of religious traditions or views considered unorthodox by ABS, which is basically a good deal of scholarship,” he continued.

ABS said in a short statement that it had met with “complaining parties,” but insisted that it is “complete compliance” with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages internet resources and coordinates its domain name system.

In 2013, ABS had stated that it intends “to make .BIBLE domain names available to individuals and groups who have a healthy respect for the Bible.” The group also noted in its ICANN application that it intends to protect the .bible domain from “inappropriate use.”

The Saudi Arabia’s Communication and Information Technology Commission had objected to the application at that time saying, it believes that there is no clear consensus on who or what defines the “bible.”

The commission argued that allowing the domain to be registered would be “offensive to many people and societies on religious grounds.”

ABS said in a statement that its advisory council will review the criteria for membership on the dispute panel at its next meeting, but declined to provide further details.