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Phil Robertson’s right to speak his faith

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Bob Fredericks and Michael Starr wrote an article for the New York Post on Dec. 20, 2013 relating that other family members of the Duck Dynasty cast will not work unless Phil Robertson is reinstated on the show. The family has contacted A&E regarding cancellation of this number one rated show. Over 1 million people have vowed to boycott A&E if Duck Dynasty is cancelled.

Phil Robertson was indefinitely suspended from A&E’s Duck Dynasty show on December 19, 2013. Robertson was interviewed for an article by GQ magazine writer Drew Margary in which Robertson was asked, “What, in your mind, is sinful?” Robertson’s initial statement was “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.”

Phil Robertson is an elder at White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La. While his statements about homosexuality are crude and definitely not politically correct, what he has said is directly referenced in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Leviticus 18 gives the general prohibitions about what a strict follower of Jewish laws could not do in many areas of life. The prohibitions include eating fat, sleeping with one’s mother, sister, or sister-in-law. In Leviticus 18:22, there is the prohibition against a man sleeping with a man. In Leviticus 18:23, there is a prohibition against a man or woman sleeping with an animal.

While many do not agree with Robertson’s statements, he had the right to answer according to his faith, which is clearly Christian fundamentalist. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal summarized the situation very accurately and succinctly.

“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with. I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.”

Robertson’s statements were not made on the Duck Dynasty show. He made his comments as an individual that happens to be part of one of the most watched shows on TV. A&E responded to protests by the LGBT community and the NAACP by sacking Robertson. A&E should have taken advantage of the publicity, stated it did not agree with Robertson’s views and continued forward. GLADD has reported that theA&E's firing of Robertson for his anti-homosexual remarks has created a huge volume of hate calls to GLADD headquarters.

The joint letter from the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign to A&E stated

“These remarks go beyond being outlandishly inaccurate and offensive. They are dangerous and revisionist, appealing to those in our society who wish to repeat patterns of discrimination.”

Robertson’s remarks are offensive to many, but they are not going to cause a return to segregation, lynching and laws against interracial marriage. His memory of working side-by-side with blacks with no complaints of the blacks’ conditions is clouded by age and not reflective of the overall conditions in the South at that time.

Robertson described himself in the interview as being “white trash.” Robertson’s current wealth takes him out of the white trash economic status. After the furor over the GQ magazine interview, Robertson said that he loves everyone. If this is true, he falls in with those that “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

There are several good things happening around the controversy that Robertson’s comments have generated.

  1. People unfamiliar with the Old Testament are getting to see why Jesus recommended forgetting the Jewish laws and focusing on loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.
  2. Given that there is about a 50:50 split in the population supporting gay marriage, this provides the “not for gay marriage” group a voice.
  3. Robertson has a right to express his religious views even when they are unpopular with large numbers of other citizens.
  4. Members of the LGBT community have an opportunity to express their objections to the biblical prohibitions against homosexuality, and to the statements made by Robertson.

The first amendment guarantees should have protected Phil Robertson’s ability to express his personal religious views outside of the Duck Dynasty program. Free speech is not necessarily acceptable speech to many. It is necessary to maintain the first amendment separation of church and state, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peacefully. Phil Robertson should be reinstated on Duck Dynasty. Fortunately we have the freedom to choose to watch that show, or not.

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