If you haven’t heard yet, Phil Robertson – patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty show – was quoted in GQ saying some not-so-flattering things about homosexuality. That Robertson feels this way is unsurprising, given that he’s a 67-year-old camo-clad uber Christian from the backwaters of Louisiana. He called being gay an illogical sin — a sentiment I completely disagree with but frankly, I’ve heard far worse.
But he wasn’t content to just stop there. When asked what, specifically, he considers sinful, Robertson said:
Got that? According to Robertson, if you start with a gay person the next logical step in the sin spiral is fornicating with an animal. Because those two things obviously go hand in hand and certainly should be mentioned in the same breath as one another.
Also, just for good measure, Robertson implies that African-Americans living in 1960s Louisiana were happier before all that pesky Civil Rights nonsense brought them legal rights and basic equality.
Oh boy. Yikes.
The backlash from GLAAD was swift and justifiably upset. Then, as expected, came the corresponding backlash from the backlash courtesy of the Tea Party conservative Christian right, who hailed Robertson as a folk hero being criticized simply for spreading God’s message.
Honestly, I thought it would be a non-issue for A&E simply because Duck Dynasty draws 14 million viewers and is a cash cow to the network. I figured it would be a slap on the wrist for Robertson and then back to business. But late last night, A&E issued a statement condemning the star’s remarks and suspending him indefinitely from the show.
And that’s when the crazies really hit the roof.
“PHIL ROBERTSON HAS BEEN STRIPPED OF HIS FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!”
That was the rallying cry of Twitter and Facebook last night, as Robertson’s supporters took to social media and lambasted the TV network for robbing Mr. Duck Dynasty of his First Amendment rights. This is but a small sampling.
Charming aren’t they?
Look, let’s boil this down to brass tacks. Phil Robertson didn’t lose his freedom of speech or any of his first amendment rights. This is evident by the mere fact that he took advantage of his freedom to say exactly how he felt in the GQ article. Robertson’s rights are intact and he is free to spew forth all kinds of bigotry and intolerance that is masked in the cloak of religion.
And while free speech ensures Robertson will not be locked up for expressing his religious beliefs, it does not mean everyone has to sit by and let it go unchallenged. It does not mean A&E has to keep him on as an employee if they feel he is degrading their brand.
But most importantly, freedom of speech does not mean saying whatever hateful things you want without any consequences.
Phil Robertson is an employee of A&E. And when an employee — any employee — starts calling an entire segment of the population illogical sinners and comparing their love life to people fornicating with animals, that employee is taking a risk.
If I maligned a whole group of people for no other reason than their sexual orientation in a major media publication, I’d be fired. Most of us would. I have the right and the freedom to do so, but I go into that knowing I’m risking my job. The same is true for Robertson. That’s why I don’t feel bad for a second, nor do I think anyone’s rights or basic freedoms are being curtailed.
Unlike the right for gay people to have marriage equality in a majority of US states.
And please spare me the poor persecuted Christians act. More than three-quarters of the population identifies as Christian, making Christians the overwhelming majority. It’s why I have to put up with nativity scenes and prayer booths on town property, and why my child is taught to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. For Christians to claim they are somehow a persecuted minority is the most laughable and ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
But the saddest part about all this is I know how it will all play out.
Look at the hashtags on Twitter: #istandwithphil and #isupportphil. His core demographic will take this opportunity to get behind morons like Sarah Palin, and the show will probably experience a groundswell of support in this aftermath. It’ll be similar to how people supported Chick-fil-a after their homophobic statements. And it’ll sicken me to watch a large portion of the American public rally around bigotry and intolerance, masquerading as a misguided effort to retain free speech.
Imagine for a second if everyone rallied around gay people who simply want the right to marry one another in peace. To enjoy the legal recognition straight people never have to worry about. To not be turned away in hospital rooms while checking on their partners, and to be able to receive American flags at funerals when they lose partners who are military veterans.
Imagine if we placed a greater emphasis on helping one another instead of so fervently defending Phil Robertson’s right to be a bigot in the name of God.
I don’t want to take away Phil Robertson’s right to voice his opinion. But as long as his opinion is one of nastiness that is used to help deny gay people equal rights under the law, I will continue to speak up against it. And I will never sit idly by and tolerate intolerant opinions.