Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ~ The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
We all need to step back and take a long, deep breath. Many who have voiced their opinions concerning A&E Network’s suspension of Phil Robertson for statements made during his recent interview by GQ magazine have staked their position based on a perceived violation of Robertson’s right to “freedom of speech”. While I agree with Robertson’s position, I disagree that his right to freedom of speech was violated. On the contrary, this whole flap is, in a way, “freedom of speech” on full display.
First, consider Phil Robertson, who offered an honest, albeit not eloquent, explanation of his view of homosexuality in response to a question posed to him by a reporter for GQ. Phil has the right to his opinion, and he enjoys the constitutionally protected right to express it. He was not arrested, nor has he been charged with a crime. A&E, however, suspended their relationship with Robertson because the network has taken a position contrary to Robertson’s.
Second, consider A&E. In suspending Robertson, A&E said in their public statement, “His (Robertson’s) personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.” In so doing, A&E chose a side. Some, of course, are pleased with their decision while others clearly are not. In any event, A&E’s executives have the legal right to take this action. A&E is not a governmental authority; therefore their suspension of Robertson is not a fundamental impediment to Robertson’s Constitutional right to freely speak his mind.
Finally, consider the People’s response. Some are advocating a boycott of A&E. Others have posted reprimands on A&E’s social media sites. Some have praised the network for standing up for the LGBT community. Boycotts, reprimands and praise are all expressions of opinion; and as far as I know, none of the individuals offering this feedback have been charged with a crime for expressing their views. They are freely expressing their opinion and the government has not intervened.
So, in a nutshell, Robertson expressed his opinion, A&E spoke by their action, and the People are speaking out in response. Constitutional freedom of speech is alive and well in the USA!
Now it’s my turn. As a Bible-believing Christian, I agree with Robertson’s statements. I would have stated it differently, but I agree with the substance of what he said. I also support A&E’s right to take action; after all, they are a proponent of gay rights and Robertson appears on their network. With that said, A&E’s suspension of Robertson reeks of hypocrisy. I enjoyed several episodes of Duck Dynasty last night – aired on A&E and starring Phil Robertson. While they’ve taken a position, their financial bottom line still rules the day.
A&E’s tagline is “Be Original”. I’m sure they paid some public relations expert a lot of money to come up with that. I wonder what their meaning is behind those two words? What was it about those two words that struck a chord with A&E’s executive team? You see, no matter what position an individual adopts on homosexuality or any other moral issue, a person’s position is grounded in something. On the issue of homosexuality, Robertson’s position, and mine, is grounded in Scripture; A&E’s is not. Perhaps A&E should modify their tagline to something like this: “Be Original. Unless your Originality differs from ours. In that case, Be Quiet.”
(Phil Robertson photo source: Harvest.org)