On Phil Robertson and Freedom of Speech

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.

Phil Robertson photo credit: harvest.orgFirst, 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!

The Newseum's Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by ...

The Newseum’s Five (5) freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment ot the US Constitution. 1. Freedom of Religion 2. Freedom of Speech 3. Freedom of the Press 4. Freedom of Assembly Peaceably 5. Freedom to Petition the Governement for Grievances (Opening April 11, 2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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)

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4 thoughts on “On Phil Robertson and Freedom of Speech

  1. Skye December 23, 2013 at 6:11 am Reply

    “Be Original. Unless your Originality differs from ours. In that case, Be Quiet.” Exactly. 🙂 Hey!!! Hope you and your beautiful family have a Merry Christmas!

    Like

    • KellerTxDad December 24, 2013 at 10:18 am Reply

      Skye, Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

      Like

  2. Greg Rice December 23, 2013 at 10:46 am Reply

    Excellent point, Jeff. I too side with Phil Robertson as a biblically grounded Christian. I also defend A&E’s right to be hypocritical.

    When it comes to the concept of “freedom of speech”, we Americans get ourselves in a twist when we forget that the First Amendment deals with the relationship between the Federal government and the citizenry. It does not extend into relationships beyond that scope, such as in this case of a contractor relationship.

    Too many of us get so worked up over things before we examine the relevant facts of any given situation. Since the Federal government is not the one sanctioning Phil Robertson, this is not a First Amendment issue. It is a labor dispute between a company and a contract worker. Simple as that!

    As Christians, we are to stand for what is right based on the Word of God. But that does not mean we should be lazy in defining the issues in the situations in which we become involved.

    Once again, great insights, Jeff!

    Like

  3. KellerTxDad December 24, 2013 at 10:18 am Reply

    Greg, thank you for reading and thank you for your comment. Merry Christmas!

    Like

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