To avoid getting bogged down in the witless minutiae of those who will studiously miss the point, let me get the boring stuff out of the way at the outset: Having nothing to do with the government, A&E’s suspension of duck-dynast Phil Robertson is not a First Amendment issue, and his freedom of speech has not been violated. By the same token, A&E, being a private company, can more or less do what it wants. Absent a hidden contractual provision or a subtle violation of employment law, the network was within its rights to suspend their star for what he said. That’s how liberty works.
That notwithstanding, the decision is a terrible one, and it speaks poorly of the culture that more people aren’t up in arms. American liberty relies upon an awful lot more than just a legal framework. If it is to flourish, it requires its beneficiaries to possess a set of cultural habits that persist independently of their preferences. The kneejerk instinct to silence anybody who steps out of line — which we have seen recently on both sides of the political aisle — is deeply injurious to our folkways, and it should be condemned. Shame on you, A&E. Shame on you, GLAAD. Shame on you if you applauded the move.
Robertson was suspended for expressing his opposition to homosexuality, “bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.” Discussing Corinthians in an interview he gave to GQ
, Robertson urged readers not to “be deceived,” for “neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” Later, Robertson expounded on his “hate the sin, love the sinner” philosophy:
“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus — whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
Really, it shouldn’t be remotely surprising to anyone that a self-identified Christian believes these things — especially one who appears on the most popular television show in the United States. Duck Dynasty not only closes each episode with a prayer, but it is chock-full of references to faith and to the Bible. Who is startled that a man who lives his faith on television lives his faith in print, too?
Christianity in America is by no means monolithic, but of the 77 percent of Americans who identify as “Christian,” I would wager that a significant number agree with some or all of what Robertson says. It doesn’t matter how many agree, of course — Robertson’s right to believe what he will is not contingent on majority backup. But the sheer numbers make it all the more difficult to imagine that anybody is truly taken aback. News flash: Someone who believes the Bible to be the word of God believes (a) that adultery, idolatry, prostitution, homosexuality, greed, drunkenness, swindling, and slander constitute sinful behavior, (b) that his job is not to decide who is going to heaven and who isn’t, but instead to share the “good news,” and (c) that he should hew to the guidance he believes to be divine. As Robert A. George points out, this is precisely what the pope thinks — and says — too. Should he be suspended?
The most quoted part of Robertson’s interview was the most typically forthright:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”