Scoot Blog: Duck Dynasty Controversy - A Lesson in 1st Amendment Rights
by Scoot,posted Dec 27 2013 7:03AM
The controversy over comments made by Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson about gays and blacks is continuing to attract national media attention. Sarah Palin, Jesse Jackson and Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne are among the recent people to speak out about the controversy.
This controversy is proving to be a classic lesson in First Amendment rights and also clearly exposes hypocrisy in America. In an interview with GQ magazine, Robertson, who is a born-again Christian, condemned homosexuality as a sin and compared homosexual behavior to bestiality. In medical terms that were considered by many to be graphic, Robertson said he didn't understand why anyone would prefer the anatomy of a man to the anatomy of a woman. Admittedly, as a heterosexual, that is something I don't understand, but that's not for me to judge.
Robertson also said that blacks were happy before the civil rights movement. The comments on both of these sensitive issues are still being discussed in the media and in everyday conversations. The media's interest in keeping the controversy alive reveals a lot about the motivation and mentality of the media.
The media thrives on controversies, which create stories with a long life adding to the media's insatiable appetite for compelling content. The ongoing debates about same-sex marriage and racism in America are hot-button issues drawing instinctive opinions from most Americans. These are issues that divide Americans and through division controversies are born.
There seems to be some confusion about First Amendment rights in America. We are free to say anything we want to say, but with that freedom, as with every freedom, there comes responsibility. I haven't heard anyone argue that Phil Robertson did not have the right to say what he said – the debate centers around the repercussions of his comments.
After Robertson's comments about gays and blacks were released, A&E, the network that carries the highly popular show, Duck Dynasty, suspended Robertson indefinitely. I agree with Phil Robertson's right to say what he said, but I also agree with A&E's right to suspend, or fire, someone whose words or actions reflect poorly on the network. A&E may have a right to take action against Robertson, but I don't think that action was warranted.
Phil Robertson's opinions should come as no surprise to anyone and while I disagree with his attitude toward gays and blacks, I completely support his right to make those feelings known. I cannot speak for Robertson, but there are many people who have clauses in their contracts that hold them accountable for their words and actions that are deemed inappropriate and may damage the image of the company's brand. As a radio talk show host, I have the right to say whatever I want to say, but I also know that there may be consequences for certain things I have the right to say.
It's fair to point out that many of those who are vehemently supporting the opinions of Phil Robertson are conservatives and it is fair to make the general observation that conservatives have the image of being more pro-business than liberals. To be pro-business would be to support a company's discretion when it comes to hiring and firing. If you do not think A&E has the right to suspend Phil Robertson for the comments he made, then I assume you would oppose any business' right to deny employment to anyone who is simply expressing their true opinions.
Should a business not be allowed to fire an employee who shows up at work covered with tattoos? Aren't tattoos a form of expression? Would you oppose a business' right to fire an employee for using their freedom of speech to express thoughts that you consider offensive to your customers?
Hypocrisy runs rampart in American society, yet those who are the biggest hypocrites fail to recognize their own hypocrisy. You can't condemn A&E for suspending Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty for comments the network considered damaging to its image, and then support another business for not hiring or firing an employee for their freedom of expression it considered detrimental to the image of the company. Acknowledging our own hypocritical tendencies may be a challenge and something we would like to ignore, but it's a challenge we should constantly present to ourselves.
Ultra conservative Sarah Palin tweeted this comment following the initial criticism of Robertson's comments about gays: "Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants' hatin' and talking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch are talking on all of us." I agree with Palin – free speech is an endangered species – but conservatives have done as much as liberals to kill free speech in America.
Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne has entered the controversy by saying that he will use his influence to make sure that Duck Dynasty remains in production in the state – whether on A&E or another network – claiming that the show is important to the state's tourism industry.
Other networks have expressed an interest in Duck Dynasty. Merrill Sport, owner of the Christian-affiliated Hunt Channel said that "A&E is too scripted" and his network allows personalities to "flow." But would that network support on-air talent who publically spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage?
The Pursuit Channel told TMZ that it does not "censor our personalities." Again, would they allow an on-air personality to express opinions that are opposite of Phil Robertson's opinions? You can't have it both ways and proclaim to support free speech.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson has jumped into the controversy by making, what I think, is a ridiculous statement. Jackson told ABC News,
"These statements uttered by Robertson are more offensive than the bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, more than 59 years ago,"
"At least the bus driver, who ordered Rosa Parks to surrender her seat to a white person, was following state law. Robertson's statements were uttered freely and openly without cover of the law, within a context of what he seemed to believe was ‘white privilege.'"
Comparing Phil Robertson's comment about blacks to the bus driver who ordered Rosa Parks to the back of the bus is designed to fuel racial tension, which is the lifeblood of Jackson's effort to maintain prominence in America.
Free speech does not mean the freedom to say only things you agree with – free speech also protects the words and comments you strongly disagree with. It's never a challenge to support agreeable free speech – we are all challenged to support the free speech we strongly disagree with.
Scoot Blog: Duck Dynasty Controversy - A Lesson in 1st Amendment Rights
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Other 1st Amendment considerations
The 1st Amendment protects more than just free speech. You are correct in stating that businesses such as A&E have the right to fire/suspend someone for someones Constitutionally protected speech.
However, the Supreme Court has granted broad protection to employees from reprisals for practicing or expressing religious beliefs. For example, a business cannot fire someone for being a Muslim, or preaching and reading from the Qur'an.
Had A&E simply suspended Phil based on his comments about race there would not be any issue. A&E suspended Phil based on his comments regarding homosexuality. These comments are largely an expression of his faith. There are many federal judges that would rule that A&E unlawfully punished Phil for expressing his faith. There are many federal judges who would rule for A&E.
My point is that this issue is not as simple as many are making it out to be.
Jesse Jackson had to make statements comparing Phil's OPINION to a bus driver's over 59 years ago showed that Jesse has to hold on to the past because he is irrelevant in a world that has passed him by. As in many cases, bits and pieces of what Phil said were printed not taking in to account the REST OF THE STORY! The People that are secure in the lifestyle they choose probably didn't get offended by Phil OPINION. People, definitely including Jesse Jackson need to look into their PERFECT mirrors and thank GOD they've NEVER made not 1 mistake. I stand with Phil Robertson and his family. For all of the Perfect people out there, good luck on Judgement Day.
Thanks for playing the race card again, Scoot. Sigh. #smh
Scoot - the hypocrisy in this issue from many on the right is amazing. They wanted Martin Bashir fired from MSNBC because he said Sarah Palin, should in essence, have to go thru a particular punishment that some slaves did, before daring to compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery. They wanted Alec Baldwin fired because after his wife and new baby were being stalked by paparazzi, he snapped and called them a derogatory word for homosexual. They wanted the Dixie Chicks removed from country radio for simply stating that they disagreed with the war and that they were "ashamed the President was from Texas" - many on the right have said far worse about President Obama. And yet, they are now angry because Phil Robertson got suspended from a show where the next season, is already produced and the merchandise sales for Christmas are stunningly successful. Free speech is not only for conservatives or as they call themselves sometimes - "real Americans." They are hypocritical in attacking and bringing down liberals who say inappropriate things, while excusing the ignorance in comments by people like Phil Robertson, Sarah Palin, and other on the fringe who say things like "legitimate rape" and "sl_ut" and other such flat out tasteless things. Free speech may also allow tastelessness, but it doesn't entitle you to expect to get away with it.
I think the people doing the interview knew what they were doing. That being said he was asked a question and he answered it honestly. Would you have been happier if he would have lied? Would that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Sure he could have just blown smoke up your a$$ and everybody would have sat back and smiled and been so content. He didn't go out and find some soapbox to climb up on and start bashing gays. He was asked a question and he answered it honestly according to his beliefs. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs. A gay person can march in a parade and say 'I'm gay and you have to accept my beliefs!' A woman can march in a parade and say I'm pro choice and you have to accept my beliefs!' Phil didn't march in a parade, he didn't buy air time, and he didn't call them up and say 'Come interview me so I can save souls.' He was simply asked questions and he answered according to his beliefs. So I ask you... Would you rather he had lied?
So yes I support him and his right to express his beliefs. Much as I feel they were wrong in letting him go, I support A & E's cowardly decision not to offend the gay community because they have that right.
To me the controversy over the gay comments is 2nd to the civil rights comments. I get that many believe as Robertson quoted - in a very literal interpretation of certain Biblical passages. What struck me as the most offensive was his comments that sound as though they whitewash - no pun intended - the NEEDED progress of civil rights. Would Mr. Robertson look at Reverend King and Rosa Parks and tell them he didn't see what all the fuss was about cause HE thought the African Americans around him were "happy?" At best, that was ignorance, at worst it was flat out racist for Phil not to think about what he was saying.
Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton and Charlie Sheen are absolutely irrelevent in today's topics. They have proven they have no morales and always have hidden agendas in their sights. There is no value in their comments, there is also no commen sence in them either.
Can't wait to see what they preach about. Who they are an where their Ministery is!
Scoot - worth looking into the story re: Christine Bellport TV anchor of Madison who offhandly remarked she wasn't surprised looking at Phil that he had that opinion. Her ill advised but off hand remark is leading to her persecution by "free speech" fans of Duck Dynasty who now want her fired, insult HER looks, and call her horrible names. They want Phil to be able to speak freely, but others to not have free speech or forgiveness for making a mistake as regards him. They are hypocrites and want to censor media too.
Hypocrisy runs rampant
Thank you Scoot. The hypocrisy does run rampant. I stand in support of Phil Robertson's right, but also to A&E's. As you indicated, those denying A&Es right are hypocrits. But let's not also forget those liberal groups on the left who came out hard against My Robertson. The fact that this topic called out both sides is quite the healthy argument for American society.
The other interesting thing is the continual omission of the second part of his message. The part with a "love all" message. I guess that does not make for controversial press.
Toby Keith Exercises His Rights as a Businessman
http://foxnewsinsider.com/2013/12/27/toby-keith-bans-guns-his-virginia-restaurant - and the 2nd Amendment radicals get ticked and call him a liberal. So much for "pro business" conservatives.
You are comparing tattoos to religious freedom? You have the freedom to make such an illogical comparison, but that does not make it right. There is no amendment protecting tattoos that I am aware of. You call it hypocrisy, but NO ONE is suspended when they make hateful comments about Christians--NO ONE. A&E knew who these guys were and even had a handler with Phil when he did his interview. They then bowed to pressure from a pro-gay group, and now it has come full circle. It is a first amendment issue, and nothing you can compare it too is the same.
More Phil Robertson lunacy
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/29/duck-dynasty-star-girls-should-carry-a-bible-cook-and-marry-when-they-are-15/ - that is on the FRINGE and true Christians don't get into that nonsense.