We want to start this editorial by being perfectly clear:
We have never watched the A&E hit reality television show, Duck Dynasty.
We think we once saw about five minutes of one episode at a friend’s house and, of course, we have seen the family members’ faces plastered all over television, magazines, newspapers, game boxes, book covers, t-shirts - you name it, we have probably seen one or all of the Robertsons or their words of wisdom. It is not that we have anything against them, we just do not watch the show.
But the media frenzy on Duck Dynasty was turned up even higher this week when the family patriarch, Phil Robertson, made remarks in a GQ magazine interview where he disparaged homosexuality because of his Christian beliefs. Again, let’s be clear: Robertson did not call for outlawing homosexuality, burning homosexuals on a stake, or any of a number of other punishments that some countries around the world still practice. He simply called it “not logical” and pointed out that according to the Bible it was a sin. He even stated it was his personal opinion by saying, “That’s just me.”
After the remarks were made public and a number of groups lined up to protest, A&E suspended Robertson indefinitely from Duck Dynasty with the rumors stating the studio executives did not plan on his ever being able to return to the show. In response, thousands of supporters of Robertson and his family have taken to social media and other outlets, promising a boycott of A&E unless he was allowed to return. They assert Robertson’s First Amendment right of free speech has been violated.
Frankly, we find those assertions silly and uninformed.
Leaving aside the subject of Robertson’s interview, no one said he could not practice his religious beliefs or say what he thought on a subject so long as he did not incite a riot or any of a number of other exceptions to the First Amendment protections. If that was not the case, we would stand up and fight for Robertson to retain those rights, just as every American should, whether or not we agreed with what he said. We would also stand up and fight for his supporters’ rights to protest against A&E and organize a boycott.
We would even go so far as to call A&E hypocritical in their treatment of Robertson. They have made a lot of money and have a huge television hit that centers around a rural, somewhat eccentric, Christian family that has made million of dollars in an industry (Duck Commander makes duck calls for hunting) that most city dwellers had no idea existed before the show began. To suddenly become offended when one of the family members says something that espouses his Christian beliefs because of protests is gutless. Hypocritical, yes, but not illegal.
This uproar is reminiscent of the media swirl around the country band, Dixie Chicks, in 2003 when lead singer Natalie Maines told London concert goers she was ashamed President Bush was also from Texas because of the lead up to the Iraq invasion. Dixie Chicks music sales plummeted, some radio stations refused to play their music, and sponsors also dumped their contracts over the controversy.
Should the Dixie Chicks have been able to state how they felt about the President and his war-time decisions? Yes, and they were able to do so without fear of being thrown in jail or worse. But as Maines and the other band members learned, just because it was legal to say something, it did not mean there would not also be repercussions from those words. In the Dixie Chicks case, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in lost music sales, for stating their beliefs.
The lesson to be learned from this instance is that it takes courage for a person to stand in public and declare their beliefs, knowing that sometimes they may not prove popular. We applaud Robertson for that courage.