Duck Dynasty: Free Speech and Religion vs LGBT Rights

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Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Roberston has made public comments recently which have brought to the collective attention issues regarding free speech, freedom of religion, and LGBT rights.

There has been millions of keystrokes, numerous articles, countless radio shows, and a fountain of Facebook posts made due to the the recent statements uttered by the Bible-thumpin’ duck hunter Phil Robertson. Phil, was the head of household on the hit A&E show Duck Dynasty, that is until he was recently suspended from the show for offending the LGBT community by comments he made during an interview with GQ.

The comments made by Duck Dynasty’s “commander” were no surprise to those familiar with Phil’s Bible-thumpin’ tendencies somewhat visible during his time on the A&E hit show. The show opens and closes with prayer, and follows an entire family of scripture quoting ultra-patriots. The statements made by Phil did appear to go a bit further than what has been seen on the show, in that during the GQ interview the “duck commander” used glaringly direct and medically descriptive language to describe why he thought heterosexual relations should be preferable to homosexual relations. His crudely descriptive language, along with the general message encased in the comments, were bound to strike up controversy, and as can now be seen they did just that.

In his interview, The Duck Dynasty star responded to a question regarding his views on sin. Phil proceeded to start with some of the Bible’s more direct and harsh teachings regarding homosexuality and went on from there. Duck Dynasty’s patriarch candidly expressed his belief in the position held by the scriptures, which he paraphrased at length.

The interview sparked significant outrage and almost immediately a spokesperson for the LGBT community issued statements denouncing Phil’s comments. The network which aires Duck Dynasty, A&E, eventually decided to take action and proceeded to place Phil on an indefinite suspension from the the show.

Now, as the affair continues to play out, larger issues have bubbled to the surface. The Duck Dynasty drama has brought to the forefront of society the issues of free speech, freedom of religion, and LGBT rights.

Tough questions are now being asked as a result of all that has happened since the hit show’s patriarch was interviewed by GQ.

The talking heads on television will have enough ammunition to debate for weeks on the subjects which are contained within the Duck Dynasty, A&E, LGBT controversy-triangle.

Questions will be thrown around regarding the exact meaning and scope of free speech. What is free speech again? Where does the right of free speech end, and slander or defamation begin?

With respect to free speech, is a citizen allowed to voice his or her opinion about tough topics like gay rights and abortion? Is not the question openly discussed in political battles, when the topics of pro life, pro choice, and same sex marriage hit the debate circuits?

The outrage shown in response to Duck Dynasty commander Phil’s interview appears to be outrage which would be more accurately directed at what the scriptures say, not so much what Phil or any other Bible thumping believer may utter. The scriptures discuss homosexuality quite clearly, and quite clearly refer to it as sin. The silence or outspokenness of any random believer has no bearing on this one fact.

Phil did admittedly go a bit further than may have been necessary in his glaringly descriptive remarks as to why he believes heterosexuality should be preferable to homosexuality, however the majority of his comments centered around the scriptural position on the matter. His somewhat crude language might be a point he could be legitimately reprimanded about, however his decision to name homosexuality when asked about sin is not necessarily an individual idea, but simply a paraphrase from an old dusty book commonly known as the Bible.

Another issue festering at the center of the recent Duck Dynasty patriarch’s interview-generated controversy is one regarding freedom of religion. As the questions begin to multiply, one topic that will certainly be discussed is freedom of religion. What role does religious freedom play in the light of the now developing controversy? A more business related application will be in dealing with what A&E will do if the Robertson family decides to say “No Phil, no show.” Is A&E able to go after the family for breach of contract? Is the Duck Dynasty clan, and Phil specifically, protected by claiming Phil’s remarks fall under a simple expression of religious freedom?

And finally, there is the issue of LGBT rights. This appears to be the community most offended by the remarks made by Duck Dynasty’s lead man, although some have recently attempted to move the controversy into the field of race as well. The LGBT community represents an increasingly powerful political force whose voice has been able to exercise significant influence. Most recently, the raging fight for same sex marriage highlights just how much political capital has been amassed by the LGBT community which has made significant progress towards the aim of “equality” in the area of marriage.

The Duck Dynasty patriarch’s interview-sparked controversy is certain to also bring about discussions highlighting LGBT rights and how those rights coincide with free speech and freedom of religion. It is hard to view these three areas as a three-way venn diagram if one takes a literal, straight-forward position on the scriptures.

In the discussion of Duck Dynasty, free speech, freedom of religion and LGBT rights, there are a few things that can be said. First, whether one agrees with the LGBT cause or not, the leaders of that movement deserve respect (not to be confused with admiration or endorsement) for at least one thing, they have consistently spoken out in support of their position and braved the consequences. As far as moral grounds for the arguments of LGBT rights and “equality” in marriage, one must be imaginatively creative if he/she intends to find such grounds in a book called the Bible. From the well spring of secular humanism however, anything is possible so long as the right percentage of humanity agrees.

In contrast to the LGBT community, which, like it or not, does show commendable commitment to their cause, the wider christian community has struggled to develop a unified position regarding the topic of homosexuality. Due to the increasingly sensitive nature of society, and the apparently well-intentioned attempts to be politically correct, the christian community has been somewhat shy in endorsing the Bible’s harsher and less “tolerant” statements. Incredible efforts have been made over the years, surprisingly by those claiming to believe in the “Good book,” to explain away the numerous divisive and controversial passages found in the texts of scripture. The recent statements by Phil however, along with the massive support shown for him by fans and his fellow believers, shows that these attempts to soften scriptural positions have left more than a few individuals who prefer to take the scriptures as they read.

In what is looking to become an unintentionally defining moment for American society, the Duck Dynasty patriarch’s comments have forced millions of people to meditate deeply on the topics of free speech, freedom of religion, and LGBT rights.

Ultimately, only time will tell just what kind of effect the recent events will have on society.

For now however, hats-off to Phil and the Robertson clan for doing what even those who disagree with them can and should respect, standing up for what they believe in.

An editorial by Daniel Worku

LA Times

New York Times

USA Today