You may have seen the news this week that A&E has indefinitely suspended Phil Robertson from filming the hit reality show ‘Duck Dynasty.’
Phil made comments in an interview with GQ calling homosexuality a sin and referencing scripture. His discussion was graphic and doesn’t win a lot of points for tact, but then again, if you watch the show, you know Phil Robertson doesn’t always beat around the bush.
Of course, when GLAAD and others read Phil’s comments, they immediately put in calls to A&E, who airs the show. A&E responded with a statement that read in part:
“[Phil’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.”
Here’s the problem. Say what you will, but Phil Robertson was articulating his deeply-held religious convictions concerning sexual sin (if you read the interview, you know he doesn’t limit the discussion to homosexuality). A&E even says in its statement that these are Phil Robertson’s “personal views” and not those of the network. They could have left it at that; they could have simply said, “Phil believes what he believes; we disagree, but what he believes is his business.” Television networks do that all the time when stars say or do things that are controversial. Instead they fired him.
From a business standpoint, you have to ask which is going to do more damage to A&E: An interview with GQ or suspending one of the biggest stars from one of the biggest shows in the history of cable television?
From a liberty standpoint, it’s troubling that a person would be fired for expressing his or her personal, religious convictions in a magazine interview.
It’s worth noting that many of those pressuring A&E are staunch proponents of the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA). Supporters of ENDA say it prevents people from being fired for being gay (we’ve pointed out that’s not all it does). So a person’s sexual orientation is so sacred that no one should be fired over it, but a person’s freedom to express their deeply-held religious convictions is not?
Tell me, again, which one is explicitly protected by the First Amendment.
This situation is a bizarre one, and it’s still unfolding. It does highlight, however, the changing landscape of political correctness in America: That a person could be fired for exercising what many call our “first freedom.”