“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” – Supreme Court Justice Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Jr.
For those of you who may have missed it, A&E’s favorite Louisiana patriarch has stirred a hornet’s nest.
The network suspended “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson Wednesday after a controversial interview he gave GQ magazine, in which he called homosexuality a sin, lumping it in with bestiality and promiscuity, among other things.
A&E was quick to distance itself from the comments.
“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” the network said in a statement Wednesday. “His 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.”
Fans have been outraged, though, by the suspension.
And I have to say – I’m with the fans on this one.
He’s a nondenominational Christian. That’s no secret; in fact, his and his family’s beliefs form a fundamental, and arguably the most popular, part of the astronomically successful show.
In the article, he discussed his religious beliefs, which are based very concretely in the Bible.
To suspend him because he expressed his religious beliefs is as discriminatory as suspending someone for being homosexual.
Discrimination is discrimination.
Had his comments attacked or denigrated the LGBT community, I would be the first one to call for repercussions. But after reading the full GQ article, I found nothing of the sort.
In fact, he is quoted later in the article – a quote that I’ll note few other articles seemed to pick up on – as saying he doesn’t condemn homosexuality.
“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell,” said Robertson in the GQ article. “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?”
He classified homosexuality as a sin, but that’s not an attack – it’s an expression of his religious belief.
In Christianity, the Bible defines what behaviors classify as sins and in nondenominational Christianity, a sin is a sin; there aren’t degrees of sins.
I’m not saying whether I agree or disagree with the belief; I’m saying he has every right to believe that, as others have the right not to believe that. To punish him for exercising that right runs completely contrary to some of our most cherished principles.
Could his comments anger or offend some people? Sure they could (and did). But if that were the criterion for a punishable offense, I’m thinking Fox News and MSNBC would consist of people sitting on sets staring mutely at one another.
Robertson’s rights to hold his beliefs and express those beliefs in a noncombative manner should not be infringed upon by his critics’ rights to not be provoked.
To put it simply, my rights end where yours begin and vice versa.
Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.