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The Duck Dynasty versus Homosexuality Problem in The United States

The Duck Dynasty versus Homosexuality Problem in The United States
Pat Dickson - Wed Dec 25, 2013 @ 07:25PM
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While tribal wars are raging all over the world and natural disasters have recently taken incredible humanitarian tolls, we, in The United States, seem more concerned over a few things Phil Robertson, "Patriarch" of The "Duck Dynasty" (an A&E cable reality program), said about homosexuals. 

In a recent interview with GQ magazine, Robertson expressed the opinion, among other things, that gay people were not going to be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven and compared them to drunks, adulterers, and so on. In retaliation, A&E kicked Robertson off the program for an indefinite amount of time. 

In connection with this situation, I find two things interesting:

First, the way in which so many people can be so obsessed with the opinions of a particular reality show celebrity. Some embrace what Robertson said about homosexuals, and others want to lynch him. It is fun to watch. It is like a violent sporting event on the 24-hour tabloid news, to wit CNN and FOX. And, at the same time, it is sad that mainstream television journalism in the United States doesn't have the class it once had.

Second, I find most the most interesting thing to be the way in which people deal with such issues as The Duck Dynasty versus Homosexuality. Whichever side is taken, it seems either's proponents are only concerned with yelling and screaming and fighting for their point of view, as if in a boxing match. They aren't objectively thinking about the problem. Whatever their bias may be, they burst out from the gut without first using their brains. The casualties they cause are seemingly of no concern. So, I will attempt to show you how I try to think through the homosexuality-Duck Dynasty problem. I'll at least give you a taste of my approach herein.

But first let me say, I really don't have an opinion on this matter. I just like to ponder how it plays out, or should play out, whether legally, logically, practically, compassionately, via the pros and cons of policies expanding or limiting gay rights, or even via the force of violent public opinion. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just as happy being friends with gay people as I am being friends with "hillbillies." I'd attend and support a wedding of a gay person just as willingly as I would the wedding of a redneck, an atheist, or a Bible thumping radical Christian. I say live and let live. Sticks and stones may break my bones.

Nevertheless, I think one thing is kind of unfair. It seems to me, anecdotally at least, that society seems a little more able to laugh about redneck incest jokes, but gay jokes are taboo. I have to admit I laugh at all jokes, even ones which create laughter at the expense of the American Indian, and I am half Comanche. 

And really, the Duck Dynasty vs. Homosexuality problem isn't even about gay rights, or is it? Robertson's words have nothing to do with how the fight over gay marriage will ultimately play out in Utah, right? The affect of his opinions on homosexuals won't be to influence (either positively or negatively) the future of gay rights or equality, will they? Too tenuous a connection or not? Are we not just talking about what a celebrity, or even an average citizen, can or cannot say about homosexuals? I don't know. For the sake of simplicity, for now let's cut the argument down, and limit it to one question:

Should Phil Robertson be punished (or precluded) for saying (or allowed to say) homosexuals don't get to go to heaven?

Let's start with the legal side of things: 

The First Amendment. The First Amendment does not protect Phil Robertson because it only protects him from the Government. The First Amendment does not shield Robertson from being fired or suspended from his job by A&E. A&E is a business, not a government. The First Amendment would only be an issue if Robertson worked for the government (state, county, city, or federal), and he was fired or sanctioned for his comments made to GQ magazine.

The Civil Rights Act. Phil Robertson may have a very tenuous or colorable Civil Rights claim. In short, the Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer for discriminating against an employee for religious reasons. Robertson could claim he was suspended for honestly expressing his religious beliefs, thus A&E violated the Civil Rights Act. But, if my experience in such Civil Rights actions is telling, Robertson's claim of his employer having religiously discriminated against him will fail. Why? The didn't fire or suspend him for his being a member of a particular Christian Sect or following its practices, they will argue. His widely published and discriminatory words were the problem. His mouth, not his religion was the problem.

Hate Speech. Maybe the Duck Dynasty's Patriarch engaged in hate speech? No, I don't think so, plus, to prosecute him the government would have to step in and then the First Amendment would also step in. All he did was say homosexuals didn't get to go to heaven. Most Christians say this about each other. I don't think telling anyone they aren't going to heaven amounts to hate speech. There is no violence, abuse, or harassment involved. If I were gay I'd be relieved to know I wasn't going to be admitted to Phil's version of heaven. What a relief! And besides, if the Patriarch's words were to be treated as hate speech, wouldn't we really become quite a police state? How much scrutiny do we want the police to have over the very words we mutter?

Contract Law. Long story short, if Phil's contract says he can't say negative things about homosexuals, A&E can suspend or fire him. However, even if A&E had the right, contractually, to suspended him/to punish him, the irony is that he is now more popular than ever. A&E likely made the mistake of ultimately enriching the Duck Dynasty for not allowing homosexuals into their version of heaven and being vocal about it. They will now be even richer for having made published, negative comments about homosexuality. Maybe A&E did this as a publicity stunt? Who knows?

So, as we see, there really isn't much of a legal issue here, as far as we are concerned. The Constitution and Civil Rights Act are not involved. The words at hand didn't amount to hate speech. It all comes down to contract law. Legally, we are not involved. This is between Duck Dynasty and A&E.

The real question: what should we do about Duck Dynasty and its views on homosexuality?

If you don't like what Phil Robertson said about homosexuals, don't watch Duck Dynasty or pay for any programming carrying the show. Don't buy any Duck Dynasty shirts, hats, or whatever. Encourage your family and friends to do the same. Support gay marriage at the voting booth. Make charitable contributions to politicians or groups advocating gay rights. If you like what he said, do the converse. Watch Duck Dynasty and buy its memorabilia, and so on.

Ultimately, what does it matter? Does it matter if Phil believes homosexuality is wrong? Maybe not. You may believe the problem is his using his celebrity status to spread anti-gay ideas. But ultimately, we need to look inside ourselves. What if a nice gay couple lives next door. They are married. They have children. Their house and lawn are immaculate. They are active in the community and work good jobs, pay taxes. Their children are well tended, emotionally and physically thriving, and they get good grades. 

Does it matter what Phil Robertson says? Can his words make you hate the gay couple next door, or believe they are not going to make it to heaven? Do his words simply sting of illogical and unloving religious bias which only make you want to invite the nice family next door to dinner? Can we not have our own version of heaven where all walks of good people are permitted to pass through the Golden Gates? Maybe our version of hell is the same as Phil's version of heaven? His god may be the devil?

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