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Free Speech Is a Two-Way Street

Sarah Palin is slamming A&E as an “intolerant” because the TV network suspended Phil Robertson, the “Duck Dynasty” daddy, for crude, anti-gay remarks he made in a GQ magazine article.


Robertson, the famous “faith, family and facial hair” guy, also claimed that when he was growing up in Jim Crow Louisiana, he never saw any African American “mistreated.” What’s more, Robertson, 67, said the black people he knew were “happy.”

Anyway, Palin was quick to defend Robertson.

“Free speech is endangered species; those ‘intolerants’ hatin' & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all,” she tweeted, perhaps while on R&R from helping defend Yuletide against the lefty-secular humanist “war on Christmas.”

But how about Momma Grizzly’s folksy “hatin’”? You betcha!

Palin evidently doesn’t get it that free expression is a two-way street. Robertson has the right to express his homophobia and to reminisce myopically about race relations during segregation days. Yet the folks at A&E have the same right to judge his comments deeply offensive and to kick him off their network. Shutting him up is a form of free expression, too.

Simply put, the First Amendment to the constitution guarantees Robertson’s right to blab bigotry and safeguards A&E’s right to say to him, “Not on our dime.”

The network pulled the plug on Robertson after he told GQ, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, the A&E brass said the network was “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. 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."

Robertson didn’t stop with gay bashing. He segued to his salad days when race discrimination was the law and the social order in the Bayou State.

“I never, with my own eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson said. “Not once….I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word!”

He added, “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

In a letter to the A&E president, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Human Rights Campaign denounced Robertson’s remarks as “racist, homophobic, and ill-informed.” The letter added, “Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn't see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street.”

Or, maybe Robertson just chose to look the other way.

Obviously feeling the heat – and maybe worrying about his TV show tanking -- Robertson backed off a tad, issuing a statement in which he said, “I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."

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Robertson didn’t revisit his comments about “happy” black folks.

I’m three years Robertson’s junior. I grew up in Jim Crow Kentucky, and I saw a lot of godly African Americans, too. While lynching mob violence was gone from the Bluegrass State, where I still live, racism wasn’t – and still isn’t.

But by its very nature, segregation, which made African Americans second-class citizens, was mistreatment. And I didn’t get the impression that blacks were universally joyous living under what amounted to apartheid.

At least Robertson is true to his roots. Before the Civil War, the godly white folks – the rich slave owners and the poor whites who pined to be rich slave owners -- in Southern slave states like Louisiana and border slave states like Kentucky -- insisted black people in bondage weren’t mistreated and were happy as chattels, to boot.

Anyway, I don’t understand why lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans get people like Robertson so riled up. I’m also a heterosexual, though a smooth shaven one. Like Robertson, I’ve been married only once and for a long time. I also love my family and my country.

Yet I don’t see my LGBT Americans as dire threat to my marriage, my family or my country. Maybe Robertson is just one of those people who seem to feel a need to demonizing people who don’t share their values or lifestyles. But he’s elevated LGBT people to DEFCON one status.

In any event, I know plenty of Christians who don’t think LGBT men and women are sinners bound for perdition.

I was reared Presbyterian, but I’m no Bible scholar, far from it. Yet if Jesus said anything about gay people, it’s not in the Good Book.

Christians like Robertson pride themselves on taking the Bible literally. I’ve seen bumper stickers on their cars declaring, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

So if mum was the word about homosexuality from Jesus, the Christ, the divine Son of God, how can mere mortals like Phil Robertson make it out to be a sin?

At the same time, the Prince of Peace, according to the Bible, made it pretty plain that we’re all God’s children and that we’re supposed to love one another and not say hateful things about one another.

Not surprisingly, Robertson is well on the way to becoming another martyr to folks of the Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can’t-stand-you persuasion. They hate it that support for gay rights, including gay marriage, is growing steadily, especially among young people -- and even embraced by some old fogies like me.

The bigots know numbers are dwindling and that their conservative, straight, lily-white, and heterosexual Protestant male-run America is fast fading. So they rant like Robertson did in GQ.

P.S. – The Rev. John E. Roberts, my wife’s cousin and a retired Baptist pastor, has reminded me there once was a real war on Christmas on our shores – waged by 17th century Americans who thought a lot like Sarah Palin and Phil Robertson.

John knows his history. The anti-Christmas holy warriors were the everybody-but-us-is-going-to-hell, Protestant English white folks known as Puritans. “Yuletide is fool tide!” they hissed, scorning the holiday as heathenish.


Berry Craig