by Bob Siegel, bobsiegel.net
SAN DIEGO, January 13, 2014— Free speech recently won a victory. Unfortunately, it is only one battle of a much bigger war.
At the moment, dust has settled at A and E, home of the controversial program Duck Dynasty. After suspending the reality show’s family patriarch Phil Robertson for some offensive remarks in a GQ interview about same-sex couples, the network eventually caved to public pressure and Robertson is back on the air.
While people appropriately hail this decision as a sensible embracing of free speech, the issue of freedom as it relates to opinions about the gay lifestyle is far from over.
Keep in mind that it is not Roberson, but rather his critics, who desire to impose an agenda and they embrace their cause with tremendous passion. While the agenda is not shared by the public at large, an old saying comes to mind: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This is especially true if the grease is being supplied by our courts.
The current controversy was not instigated by Duck Dynasty. GQ Magazine sought out the interview with Robertson and asked the question “What in your mind is sinful?”
Had Robertson talked about the sin of gossip, news headlines would not have been made and it is doubtful that GQ writer Drew Magary would have spent much more time on the subject of sin.
This is similar to what happened with Carrie Prejean in the 2009 Miss USA pageant, although in her case she was asked about same-sex marriage directly by openly gay judge Perez Hilton. Her wording was also less coarse than Robertson’s but outrage from the left was the same.
“Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same sex-marriage” Hilton said. “Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?”
“Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other,” Prejean answered. “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there, but that’s how I was raised, and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman.”
Even though Prejean went out of her way to say she intended no offense she was still daring enough to actually answer the question and was promptly pillaged for her beliefs.
Hilton later responded over the Internet by calling Prejean a “a dumb b—-.” He later apologized, but it is fairly clear who the more tolerant one was that evening.
So yes, Robertson could have used some tact and some seasoned speech, but it would have made no difference. Carrie Prejean was very tactful, seasoned, and compassionate in her response and she was skill skewered. Even if Robertson had answered in a nicer, cleaner manner it wouldn’t have made any difference in his case either. Groups like GLAAD would still have expressed condemnation.
Many have pointed out that this isn’t a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment, after all, is only concerned about the kind of speech government allows, not some network in the free market which is allowed to broadcast or cancel any program they wish.
That is true. This is not a First Amendment issue. But it is related, a free speech issue of epic proportions. Keep in mind that many who want to see Duck Dynasty cancelled would also ban the legal freedom to speak critically of homosexuality if given the chance.
There is a litmus test for those who are frustrated that Evangelical Christians represent a corner of the world that has not as of yet succumbed to Political Correctness.
The matter becomes a little stickier when we remember that a good deal of Robertson’s “offensive quote” is actually found in the Bible.
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there,” he responded. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”
Those were his own words. What follows is a fairly close paraphrase from 1 Corinthians 6:
“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers… they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Compare with Paul’s actual words in the NIV translation:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
People try to claim that this verse isn’t really saying anything about homosexuality but to do so, they have to play verbal gymnastics and make the words literally stand on their heads.
On the other hand, Paul Joseph Watson of Inforwars.com seems to understand that these words really are in the Bible. That’s why he suggests that maybe the Bible itself should be banned.
“If we are to accept that Robertson’s rhetoric represents hate speech, then the Bible should immediately be banned because it openly incites violence against gays….Robertson expresses his disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle and characterizes it as a sin. The Bible characterizes homosexuality not only as a sin but as an abomination punishable by death….According to the Supreme Court, hate speech is permissible under the First Amendment unless it is likely to lead to imminent hate violence. Since the Bible openly and aggressively advocates that homosexuals be put to death, it can easily be argued that such rhetoric is likely to lead to imminent hate-driven violence.”
Although he did not in so many words officially call for a banning of the Bible, Watson seems to come awfully close. If his words sound extreme, keep in mind that for many years there has been an agenda to not only secure the rights of gays to marry but to forbid anyone from speaking out against their lifestyle.
In 1987, gay rights spokesman, Jeff Levi spoke quite bluntly to the National Press Club in Washington.
“We are no longer seeking just a right to privacy and a protection from wrong. We also have a right — as heterosexual Americans already have — to see government and society affirm our lives.”
It’s nice to feel affirmed. Unfortunately to insist on affirmation from everybody is to infringe on somebody else’s right to disagree.
By the way, how many gay activists “affirm” the viewpoints of Evangelical Christians?
In any event, most Evangelicals do not and should not insist on such rights. Instead they merely seek to share the Gospel of Jesus. The message of the Gospel is forgiveness of sin but sometimes before one can understand forgiveness, the sin itself must first be discussed. There are many sins listed in the Bible and homosexuality is not singled out. It is today’s thought police who are singling it out.
But Christians are still entitled to their religious beliefs which is why the First Amendment not only protects speech but religion as well.
Granted, the response to the Duck Dynasty controversy suggests that most people will not stand for a suppression of the First Amendment. Ultimately, none of that will matter if a few judges decide that they know better than the rest of us what the First Amendment “truly means.”
Anyone who feels this fear is unwarranted should examine recent news.
The people of California voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and even put such a law in their constitution. A court overturned the law.
And just recently, the New Mexico Supreme court decided that Christian photographers must be willing to service gay weddings or pay a penalty. The court justified this ruling by calling compliance “the price of citizenship,”
Meanwhile there are plenty of Paul Joseph Watsons and Jeff Levis who will accuse the Bible of hate speech or call for or the mandatory affirmation of gay couples, keeping the issue on the forefront of public debate and an eventual trajectory toward our courts. That is why this issue stirred by Duck Dynasty will be coming up again.
Our society would do well to argue about homosexuality a little less and instead deal with the erosion of free speech, an erosion fueled by self righteous public figures who take it upon themselves to equate disagreement with hate. They do not need to persuade the entire country. They only need to persuade one or two judges who in the name of tolerance will no longer tolerate dissent.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and columnist. Information about his radio show can be found at bobsiegel.net.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE
New International Version NIV
Copyright © 1973, 1979, 1984 by International Bible Society
Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
All rights reserved.