'Duck Dynasty' suspension creates huge outcry
Dec 20, 2013

Christmas cards with Phil Robertson are among an array of Duck Dynasty products sold nationwide. BP Photo by John Swain/NAMB
NASHVILLE (BP)—The A&E network's suspension of "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson for comments regarding homosexuality constitutes a form of close-minded muzzling that is unhelpful in a pluralistic society, lead Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore said.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission reacted to A&E's Wednesday (Dec. 18) announcement that it had suspended Robertson indefinitely for comments he made in an interview with GQ magazine. The network's statement seemed to indicate the action was taken because of his description of homosexual behavior as sinful.

In the GQ article, Robertson said in response to writer Drew Magary's question about what is sinful, "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." 

The article says Robertson continued by paraphrasing 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."

In announcing the suspension, A&E said in a statement, according to Advertising Age, "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. His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

In a Wednesday appearance on CNN, Moore said proposing that people "who hold to what every branch of the Christian faith has held to for 2,000 years are somehow bigoted or hateful is not productive for speech."

Addressing A&E's action in a blog post the same day, Moore said it is "the sort of censorious cultural fundamentalism that is neither 'progressive' nor 'pluralistic.'"

Some of Robertson's anatomical language in the GQ article was "ill-advised and crude," Moore wrote, but the comments "that seem most offensive to people are his moral assessments of sex outside of conjugal marriage. ... As Christians, we believe that Jesus is lord over sexuality, and he says that sexuality is expressed rightly only in the marriage of a man and a woman. That's not new.

"We're a divided country on sexual issues," Moore said in the blog post. "That's why every news cycle brings more controversy. 

"Let's have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation," Moore wrote. "That's what real diversity is all about."

Moore's blog post on the controversy quickly became popular. Posted at 8:30 p.m. CST Wednesday, it had recorded 215,000 page views and been shared on Facebook 22,000 times by noon Thursday.

Robertson released a statement through A&E Wednesday, saying, "I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why 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 of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."

Duck Dynasty is a highly successful reality show for A&E, breaking the record for the largest audience for a non-fiction cable television program when August's season premiere drew 11.8 million viewers. It features Robertson and his family as well as their hugely profitable business, Duck Commander, which makes duck calls and other products in West Monroe, La. 

LGBT rights organizations criticized Robertson's comments when the GQ article, which is in the January 2014 issue, was released online.

Wilson Cruz, an actor and spokesman for GLAAD, called for A&E to condemn Robertson's comments. "The world is changing. The country's changing. And even the state in which Mr. Robertson lives is changing. And he needs to get in line," Cruz told CNN Wednesday.

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