Not duckie: A TV hunter bags controversy with his remarks

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It is almost beyond belief, but the one news story that has large numbers of Americans riled up just before Christmas concerns a reality TV show about a Louisiana family that became wealthy by selling products to duck hunters.

Because Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E network’s “Duck Dynasty,” made derogatory statements about gays in an interview with GQ magazine, the network suspended him — causing an immediate uproar, especially among conservative fans. They say that he was denied his free speech rights and that his suspension was an attack on Christianity because he was only repeating what the Bible says.

In short, the issue quickly became more covered in camouflage than the “Duck Dynasty” stars themselves. But this isn’t about the First Amendment, which sets limits on government power.

A&E is not the government. It was within its rights to suspend Mr. Robertson for behavior that it considers not in its commercial interest. Mr. Robertson can say what he likes, but he has no constitutional right to remain a reality TV star if his employer deems his behavior detrimental. Those who protest to A&E are within their rights, too. This is how free speech works in America.

As to being an attack on Christianity, the Bible has many admonitions. One of them is, “Judge not and be not judged,” which is hard to square with Mr. Robertson’s suggestion that homosexuals are going to hell.

If you make a TV star out of an earthy character like Mr. Robertson, nobody should be surprised about what he might say away from the bayou. Still, if biased cultural beliefs walk like a duck and quack like a duck, then maybe they are a discriminatory foul, but these ruffled feathers are a bit too much.


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