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Free speech, censorship and sin

Published 10:32pm Saturday, December 21, 2013

The flap over Phil Robertson’s remarks about homosexuality during a recent interview with GQ magazine has revealed an incredible lack of understanding among Americans about free speech, about censorship and about the meaning of the word “tolerance.”

Robertson, the wildly popular patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” family that has taken cable television by storm, stated that homosexuality was a sin and veered into the tasteless with a crude (though not vulgar) comparison of homosexual and heterosexual acts. I won’t repeat the quotes here, because I consider them too coarse for a family newspaper, but you can easily find them on the Internet, and there’s nothing your teen will not already have learned in his or her sex education class.

Gay-rights organizations immediately slammed Robertson for his “vile remarks” and said his “intolerant” attitude put him at odds with “true Christians.” Their protests caused A&E executives to quickly and indefinitely suspend him from the show.

And they had every right to do so. The free-speech protections of the First Amendment did exactly what they were supposed to do. Robertson had the freedom to espouse his beliefs without fear of government intervention, and A&E exercised its right to hire and fire a public face without seeking approval — or fearing retribution from — the same government.

While I agree with Robertson that Scripture is very clear about homosexual behavior being a sin — along with gossip, adultery, theft, blasphemy and lots of other things that cause us all to miss God’s flawless mark — I believe he erred in choosing such a coarse approach to talking about sin.

In fact, we recently have refused advertisements in this newspaper for similar reasons. A group of uncertain origin has been sending occasional ads against sodomy, and we’ve turned down a couple of them because we deemed them tasteless.

It wasn’t censorship — the government didn’t force us to hold the ads, we made that decision ourselves. It was a business decision based on our assessment that our readers would find the way the subject matter was presented to be offensive. We don’t require that advertisers (or reporters, or editors or other employees) hold opinions echoing some corporate ethos, and our company allows its employees and advertisers to publicly espouse their own opinions (as I’m doing here).

Still, though I may have a fundamental right to free speech, I don’t have a fundamental right to use this newspaper as my megaphone. I enjoy that privilege only as long as my company’s owners extend it. As with the advertisements we chose not to run, in the end, this megaphone does not belong to me. If I’d like to shout tasteless things at the people of Suffolk, I can use some other medium to do so.

Similarly Robertson represented the A&E network while he was working on “Duck Dynasty.” Within the terms of his contract, whenever executives there grew tired of his straight-talking manner, he was subject to being removed.

Because of the First Amendment, Robertson’s supporters can now respond with just about whatever words suit them. And they can make an even louder proclamation with their dollars and viewership.

But as a Christian, I hope those who respond will choose to do so by “speak(ing) the truth in love,” as the Apostle Paul put it. For it is only the love of Christ — a love that saved a woman from stoning while simultaneously commanding her to leave her life of sin — that can redeem any of us sinners.

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  • So What

    What we are witnessing is the opposite of what our founders tried to prevent, the “tyranny of the majority” into the “tyranny of the minority”. The gay community represents only about 2% of the population, Think of that ohyee tolerant GLBT People and Supporters when That same percent of the population of America Becomes Islamic and Shira law becomes a part of Americas daily fabric. but their tentacles of influence is by far way out of proportion to their numbers. It seems the group that preaches tolerance of their lifestyle seem to be the most intolerant toward others who disagree with thee. In their case, tolerance breeds intolerance. beheadings, stonings, removal of a woman’s clitoris, rape of children who are also traded among tribes for use in sexual slavery and even the children and adults are put to death for homosexual activity. and you are upset at Mr. Robertson for saying what he did? Oh you reak of the smell of hypocrisy

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  • So What

    If the gay movement was made of of people like Ellen DeGeneres, gay marriage would probably have been legal 30 years ago. When you’re flipping past her TV show, she just seems like a nice person who happens to be gay. But instead, you get vitriol-filled Rosie O’Donnell types who think that to be who they are, they have to insult who you are and they think having equality means outlawing your value system.

    The best way to get respect is to give it first. respectful Bible-and-gun clingers. The bitter and angry people are the ones on the left who demand respect

    I’m don’t try to run their life but I damn sure don’t intend to let the pc idiots and gay run mine.

    When the GAY parade is “in town” and they dress as pregnant nuns I guess that is acceptable. the GLBT community members are the biggest hypocrites on earth.
    Now to get back more in line with what Mr Spears was pointing out. and doing so very well.

    We live in a free society with free speech and free religion. We still love and practice freedom here in America, in spite of Barack Obama. If someone disagrees with something someone else says or believes, they can certainly feel free to disagree with them. They can refuse to do business with them. They can threaten boycotts (which rarely work anymore, by the way ask the CHIK a fil ppl how the oneagainst them worked out, ask Paula Deen But – now pay attention, because this is important – what is NOT compatible with the principles of freedom is using official, or even semi-official, power to punish someone. You can’t use the government in retribution against someone who offended you (yes, that pesky 1st amendment thing!). You also can’t seek to destroy their employment or ability to live freely for saying or believing something with which you disagree. You should not be able to harass or destroy them for “displeasing” you or your agenda. Those things are simply not compatible with a genuinely free society. In fact, it’s the purest form of bigotry and bullying.

    Yeah, I’m looking at you, the gay lobby.

    Doing these things undermines liberty, and liberty must be in place for a free society to exist. It’s just not that hard to understand, tHE GLBT COMMUNITY ISNT FOR LIBERTY, FREEDOM TOLERANCE and DIVERSITY.

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  • thekytikat

    Thank you!!!! Brilliantly put. While I too agree with Robertson’s point of view, this is NOT a free speech issue. I do understand that the folks who are screaming “free speech” are really just fed up with the intolerance by a chosen few who do all they can to shut up those they disagree with – but framing it as a free speech issue does a disservice to all.

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