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December 29, 2013
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Publisher's Notebook: People should not be squelched for stating their beliefs

Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross because he refused to keep his mouth shut.

It seems the Roman soldiers have been replaced by the P.C. Cops, and they are waiting to nail anyone who utters an offensive word.

Phil Robertson is just the latest casualty in the war on speech.

Robertson is one of the stars of the popular reality television show “Duck Dynasty.”

He was suspended by A&E indefinitely because he offered an opinion. In a magazine interview, Phil was asked to clarify his Christian values and he pretty much called homosexuals sinners.

He told the writer that he didn’t understand how a man could prefer another man over a woman and that God really didn’t have that in mind when he threw this all together.

The magazine writer acknowledged in the story that he wasn’t a Christian. It’s pretty obvious that he really didn’t care much for religion, at least not Christianity.

In other words, the writer had a particular bias and it was obvious.

The article’s author is a self-described “big city” guy whose only purpose for the story was to show other big city people how inferior Bible-thumping, country people like Phil Robertson are.

People like Phil don’t read GQ, so he probably didn’t realize who he was speaking to.

For the record, I’m a big fan of the First Amendment. It’s what allows me to run this business and why I get to write this weekly column. I may not agree with your opinion, but I respect your right to express it and expect the same in return.

Special interest groups have their antenna sky-high these days, scouring the World Wide Web for anything that may be deemed “offensive.” When they find it they don’t stop until they have silenced the offender.

In Joe McCarthy’s days, careers were destroyed with a simple word. Today’s Communists are Christians, and there is no worse Christian than a white, heterosexual male.

After reading about Phil Robertson’s suspension I decided to read the story in GQ Magazine (I’m also not the GQ type). Based on the media hysteria, I knew there was a good chance that the Politically Correct lynch mob hadn’t bothered to actually read the story.

If you don’t watch “Duck Dynasty,” it’s a reality show based on a family of country folks who have made a fortune by making custom duck calls. Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the family and, according to the GQ story, is a born-again Christian.

In fact, the family made it clear at the very beginning that they would never compromise their faith. So producers knew up front that Phil Robertson was likely to discuss his religious views at some point.

“What, in your mind, is sinful?” the GQ writer asks Phil.

Note here that Phil is being asked for his opinion. Editors demand compelling copy and the writer probably had a notion that Phil would take the bait — hook, line and sinker.

“Start with homosexual behavior and morph from there,” he told the author. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and those men.”

Then he paraphrased the Bible. “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.”

Once the hysteria erupted — fueled by the social media hurricane winds — Phil Robertson clarified his remarks.

“I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior,” he said. “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.”

He said he didn’t mean to disrespect anyone just because they were different.

For the sake of argument, I wonder if A&E would have suspended Phil Robertson if he went after white, Christian males? What if he told the magazine writer that Bible thumpers were destroying the fabric of society and that they should be purged?

Would A&E have caved to the far-right Christian groups that would have demanded Phil’s head?

The First Amendment doesn’t prohibit A&E from dumping Robertson. Network executives have a right to air or not air anything they choose. It’s why we get to watch Miley Cyrus twerk Santa for Christmas.

They do, however, have an obligation to protect free speech and they failed miserably on that one. Phil Robertson made his remarks in a magazine interview, not on A&E.

Besides, I doubt the gay community was surprised to learn that Phil had a problem with homosexuality. Did anything he had to say come as a giant surprise? Were they expecting to be enlightened?

Let’s face it. A&E isn’t a network filled with heady content. Another popular A&E show is about people who buy storage lockers out of auction.

We are easily entertained.

For some reason, people love “Duck Dynasty,” which is why A&E executives will eventually bring Phil back. They love ratings as much as Phil loves Jesus.

In his Christmas message last week, the Pope said this: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

If you ask me, I’d skip straight to the “who am I to judge” part even if someone wasn’t searching for the Lord, but was simply gay.

The Bible also says something like, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” a passage Phil ought to bookmark.

If we value our freedom of speech and freedom to believe what we want to believe, we need to pay a little attention. You don’t have to agree with Phil Robertson, but you should respect his freedom to give an honest answer when asked a question.

The alternative is frightening.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or

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The News-Review Updated Dec 29, 2013 11:11AM Published Dec 30, 2013 07:56AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.