I tend to stick to lighthearted, cute posts about how absolutely adorable my children are. Plus, we are a week away from Christmas so my posts should most certainly be jolly and reeking of merry spirit. Just for this once, however, I am going to get serious and, in the process, likely offend a person or two. So, reader beware.
Very few people out there today have never seen an episode of the latest A&E hit series, Duck Dynasty. Retail stores are swamped with Duck Dynasty products ranging from bobble-head dolls to car seat covers. The reality TV show focuses on a Louisiana family with highly religious and conservative values. Yesterday, the patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson, made national headlines as news of his GQ magazine interview emerged. A quick Google search will turn out his direct interview and quotes, saving me time from presenting those details. But to paraphrase him, being gay is sinful and comparable to adultery, greedy people, swindlers, slanderers etc. Additionally, homosexual behavior, as he believes, is an open gateway to bestiality and sleeping around. Yowza. Talk about a bomb shell. Even for a hit reality show, his comments were bound the have some serious repercussions. And they did. A&E suspended Robertson from participation in the upcoming season due to air in January. Thanks to social media, this news spread like wildfire and both the critics and supporters came creeping out from every corner to put in their 10 cents. And here am I.
I have read that Robertson being penalized for speaking his mind is an infringement on his First Amendment: the right to free speech and the right to religion. Then again, I have read that though it was his right of speech/religion, it was also A&E’s right to defend their image. The question is, then, how far do free speech and freedom of religion carry us? When does it go too far? When are our right imposed upon? Even before Robertson came out with his comments, I have had ample opportunity to discuss gay rights vs. religious beliefs, and just as he stood his ground in his beliefs, I intend on standing mine.
We study history because we hope to learn from it, and not continue to repeat past mistakes. So let’s jump back in history a bit. Once upon a time, in this strong country of ours, we had slaves. Those slaves were eventually freed, but we all know that freed was a superficial term that hardly described many African American experiences. Today we wouldn’t fathom the idea of telling an African American person they are not allowed to shop in White stores, or eat in White restaurants. It’s racist. So why did so many people feel that way just a short while ago? Pull out your Old Testament. African Americans were meant to be oppressed, secondary citizens because they were descendents of Ham, whose son, Canaan, was cursed by Noah. It is divine truth that African Americans are inferior. Or rather, it was the generally accepted White view then that African Americans were inferior because that excerpt from the Bible was considered more important than other excerpts (say, for example, Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.)
While your Bible is out, why not look at Corinthians? “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Well, go ahead and shut my blog down then and lock me up, because I spoke during mass on Sunday, which I attended without my husband – yikes!
What this shows is that over the course of time, society accepts and interprets religion differently, molding it to fit the betterment of the dominating group in society. Once, it was the white male. Today, however, the black male or the female holds just as strong of a voice (or so we hope) as any white male. We have to find a new guy to pick on so the homosexual community has stepped up to bat.
Correlating this to freedom of speech and religion, however, is where the situation gets tricky. Greater than the rights that are laid out for American citizens in the Bill of Rights, are a set of universal rights known as Human Rights. They include the right to life, freedom from torture, from slavery, right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, thought, conscience, and religion. They also include the right to the respect for a private life which includes the right to sexual freedom, orientation, and gender identity. These human rights are the basis for all laws and basic human respect. They are the foundation for “don’t judge me and I won’t judge you”.
One can have the belief that homosexuality is a sin. One can also have the belief that homosexuality is simply another twist to Mother Nature’s creation. Both beliefs are acceptable so long as they do not impose on any other person. What Phil Robertson did in publicly announcing his severely negative beliefs about homosexuality was advertize and stigmatize those in the homosexual community who are already struggling for equality. Fifty years ago, the struggling community was comprised of the African Americans and the women. Fifty years from now comments like those presented in the GQ magazine will be viewed as ignorant as those that preached that African Americans were divinely inferior beings.
I believe Phil Robertson has the right to believe in whatever he chooses, but he does not have the right to assume that everyone else should abide by them. A&E made the correct move in taking a stand for those who are being oppressed and stigmatized. Human rights come before all.
I’ll step off my soap box now.