As tired as we are of hearing about it, we’d like to say a few words about Phil Robertson’s recent comments. Right now, it’s almost impossible to log onto social media without seeing pictures like this:
First of all, Phil Robertson made comments about both gay people and Black people. The GQ article quotes Robertson as saying, “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? … no one was singing the blues.” Robertson indicates that Black people today believe themselves to be entitled, and he appears shocked that they could be happy without welfare. Let’s review a few things about Phil Robertson’s comments, free speech, and Christianity.
Regarding free speech, the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” Congress made no law prohibiting anything that Phil Robertson said, and he was not censored in the press. If he had been censored, nobody would know that he made these disturbing comments.
It is disturbing when someone compares same-sex attraction to raping animals, or seems surprised that Black people could be happy without welfare – but does he have a right to say it? Sort of. He has the right to speak his mind, but according to the American Bar Association (ABA), “fighting words”, including hate speech, are not protected. Making incorrect and potentially damaging comparisons between consensual, loving relationships and sticking one’s naughty bits into mammals of the four-legged variety IS hate speech.
This fact doesn’t change just because someone claims to be speaking or acting according to his or her religious beliefs. This applies to other instructions in the Bible, like stoning people to death. Yes, it says in the Bible to do this in certain circumstances – but in modern-day U.S., there are courts, juries, and trials that decide guilt and punishment, and anyone caught stoning people to death will be arrested. Why? Because the modern-day U.S. also has laws that forbid people from doing any of the morbid and inhumane things that may – or may NOT – have been deemed acceptable over 2,000 years ago.
Beside that, most of the passages cited in the Bible to criticize homosexuality have been misinterpreted. For a complete list explained in a concise and entertaining way, please enjoy this wonderful video from Bible-literate comedian John Fugelsang. As Fugelsang points out, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (KJV) are the verses of the Bible that are most often used to claim that homosexuality is an abomination.
Leviticus is the book of the Bible that outlines dietary law (like not eating pork or shellfish), and forbids mixing fabrics (like cotton and wool), getting tattoos, and divorces, among a total of 76 things. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us,” (Galatians 3:13) and “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). This released Christians from the requirements of keeping Kosher, not shaking hands with women because they may be unclean (menstruating), and yes, the so-called abomination of lying “with a man, as with a woman” (Lev. 18:22).
Like all Americans, Phil Robertson is entitled to believe whatever he wants to believe. Unfortunately for Mr. Robertson and his supporters, there is no way to defend him or his comments. Nobody prevented him from holding these beliefs, or from saying them in an interview published to the World Wide Web. His words are not supported by the religion he claims to follow. Most importantly, there is no law or Amendment that guarantees him employment by A&E (or anywhere else) if he publicly says something that insults their customers and damages their brand. As The Rude Pundit wrote on the topic, “You have a right to hate anything you want. No one has to tolerate your hate, no matter what you say to justify it.”
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