I have been keenly aware in every job I have ever had that I could be suspended, fired, or forced to resign for “saying what I think.” I haven’t always liked this reality, and I’ve been known at times to push the boundaries. However, I have never considered my employer’s right to terminate me for such behavior a “violation of free speech.” My guess is that if you have ever been employed, you are aware of this as well—and I think we all really want it to work that way.
Do you want a teacher to have the “right” to say whatever they want in class without potential consequence? Or the sales or front desk people you work with or encounter? Or what about the young man or woman taking your order at the fast food restaurant, who might prefer to use the f-word around your children? Probably not.
I’ve only seen about 15 minutes of one episode of Duck Dynasty. I really don’t have a clue who Phil Robertson is; and, the thing is, those of you who have watched his show faithfully (for however long it has been on television) and feel like you know him, you don’t know him either. I haven’t even read what he said in GQ (I mean, do I seem like a GQ subscriber?). All I know is the comments I’ve seen on Facebook for the past 20 minutes. From that basic and limited perspective, it seems to me that:
1) Phil’s free speech has not been violated. He said what he wanted and continues to be free to say what he wants. The government isn’t censoring what he’s saying, knocking down his door to arrest him, confiscating his published works to be destroyed, or levying fines against him or his followers.
2) A&E is exercising _it’s right_ to operate in a free market economy, where as a company in the entertainment business, they get to decide what the “talent” can say and do, both on their shows and off. I’m sure they have themselves legally covered in this, as is also their right. I’m sure Phil signed this right over to them in a contract, and from which he had the right to walk away. Right? (sorry, couldn’t help it.)
3) There are consequences to Phil’s actions. There are consequences to A&E’s actions. It should be a reminder that there are consequences to our words and actions, as well. For example, when over-reactive statements are made about “free speech being violated” and “freedom of religion”, please know that there are consequences to promoting such erroneous and knee-jerk views of this situation. In doing so, someone might actually forget what the free speech and freedom of religion mentioned in the Constitution was all about in the first place—which was primarily about the government’s role in relation to our rights.
4) It’s likely that none of us know Phil Robertson. He’s not your friend. Not your “patriarch”. He’s not a member of your family. He will never compare to the real people you know when it comes to being a “role model” for you. Please calm down. For most of you reading this, please remember (no matter how it feels) his situation and A&E’s decision has nothing to do with you (other than potentially re-arranging your television schedule).
5) Regarding that free market thing: you can bet that GQ, A&E, and even the money & marketing people in the Robertsons’ business are loving all this uproar and frequent mentioning of their names. Heck, even Christian bookstores are probably loving all this, as I’m sure the “persecution” talk will drive up the sales of the scripture engraved Duck Dynasty material.