Conservatives would have you believe that Robertson is being punished for exercising his free speech and talking about Christian values. Ian Bayne insultingly analogized Robertson as the "Rosa Parks of our generation." If Robertson simply opined that "homosexual behavior is unambiguously prohibited in the Bible" (an opinion with which I vehemently disagree) and left it at that, he would have been fine. However, his comments about homosexuality went well beyond his interpretation of the Bible. Exhibit A. When asked the question "What in your mind is sinful," Robertson's response was the following:
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. 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 G-d. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right.
The first thing that comes to Robertson's mind about what constitutes as sin is not avarice or injustice. It's the sexual acts committed by consenting, homosexual adults. And how in the world does homosexual behavior lead to bestiality?! The man's ignorance about homosexuality shows that he does not have the faintest idea of how sexuality functions. Furthermore, his statement of "they won't inherit the kingdom of G-d" also contradicts his later statement of "We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell." But wait a second. You just said that you shouldn't judge people, but you managed to judge a whole group of people in a previous statement in the same interview. Whatever happened to "do not judge lest ye be judged (Matthew 7:1)?"
Exhibit B of just how disparaging Robertson's remarks were:
It seems like, to me, a vagina, as a man, would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dude, you know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical.
Here's another example of "whatever happened to not judging people?" And how is such vulgar language about vaginas and anuses "Christian-like?" I thought the Christian Bible said such things as "let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth (Ephesians 4:29)," "if anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless (James 1:26)," and "every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36)." Would this sort of language be acceptable in church? I doubt it. Also, regardless of whether you agree with Robertson's remarks, his remarks were hurtful towards other people, especially when it comes to ignorantly reducing homosexuality to a single sex act. Jesus taught that after "love G-d," the most important commandment is "love your neighbor as you love yourself (Mark 12:28-31)." Robertson should have had this in mind before he began the interview. No one is perfect, but if you're going to become an advocate for Christian values, you can't be chiding someone for sinning while sinning in the same breath. Such behavior is hypocritical, but should I be so surprised that conservative Christians in this country are defending his behavior rather than condemning it?
Robertson clearly made ignorant and insulting remarks. The fact that Robertson is more obsessed with the "sin of homosexuality" is reflective of how out of whack the prioritization of "Christian values" are in this country. However, was it so bad that Robertson should have been suspended in the first place?
Sarah Palin jumped in and said that Robertson's free speech was being violated. What conservatives conveniently forget is that the First and Fourteenth amendments apply to the government's infringement of free speech. As already illustrated, Robertson's comments went well beyond the opinion of "the Bible says homosexuality is a sin." Since Robertson is being suspended for specific comments that had nothing to do with religious belief, he can't even claim that A&E is violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
More to the point, A&E, which is a private entity, made the decision to suspend Robertson after his interview violated the morals clause in his contract, a contract which he voluntarily signed. Robertson was not expressing his private views with his closest buddies at the bar. He was doing an interview promoting his show. The comments he made reflected poorly on A&E, and A&E thus had the right, nay, the obligation to enforce the contract.
Briefly, a word about being persecuted for his religious beliefs. Robertson is only being suspended. Anyone who is thoughtless or brainless enough to even think that "this is a sign that Christians are persecuted in this country" or there is a "war on Christianity" needs to pick up a book on the history of the Jewish people. Christians aren't being barred from celebrating Christmas or Easter. The government is not shutting down churches or forcing Christians to live in ghettos or to work in certain professions. There are no pogroms or inquisitions against Christians in this country. This is not a sign of Christian persecution. There is no inalienable right to be on A&E. This is a sign that people are becoming more accepting of homosexuals. Get over it, Religious Right!
Also, I love how conservatives clamor about how dissenting opinions are being punished in this country. However, do you think this is the first time someone has gotten punished for saying something offensive or idiotic? Alec Baldwin was just fired for homophobic slurs. What about Paula Dean, Helen Thomas, Michael Richards, Ozzie Guillen, the Dixie Chicks, and Don Imus? We now live in a society that is more accepting of the LGBT community. Saying such comments is comparable to any other racial slur. Actions have consequences. Speech is a form of action, and Robertson was most definitely exercising his freedom of speech when making his remarks. When you say something offensive, you pay for the consequences. Isn't personal responsibility a key feature of conservatism, or does that not apply to homophobic statements?
When the Chick-fil-a incident happened last year, the standard conservative response to naysayers was "this is the free market at work, deal with it." The shoe is now on the other foot. A private company is now making a decision that conservatives do not like. If conservatives are unhappy with the decision, they can either boycott A&E or petition to have Duck Dynasty aired on another channel that tolerates homophobic sentiments. Otherwise, conservatives are only showing that anti-gay bigotry is more important of a value of conservatism than free markets or personal responsibility. Much to the Religious Right's dismay, Robertson's suspension was well within the realm of free markets. Employers need to be given some freedom to run their business they way they see fit if there is to be a society built on freedom (see my take on anti-discrimination laws).
In spite of the progress that has been made with LGBT equality, Robertson's remarks are a reflection of how this country still has a long way to go in terms of shaping people's views of LGBT individuals. I hope that A&E doesn't cave into pressure and sends a message about how anti-gay statements do not belong in civil society.