Duck Dynasty Phil’s statements is not a free speech or faith issue

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Everyone who works for an organization is a representative of that organization. It doesn’t matter if they’re a full time employee or a contractor. It doesn’t matter if they’re the CEO or a janitor. And just about every organization has rules of conduct such as policies against discrimination and harassment. Most Americans know full well they can’t simply say what they want to their boss, coworkers or their clients without serious repercussions.

Anyone’s crude comments is not a government issue. Aside from threatening someone or deceptively yelling something in a crowd that could cause panic and injury, the government doesn’t get involved with personal dialog because of free speech granted to all U.S. citizens in the First Amendment.

There are organizations such as MTV, certain radio stations, and certain subscription cable networks that allow speech and other expression that most other organizations would not tolerate. That’s because they’re in the business of pushing the envelope and appeasing a clientele that enjoys vulgar and crude entertainment.

After Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson made disparaging comments against homosexuals and comments that appeared to suggest life was better for blacks before the Civil Rights movement, the A&E network decided to suspend him. This doesn’t mean he’s fired, it means he’s suspended. A&E needs to decide what they’re going to do as an organization on this issue. It’s a business decision.

Supporters of Phil have cited free speech and faith in his defense. This would indicate that Phil should be able to say whatever we wants without having that affect his relationship with a private company. This of course is absolute nonsense. Giving any kind of “faith” argument would indicate that people can say or do whatever they want as long as it’s in the religious text that they follow. This is also complete nonsense. Company policies are not required to comply with anyone’s religious beliefs.

The Duck Dynasty mess has nothing to do with free speech or faith. It’s about what a private company is going to do about a business relationship with someone who doesn’t share the companies’ values and mission statement.

It’s up to A&E to either cut business ties with Phil or work out an agreement to undo the suspension. Archie Bunker was able to make racist and anti-gay comments on the show All in the Family as there was always someone there to counter his ignorance and bigotry with reason. If there is division on the views expressed by Phil within the family, perhaps expressing the dissidence and thereby giving a voice to the other side could be an entertaining PR solution.

-James Kirk Wall

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