As I’m sure most readers know, Phil Robertson from “Duck Dynasty” has caused a lot of controversy recently because of his comments in GQ about homosexuals. This post, however, is not about the moral implications of his statement. Rather, I’d like to explore the issue surrounding free speech that his statements have brought to the public conversation.
First off, I’d like to freely admit that Phil Robinson is entitled to believe whatever he wants. And he’s absolutely within his rights to make statements about his beliefs in public. Most of the arguments I hear online contain the same basic sentiment: while most people don’t agree with Robertson’s attitude toward gay people, they believe that it was wrong for A&E to suspend him, since his speech is protected by the first amendment. This where I lose the thread.
Yes, his speech, however you want to label it, is protected by the first amendment. But isn’t A&E also entitled to free speech? There’s a certain level of hypocrisy involved in the argument that Robertson’s supporters are using against A&E. For some reason, it’s fine for Phil to say whatever he wants, but if A&E disagrees with that speech, they’re being intolerant. And this is where the breakdown occurs: the first amendment is NOT a right to tolerance, and it does NOT state or imply that all ideas are equally valid.
Just because you’re entitled to say whatever you want doesn’t mean that everyone is somehow obligated to support what you say. You have the right to say it, and that’s it. There’s this ridiculous conflation that somehow freedom of speech means that all ideas are created equally, and that therefore all ideas are equally valid.
They are not, sorry.
You’re free to believe whatever you want–and so is everyone else. For example, they’re free to not believe you and what you believe. And that’s fine. That isn’t intolerance or discrimination–that’s someone exercising the same right that you’re using. Plain and simple. In that sense, there’s nothing wrong with A&E suspending Phil Robertson. They’re in no way legally obligated to support what he says. They in no way impeded his right to say what he believes. They in no way impeded his first amendment right to think and say whatever he wants in public.
Just because you have the right to say whatever you want or feel doesn’t mean that everyone else has to like, conform to, acknowledge, accept, or condone what you say or feel.